As you will no doubt be aware, cats have always had a somewhat acrimonious relationship with foxes. It’s no different here, in the Microsoft published Super Lucky’s Tale. The Book of Ages has been stolen by Jinx and his dastardly feline faction (they’re actually called Kitty Litter but it didn’t alliterate as well) and of course, it’s up to the titular Lucky and his sister to save the day!
The format of said day saving follows a well trodden formula if you’ve ever played Rayman or Banjo Kazooie. Lucky is thrown onto a 3D landscape and asked to pick a door through which to travel. Later doors are closed off until you’ve completed the previous level meaning the open-looking world you’re put into becomes very much a linear path to that zone’s final boss. If you’re lucky, (sorry) along the way you might find the odd subterranean secret area that mixes things up a bit.
Still, it’s a pretty enough world to wonder around in. Think sickly sweet cartoon and you’ll be somewhere in the ball park of what developer Playful Corp have gone for here. Colours pop out of your screen here and in truth I found it really easy on the eye. Super Lucky’s Tale was on the list Microsoft released for games due for a 4K update. With that in mind I’ll get something up later in the week to let you all know how it fares on the Xbox One X. Hopefully the power in the new console will have ironed out a couple of times the game ground to single digit frame rates, rendering the game pretty much unplayable. Weirdly, the bottlenecks resolved themselves without a restart. One for a patch no doubt.
Levels themselves are a creative affair – each one of a zone’s tiers have their own theme based around the over-arching mini-story for that island. The second area’s vegetable improving contraptions are my personal favourite. Movement is on a 3D plane with the camera nearly locked into a position most suitable to the level you’re on – you do get a small degree of movement to the left and right which allows you to get a better view of your surroundings. I think this was probably the right decision – I’ve played enough 3rd person games over the years to know that an un-tethered camera can sometimes create more problems than it solves.
There’s some clever ideas within each area too. Once or twice in each world the plane shifts to a 2.5D of sorts and you really feel like you’re playing Super Mario. Within that, Playful mess around with depth of field on the levels and it looks and plays great. And, since foxes burrow, take a guess what Lucky’s special ability is? Hit the right trigger and our fluffy hero takes a dive in the dirt. This acts as welcome refuge when there are multiple enemies on screen, but also lets you collect buried treasure on some of the game’s timed challenges.
There’s plenty of reasons to go back and play though each level again. Completion of each (non-boss) level gives you up to 4 clovers. One for getting to the end, one for collecting a specific number of coins, one for collecting all 5 letters of our cunning champion’s name and lastly for completing some random task specific to that level. You’ll never get them all first time around and with 99 in all (yes I know that doesn’t divide by four) there’s hours of play here.
My biggest issue with Super Lucky’s Tale is that I still don’t know who its target audience is. Described enthusiastically in the blurb on the store as suitable for all ages, I’m not convinced. The best films and series aimed at kids are masters at engaging their adult audience as well. Disney have been doing it for decades and you only have to watch Peppa Pig for a few episodes and find yourself chuckling along to know what I mean. That’s where Playful have struggled to my mind. The villainous Kitty Litter can’t even bring themselves to utter an actual threat in Lucky’s direction. No witty, knowing banter, no jokes – nothing.
That’s fine, you say. There’s nothing wrong with making a game squarely aimed at kids. And, you’d be right. Except the difficulty here doesn’t sit quite where I’d want it to for a title aimed at the youngest of gamers. I never quite struggled, but there were points where I lost a decent amount of time and lives on a tricky level and I just don’t see your 4-8 year old players having the dexterity to push past.
On a related bug bear – why hasn’t the life system been got rid of completely in this genre of games? The worst punishment you could receive in a level that you’re struggling with is to be pushed right back to the beginning. And that’s the only punishment – you don’t have to start the game again or lose some money or equipment like you would in an RPG for example. It’s completely pointless. Also, hardly specifically the developer’s fault – but just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it always has to be. Rant over.
A little word, as we near the end, for the close of world boss battles. I’m not a big fan (either), of just shoveling in climactic fights for the sake of it. But Super Lucky’s Tales fights are nicely thought out, don’t just consist of jumping on a cat’s head and, most importantly, don’t outstay their welcome.