Hands-On: Super Lucky’s Tale is an adorable and simple platformer

I needed a break from the super crowded insanity of E3 2017, and was looking for something to take my mind off my sore feet.

I was near the Xbox booth when I remembered Super Lucky’s Tale, a very cute looking classic platformer that originally appeared on the Oculus Rift from the Microsoft press conference. I couldn’t think of a better way to relax than collecting some doo-dads and hanging out with adorable creatures, so I got in the long line.

Seriously...there were long lines aplenty this year.

A History of Platforming

I love a good classic 3D platformer. I grew up on them, and I still play Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie almost every year. There’s something  so immensely satisfying about the gradually increasing difficult curve, the therapeutic satisfaction of collecting items, and the adorable aesthetics that are such a strong counterpoint to the hyper violent realism of many modern games. I like those too, and spend most of my time with them, which makes the shift to a cartoony world of anthropomorphized creatures and round edges all the more satisfying.

You'll see what I mean when you see the trailer.

Inspired By a Cute Story

It’s obvious Super Lucky’s Tale is inspired by the old school platformers that had their heyday in the 32 and 64 bit era. It’s an unapologetic collect-a-thon. That means running and jumping, defeating cute enemies, and collecting objects for no particular reason. Collecting trinkets to increase replayability has always been a staple of this genre, and that’s certainly been embraced here.

The game looks great, and it’s adorable. Adorable almost to the point of distraction, but once I let the saccharine environment and character designs flow over me like a sea of sugar water I surrendered. Everything from fat round bees to adorable mini golems populate this world, and it left me smiling.

The main character is a fairly standard platformer protagonist, and I learned nothing about him whatsoever from the demo. He’s a fox that wears a cape and can dive into the earth which is pretty awesome, but I have no idea what his deal is other than that he likes collecting things. I’m not looking for Mass Effect level storytelling here, but hopefully he’ll be a little more interesting in the finished game.

I played what I assume was an early stage on an Xbox One X dev kit, and there was collection aplenty. From coins to letters to jewels, there were things to pick up for god knows what reason as far as the eye could see.

Just what I was looking for.

Camera

Super Lucky’s Tale made a camera control choice that is both liberating and disappointing.

It’s a platformer that gives you limited perspective control, meaning the camera is not fully rotatable. This is a bit sad, in that it limits the interesting environments to an essentially 2.5D dimensional plane. I’m accustomed to exploring a world in many dimensions, and fully 3D platformers have been around for decades now. This limited perspective is not my preference, but it does have some advantages.

The choice to strictly control the camera pretty much eliminates the perspective issues that even the most polished platformers run into. By limiting the options to a few angles and a first person perspective, you’re not getting stuck behind things, and you’re not losing track of your character. That’s pretty great, especially if you’re new to video games. This game is definitely young child friendly, and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

It’s hard to talk about Super Lucky’s Tale without mentioning Yooka-Laylee, which is an even more blatant throwback to the golden age of the 3D platformer. They share a similar aesthetic, and clearly draw from the same well of inspiration, though they do have very distinct personalities.

I like the full 3D camera control of Yooka-Laylee, but that game had some serious technical problems that Super Lucky’s Tale may have completely avoided by limiting that control.

I’ll certainly be curious to see what the full game brings to the table.

A Hopefully Lucky Tale

Super Lucky’s Tale absolutely scratches that old school platformer itch. It’s an adorable, polished, joyful game that I look forward to playing despite being no doubt well past the target demographic.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I just finished setting up my N64, and need to collect some more music notes because reasons.

Check out this new version of Super Lucky’s Tale when it’s released for Xbox One on November 7th.

Check out our full E3 2017 coverage.