New Super Lucky’s Tale unlike its inspirations, is straight to the point. It doesn’t waste your time having you pick up an infinite amount of collectibles, nor does it force you to partake a idiotic minigames throughout its sugary and admittedly short run. Initially released exclusively on the Xbox One in late 2017, it seemed like a game totally not in the style of Microsoft’s console, thanks to its kiddy visuals and simple gameplay. It’s finally found a suitable home on the Switch now as one of the best platformers you could play on it, outside of Nintendo’s own, that is.
It all begins with a very Saturday morning cartoon premise: in a colorful and very magical world, a group of warriors of justice are in pursuit of a once good wizard who stole a book of spells which was broken up and had its pages scattered through the dimensions. One of the members of that family, a little fox by the name of Lucky, got pulled away from the pack and sucked into another world, so it falls to him to gather every single one of those pages up and put the book back together by exploring and jumping his way through a bunch of levels.
If you’re a fan of platformers, you’re definitely going to be familiar with how New Super Lucky’s Tale plays. Lucky can jump, spin his tail to attack enemies or briefly float in the air, burrow down on the ground and butt-stomp, and controls pretty tightly. Gameplay is split into 3D movement and faux 2D — aka 2.5D — depending on the level, and is generally polished. It never gets further than that. Lucky is the same Lucky from beginning to end, which is surprisingly refreshing considering how convoluted these games got, especially the ones from Rare like Donkey Kong 64, with multiple transformations and gatekeeping.
Levels break up the gameplay by having a variety of different things to do in them, not limiting themselves to simply getting to the end. Some have you pick up a certain number of collectibles, pick something up and carry it somewhere, or even dealing with a maze. None of these take long at all to complete, making New Super Lucky’s Tale extremely pick up and play in short spurts.
Camera control is mapped to the right analog stick and you can move it freely during 3D levels, which comes handy when trying to look around corners and such. The only instance where the game doesn’t play as well is when the camera pulls back giving a sort of isometric view of the action and Lucky has to handle verticality, mainly going under or above projectiles. It’s a little hard to tell how close those are to hitting him, resulting in some accidental hits along the way. Thankfully the game never gets too difficult, and even if you find yourself dying, checkpoints make it easy to pop back in.
A straight run through New Super Lucky’s Tale won’t take you too long, and in order to beat its story, you won’t have to collect every single one of the magic book’s pages since the boss gate at every world unlocks after you pick up a small number of them out of many more you can potentially go for in order to 100% the game. The boss fights can get somewhat involved, but are all predicated on recognizable patterns, like past platformers.
Outside of the levels themselves, you can get even more pages by jumping into special challenges like time trials that have you picking up coins as fast as possible, or my favorite, Sokoban-ish puzzle challenges where you slide statues into slots by hitting them with Lucky’s tail. I would totally play a cheaper version of this game with just these puzzles in it, honestly.
Playful Corp has done a grand job making this game feel good to play and look the part on the Switch. Characters and worlds are brimming with personality and are ridiculously colorful, almost to a fault. I particularly loved how they made even the enemies feel likeable, turning the tables on who’re the bad ones this time. That’s right, they’re cats. The weird creatures are the good guys now, like hilariously hillbilly worms, peace-loving wrestling sloths (or whatever mammal they are), and even mailmen, er, mail-golems. It’s a welcome twist for sure, but don’t feel too bad about stomping felines, they had it coming — the game even tries to make you feel better by saying it during loading screens.
I was pleasantly surprised by New Super Lucky’s Tale. After having a go at its original version on the Xbox One years ago during BGS, I considered it just another game that tried to ape on nostalgia simply for the sake of doing so, but there’s way more to it than that. Its sugary exterior hides a deep understanding on what makes a platformer fun, and thanks to a constraint in the design by having only straight through gameplay with none of the fluff and padding proves that lots of thought and care went into the making of this. If you’re done with Super Mario Odyssey are looking for the next best thing, be sure to check New Super Lucky’s Tale out.