Back in the day, video game company mascots were always stars of a platform video game. Nintendo used Mario, Sega had Sonic, and Crash Bandicoot was the face of Sony. When it comes to Xbox, it’s safe to say that Master Chief is the most recognizable character for the brand. There was a time when Blinx the Cat could have been the Xbox mascot, but that never panned out, as the series lasted only two games. There aren’t many platform games on the Xbox, and that’s a shame. Some of my favorite games are platformers. I spent hours playing Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario World, and Sly Cooper growing up. So when Microsoft announced Super Lucky’s Tale, I was very happy. Not only would Xbox be getting an exclusive platform game, but there was also a chance for Lucky to be Microsoft’s mascot. After playing the game, I’m doubtful that it will happen.
Super Lucky’s Tale is not a bad game. It’s just forgettable. The story revolves around a fox named Lucky, who must stop Jinx and his evil Kitty Litter (think Bowser and the Koopalings) from destroying the four realms. For every aspect that Super Lucky’s Tale gets right, another game has done it better. The jumping is tight, the characters are one note, and the camera is atrocious. You’re not allowed to fully rotate the camera. Moving the right thumbstick doesn’t change the camera 360 degrees. You can’t even move it 180 degrees. I died a few times because I misjudged the distance between platforms.
It’s an Xbox One X enhanced video game. This means that developer, Playful, used the power of the Xbox One X to amplify their game. The console itself is one of the best parts of Super Lucky’s Tale. The visuals are more enhanced through the Xbox One X enhanced patch. While not the best looking game, Super Lucky’s Tale is cute, charming, and often whimsical. I like the cartoony visuals, and I appreciate the storybook type approach found in the game. The patch also improves the framerate, which staggers a little on the Xbox One S. I loved seeing how much the enhanced patch improves the game’s performance.
While Super Lucky’s Tale is the first game featuring the titular fox on Xbox One, it’s not his first foray into the video game space. Developer Playful released Lucky’s Tale for the Oculus Rift in 2016. The VR game followed a similar formula, but the Xbox One sequel is more likely to reach a larger user base because of its accessibility. At $29.99, Super Lucky’s Tale is an affordable platform experience that younger gamers will enjoy. I think it will become a hit with kids, but older gamers will be put off by the simplistic experience. Coins are easy to come by (resulting in extra lives), puzzles are easy, and boss fights aren’t challenging at all. In fact, each boss only needs to be hit three times before defeating them, a staple of the genre that I’ve always been annoyed with.
Every level in Super Lucky’s Tale follows the same type of formula; an open world level or a 2D side-scrolling stage. The main goal is to collect clovers. There are 99 in the entire game, and you need 80 before you can face the final boss. None of the levels are memorable, and the difficulty doesn’t become tougher as the game progresses. In fact, the last level before the fight against Jinx is actually one of the easiest in the entire game. I collected all of the clovers on my first try and felt disappointed.
It’s been a few days since I completed Super Lucky’s Tale. Since the credits rolled, I’ve been thinking about it more and more. It’s a game I really wanted to love, but too many gameplay mechanics and inclusions left me underwhelmed. Despite my issues with Playful’s charming platformer, I do think there could potentially be a future for Lucky, but the chances are slim. If Microsoft decides to double down on Lucky, there are a few things Playful can do to make the fox’s next journey more memorable.
A Better Camera
I mentioned it earlier, but the camera in Super Lucky’s Tale is absolutely terrible. Most modern video games feature full camera movement. The limited and obscure camera angles hinder the experience and make jumping difficult at times. In platformers, jumping is the most important aspect. If the action isn’t natural and it’s tough to decipher how far you should jump because of the platform isn’t clear to see, there’s a problem.
The biggest issue I had with Super Lucky’s Tale is the fact that all of the levels follow similar formats. Players are required to go from point A to point B. There are hidden areas in each level, but they are pretty easy to find. Playful needs to make some design choices that catch the player off guard. After a few stages, Super Lucky’s Tale becomes predictable. The enemy variety is slim. In fact, enemies you see from the first few levels make appearances in almost every level. New enemy types are few and far between. If a sequel is greenlit, there needs to be a huge focus on diversity.
Over the years, platform games have become rich with diverse and memorable characters. Each of the most popular franchises in the genre has a handful of sidekicks that fans love. Super Lucky’s Tales barely has a supporting cast. There’s his sister, the narrator of the story, Jinx, the villain, and then the four members of the Kitty Litter. Besides Lucky, each of these characters rarely has a moment to shine, and they are forgettable. Another adventure for the fox should not only feature a bigger cast, but there should also be more cutscenes, dialogue between characters, and a fleshed out story that will make players care for the cast.
If there’s one thing that makes a sequel better, it’s switching up the formula. Super Mario Odyssey wonderfully delivered a fantastic Mario game by introducing an entirely new gameplay focus that made for a unique experience. Throughout the sixteen levels in Super Lucky’s Tale, our hero never learned a new skill. All he could do for the duration of the game was jump, burrow under dirt and spin his tail around to attack enemies. That’s it. His lack of abilities upset me because it just amplified the fact that there isn’t much content found in the game. In a sequel, Lucky should learn a new arsenal of tricks. Another adventure with the same abilities will result in a bland game.
While it seems that I’m just trashing the game, I genuinely found a lot to like about Super Lucky’s Tale. With that being said, I really want the series to continue; there just needs to be a few adjustments made to create a sequel that rights the wrongs found in this Xbox One X launch title. I firmly believe that a console’s mascot is generally a platform hero. Microsoft gets the reputation for being a console for mature gamers. Look at the brand’s lineup; Halo, Gears of War, Fable, Crackdown, State of Decay, Conker, Ryse: Son of Rome, Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break and other exclusives such as Dead Rising 3 &4, Mass Effect, Jade Empire, and Ninja Gaiden Black among others. Microsoft needs to find a good balance between mature games and family-friendly titles. Microsoft has been making a lot of consumer-friendly choices lately. The company should also try to make games that appeal to fans of all ages. There’s a place for Lucky; he just needs the proper love and care to excel in the Xbox ecosystem.