Lucky's first adventure began as a pack-in title at the launch of the Oculus Rift. Using the power of VR, it was certainly an eye-opening experience, being able to move your head around to get a better view for jumping and watch the environments evolve, typically using verticality. I had high ambitions for Super Lucky's Tale, which released in 2017 for Xbox One and PC; however, the charming and beautifully crisp visuals were marred by sluggish controls and a terrible camera. Taking a page out of Nintendo's handbook, Playful Studios has expanded upon the previous title, reimagining the game, rebuilding it from the ground up exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.
New Super Lucky's Tale is, without a doubt, the best game from Playful Studios and one of the best 3D platformers I have played in quite some time. Charming, colorful, cute, and full of character, I fell in love with the game, and this is coming from someone that played through both Lucky's previous entries. The frequent "dad jokes" from the adorable golem mailman is delightfully charming. Familiar, yet unique, New Super Lucky's Tale sets the bar for what can be done, if given proper time and effort to hone their craft perfectly. While visual sharpness has been sacrificed (obviously since the Switch won't output 4K), the significant redesigns and upgrades make for a much more enjoyable and, more importantly, a smoother experience.
Jinx and his evil cat minions, known as the Kitty Litter, betrays the Guardian Order, banishing most of the members in the process. The remaining few live on the run until one day, the Book of Ages, opens an unstable portal, sucking in Jinx, the Kitty Litter, and one would-be hero fox, Lucky Swiftail. This is where Lucky's adventure begins, living up to his sister's name as a Guardian, as you'll travel across six uniquely designed worlds. Each of the worlds inside the Book of Ages is under the control of the evil felines, and Lucky must gather the scattered pages in each location and ultimately confront Jinx. Super Lucky's Tale initially launched with four core worlds, and later added the fifth and sixth, Gilly Island and Foxington respectfully via downloadable content (DLC). New Super Lucky's Tale adds Gilly Island into the middle of the narrative and immediately begins the final world after the credits roll.
Much like the 3D platformers from my youth, New Super Lucky's Tale features hub worlds, where individual levels can be accessed, although there are pages to collect in the hubs themselves. The first thing you'll notice if you played the previous game is the fully rotatable camera capable of zooming in and out. In the last game, you had limited controls, pivoting the camera a set number of degrees until eventually, it wouldn't go past a certain point. The new freedom should help remedy all of the sensations of not knowing exactly where you are going to land, typically leading to you plummeting to your death.
Until now, Lucky has traversed on all-fours, like you know, a fox. The jumping mechanics in the last game were sluggish at best, and the double jump felt mostly useless. Playful Studios has redesigned the way he moves. No longer does he feel stuck to the ground, as he is now more agile, running around just on his hind legs. Jumping feels more accurate and predictable, especially with a vastly improved double jump. Not to mention being able to use your swinging tail to gain just a tad bit more reach. Lucky will now slide across hard surfaces when you attempt to burrow, further providing additional movement options. The differences between the two games are outstanding, and since completing the game, I don't think I could go back and play the game on Xbox One X.
New Super Lucky's Tale aims to be a family-friendly title, and as such, it doesn't provide much of a challenge, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. There are dozens of clover pages to collect across each world. While progress is gated based on the amount collected, I never felt that the game was artificially padding the experience. Within the hub worlds, there are additional puzzles, yielding pages as your reward. These puzzles may task you with spinning and moving statues into their proper positions, or even locking you in a ball to collect coins before reaching the goal. If there were puzzles that I could not solve (Joan is way better than me at the statue puzzles), I would simply skip and collect pages in one of the individual levels. Each of the levels contains four pages in total, based on collecting 300 coins, completing all the objectives, finding the hidden page (typically by a timed challenge to collect colored coins), and finding all of the letters to spell out L-U-C-K-Y.
The resigned game levels feel great; there isn't another way to say it. Everything has a much smoother flow than ever before, even the starting tutorial section. Once you open up a new world, the levels are no longer blocked off, allowing you to tackle them in any order. I have always liked the stark contrast between each world, featuring some of the expected world types; grasslands, deserts, tropical islands, and a haunted location. Sky Castle is full of doe-eyed little golems, farming earthworms are in charge of Veggie Village, Wrestful Retreat promoting sports entertainment (with a Yeti dressed like The Macho Man but called The Penultimate Warrior), and Hauntingham with its ghostly carnival. Gilly Island, which was original DLC, has some fascinating fish creatures that seem to enjoy house music very much, but I enjoyed the topical setting regardless. Foxington, played after you beat the game, sees Lucky completing trial to become a full-fledged guardian, like his sister. The 16 challenges are tougher than anything in the main game, featuring a retro-inspired visual treatment straight from the '80s.
New Super Lucky's Tale is bursting with charm and character, not to mention numerous improvements, and redesigned mechanics that enhance the experience. While not overly lengthy (roughly took me 12 hours), and relatively easy (except for Foxington), there are all-new levels, all of the previous DLC, and dozens of pages to collect, and outfits to purchase with your coins. Load times are a bit on the long side, especially when needing to restart a puzzle. It would also be helpful for the level to be listed when you pause the game and not just the hub world.Note: New Super Lucky's Tale was reviewed based on a digital Nintendo Switch copy of the game, provided by the publisher.