It’s common to feel that some of the best 3D platformers are synonymous with Nintendo platforms. New Super Lucky’s Tale fits the bill with such polish, charm and variety that it fits right in among the popular 3D platformers. Taking pages (literally) from Super Mario series and RARE games such as the Banjo-Kazooie series, or even the first entry of the new IP Yooka-Laylee, Lucky’s adventure deserves the attention of fans of the genre. While New Super Lucky’s Tale from Playful Studios is exclusive to Nintendo Switch, this isn’t the first outing of the game. Originally titled Lucky’s Tale, which released in 2017, the new title was a VR exclusive title made for the Oculus Rift. To get the game in front of more traditional players, the game received an update titled Super Lucky’s Tale which featured revised controls for suitable play. New Super Lucky’s Tale for Nintendo Switch is the most refined iteration to date featuring reworked graphics, level design, text, new animations and cinematics, characters and story beats. Playful Studios has created a fantastic game and is a brand that would be great to continue.
NSLT whips tail and chews [insert favorite flavor] bubblegum; One that doesn’t go stale quickly as if you were chewing Fruit Stripe Gum (seriously, those tasted like cardboard in less than 30 seconds). This family-friendly 3D platformer is slightly on the easier side of things mostly, but the amount of variety and personality from start to finish really kept myself in a jolly mood which was also further enhanced by the colorful visuals. You play as Lucky Swiftail, a go-lucky spirited Fox with an exuberantly happy face and a floaty tail. Reminiscent of naughty squirrel boy Conker, but opposite in attitude all the way. In fact, throughout his adventure there will be remarks from other characters to his character and “why are you always smiling?”. The best reason isn’t given, but is instead felt: why not?
Lucky’s family are part of the Guardians, an elite chosen group to protect the Book of Ages, which is a fairy tail grimoire of sorts that holds inside many different worlds. Missing its pages, Lucky finds himself trapped and needing to recover the missing pages in order to restore the Book of Ages back to what it once was. All of this is thanks to Jinx, an evil cat who caused such havoc and has his “Kitty Litter” act the threat throughout all of the worlds you’ll explore. One gripe off that bat is that Jinx gets introduced in the opening and is never heard from again until the end. While games like Mario are notorious for disregarding much story or any development of Bowser in the core games, Bowser still shows up and roars every now and then. In NSLT, not even Jinx’s presence is felt until the end. This is a minor gripe since the rest of the cast actually steal his show since humor is pronounced in NSLT, but I can’t help but feel Jinx could have been more fleshed out. After all, Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie pretty much breathed hot & swampy air down your neck all the time and was oddly enjoyable getting nursery-rhyme dissed.
Instead, everyone else has something to say and have a personality. Each world has a particular theme and its own race of people with their own gibber-jabber talk to accompany their words (but you can almost hear some real words). And each world is taken over by one of Jinx’s family(?) member who makes it hell for everyone else. What ensues are level-based missions, fixing their problems and defeat the boss in order to move onto the next world. Dialog provided makes everything that much better and compliments the gameplay side of things. While gameplay can be enough on its own to provide fun factor, it’s nice to be entertained from the characters and world as well. Animation is done well being cartoonish and the visuals provide a very clean, yet appreciable atmosphere to run around in.
Each world you visit is its own self-contained hub which then contains entrances to all of its levels. If you love collecting things, NSLT has covered. To reach the boss, Lucky must collect a certain number of Lucky Clovers to break the lock on the door to them. Levels come in a variety of types. You have standard 3D levels where you’re free to explore and collect Lucky Clovers (always up to 4). One for completing the level, one for collecting 300 coins, one hidden Lucky Clover and another for finding all 4 letters to spell L-U-C-K-Y (Donkey Kong Country-esque). Collecting 300 coins will covert to an extra life when returning back to the hub. One can repeat levels to gain coins if they wish. Naturally, I went for everything and ended up with over 99 lives by the end of the game. I did lose a few lives eventually from either miscalculated jumps or the more challenging levels after defeating the final boss.
Mixing it up, there will be 2D side-scroller levels as well which feel very similar to Donkey Kong Country or even the most recent Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Granted, there’s not any change in verticality within these levels, but they do a nice job of throwing different elements at you, even moving into the background at times.
The other 2D portion has a tilted perspective and behaves exactly like an auto-runner, because it is. Here there can be multiple paths to take and secret routes to unlock. The same 4-Clover collecting applies here as well. If you miss the hidden clover or missed letters in L-U-C-K-Y, you can replay the level and just collect the only things that you have missed without needing to collect what you’ve found previously. It’s a time saver, but also removes the difficulty of doing it on go for people who prefer a bit more of a challenge. It can be seen as a quality of life implementation, but it just depends on the type of player you are. Tip, replaying the runner levels can net you the most amount of coins within a short time span. Which is perfect for actually having a reason to spend it. On costumes!
You save an NPC within the first world and he then will sell you attire you can change at his shop mixing and matching head-wear and body-wear. Costumes come in a set, but you can freely choose between any of them. That is, if you got the coin and have them unlocked. A new attire will be available whenever defeating a boss and entering a new world. However, if you want every costume, you’ll need to collect every clover. Completing an entire world will unlock an attire. To do that, you’ll need to go through one of the numerous “pot holes” and solve puzzles that you must move statues around. In fact, I recall unlocking boss doors to a world just by completing these types of puzzles first and I could have moved on without ever needing to go through an actual 3D level. Crazy, huh?
Each one of these puzzle rooms will earn you 1 clover if you manage to solve them. If you’ve done these types of block-push puzzles in the so many other games that use them, you’ll know what you’re getting into here. They start out pretty manageable, but the later ones can be a little sneaky.
There are even marble board levels which Lucky finds himself as an experiment rolling around like a hamster to collect every coin. This is like Kororinpa or Monkey Ball in a way that you tilt the board to move Lucky as opposed to moving Lucky himself.
As for controlling Lucky, it feels pretty good. His full movement feels smooth and responsive. He has a different animation altogether in now that he moves on two feet as opposed to on all fours. Clouds of dust will trail behind Lucky and much like 2017’s Super Mario Odyssey, Lucky has a quick running-in-place animation for a split second before actually taking off. It makes movement feel more precise. Lucky is able to perform double jumps. He’s able to attack with his tail and doing so in the air will suspend him there shortly which is good for giving a little oomph to distance when making jumps, sort of like Mario’s spin if only to make another comparison. Another maneuver is being able to burrow underground. When on softer ground like dirt, Lucky is able to move along the ground with only his tail sticking out. This is useful for both popping out and taking out enemies from below (necessary at times) and to not take any damage from certain projectiles.
New Super Lucky’s Tale isn’t the most challenging of 3D platformers. However, it nails personality and charm. It has variety and tight controls. It has the basic fun of a platformer you’d want simply because it’s just fun to move and hop and bounce just for the sake of it. The game looks beautiful in 1080p. The colors in the world are vibrant and there’s some pretty moments. Lucky’s facial expression can put one in a good mood and his head will turn with his eyes locked to follow you if his body is at all towards the camera. The game runs at 30fps and occasionally when turning the camera towards an area where lots of objects are on screen can drop the frames only slightly, but there was never any sluggish-ness or sections unplayable. The full camera control here works very well. I never found an instance where it was stuck behind a wall or an object ever got in the way of the action or Lucky himself.
If one wishes to just see the end, I imagine it might take 6-10 hours. However, in order to collect everything it will take longer. There is post-game content and it’s some of the best designs NSLT has to offer. In fact, challenge ramps up here. In the world of Foxington, there are 16 different levels to challenge Lucky and they are a mixed bag of the types of levels the game threw at you already, but they’re entirely new levels. Completing these will be necessary if you wish to collect every costume in the game.
NSLT also has good music and is very fitting to each environment. The sound in general is a plus. NSLT is a game for all ages. It’s appropriate for children, but there’s also little nods here and there, such as 80’s and 90’s cultural references that older people will pick up as well.