New Super Lucky’s Tale Review — Fleet Foxes
Though it packs plenty of charm and heart, New Super Lucky’s Tale isn't quite ready to be in the leagues of the platforming greats just yet.
Considering the history and legacy of Nintendo’s past consoles, it’s not exactly a huge surprise that the Switch would seem like the perfect home for platforming games. Even just two and a half years into the system’s life cycle, the Switch is already filled to the brim with quality platformers like the exceptional Super Mario Odyssey, along with plenty of familiar faces like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro. Going up against such iconic characters that defined a genre would surely be a challenge for any other platformers out there, and in the case of New Super Lucky’s Tale, it tries in earnest to stand alongside them, even when it falls short of its ambitions.
Echoing the extended titles of other Switch releases like New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, New Super Lucky’s Tale is an enhanced version of 2017’s Super Lucky’s Tale that features a refined camera and controls, new levels, and new cinematics and story elements. The game itself is a sequel to the Oculus Rift launch title Lucky’s Tale, but with its simple story set-up, it’s pretty easy to jump into the game whether or not you’ve played the original (a camp that I fall into myself).
For the basic premise of Super Lucky’s Tale, the titular Lucky is an endlessly cheerful fox who winds up embarking on an adventure to find the Book of Ages, a magical tome that contains an immense variety of worlds and stories. However, the Book of Ages is also being sought out by a mischievous cat named Jinx and her squad (the Kitty Litter), requiring Lucky to summon the help of his sister Lyra and an assortment of other colorful characters to find it in time, along with searching for his own inner courage to help save the day.
Though its story and world are simple on the surface, New Super Lucky’s Tale makes a great first impression, as playing through its early levels immediately brings to mind platforming classics from the N64-era like Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie. Despite not having the 4K enhancements of its previous release on Xbox One X, New Super Lucky’s Tale still manages to shine pretty impressively on the Nintendo Switch thanks to its colorful visuals and great character designs. This is a game that simply wants to put a smile on your face, and to that end, it’s incredibly hard to turn down New Super Lucky’s Tale’s sense of optimism and cheeriness which radiates throughout its adventure.
On the visual end, New Super Lucky’s Tale is a delight with its vibrant art style and array of worlds and settings, each with their own unique charms. Much like other classic platformers, Lucky has to traverse through several different areas with varying themes, from the opening levels that are fantastical playgrounds to explore, to more interesting designs like a spooky Halloween area and a world that delightfully combines a sparse desert setting with a very Christmas-y theme.
New Super Lucky’s Tale is big on heart and charm, which shows all throughout its colorful worlds and sub-levels. However, though the game is eager to please, its gameplay is uneven by comparison, and likely won’t be much of a challenge to the majority of players other than kids. The game is certainly designed with a younger audience in mind, and though New Super Lucky’s Tale is certainly wholesome and fun for all ages, it won’t be an especially demanding experience for those that want more challenging platforming.
This is especially combined with the game’s controls and camera, which have seemingly been improved since the release of Super Lucky’s Tale, but still lack the same sense of satisfaction and precision of other platforming games that it stands up against. Though the game now features a fully-rotating camera and other improvements, there were still plenty of moments while playing as Lucky that I had trouble adequately judging jumps that I could or couldn’t make in certain areas, combined with some occasional frame stutters in busier scenes. In most cases the controls can feel floaty and imprecise, but in other ways they can feel a bit too sensitive, such as certain areas that require precise timing of Lucky’s digging ability, leading to some occasionally frustrating segments.
New Super Lucky’s Tale also suffers from the age-old platforming problem of having a glut of collectibles and knick-knacks to find, with the majority of them being present solely for the use of progressing to the next area. The most vital collectible in each level are Clovers, which allow Lucky to encounter the main boss in each world after collecting a certain number of them. While this leads to a simple enough objective in each world to gather Clovers, it also leads to a sense of repetition while exploring each level without much in the way of new challenges or obstacles to make collecting the Clovers more interesting. Likewise, if the player ends up falling short on Clovers to make it to the boss of each world, it will end up requiring backtracking and wandering through the levels again to try and hunt down those last few Clovers needed to continue to the next world.
Like the classic platformers it follows in the footsteps of, New Super Lucky’s Tale exceeds at being bright, cheerful, and pleasant. But unfortunately, it also doesn’t offer much more beyond that with its lack of more challenging mechanics and uneven platforming gameplay. It brings to mind the era of the N64 platforming classics in a positive way, but like other recent games such as Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time, it too often tries to emulate those earlier titles rather than evolve from them. Though the game’s bite-sized levels and colorful visuals make it ideal to play while on-the-go on the Switch (where I spent the most time with it), New Super Lucky’s Tale is better suited to a younger audience than those looking for more challenging endeavors. It’s easy to admire Lucky and his endless enthusiasm, but he’s not quite ready just yet to hang with Mario, Crash, Spyro, Rayman, or the other platforming icons before him.