We all need games like New Super Lucky’s Tale in our lives. You may not like to admit it; you may have a tough guy veneer and a no-nonsense online persona that suggests you have no time for such childish nonsense, but deep down – even if you don’t realise it – you could do with this sort of happiness in your life. We all could.
Originally released almost two years ago to the day, Super Lucky’s Tale found itself burdened with a little more responsibility than it deserved, since it was the only new game to launch alongside the Xbox One X. A colourful platformer was never really going to be the best demonstration of a super-powerful 4K HDR console, and so it perhaps looked a little underwhelming for reasons not entirely its fault. Now it’s time for Super Lucky’s Tale to have a ‘New’ slapped onto the title and get a second chance on the Switch. It’s a good job too, because Nintendo’s system is a far better fit for the game; one where its bold colours and lovingly-designed but geometrically simple environments can be recreated without too much impact on the original vision. And it’s a vision you’re probably going to want to get on board with if you’re a fan of the good old days of PS2-era platformers.
Although we’ll briefly touch on the additions in this Switch port, for the majority of this review we’re going to go with the assumption that you haven’t played the Xbox One version of the game, since the majority of our readers won’t have. In that case, allow us to get you up to speed: New Super Lucky’s Tale tells the story of Lucky, a young fox who’s been given the daunting task of protecting the Book of Ages from a cat called Jynx, who’s trying to steal it. The Book of Ages isn’t just a particularly compelling page-turner, you see; it contains portals to entire worlds, so its safety is extremely important.
The general aim is to play through each world’s various stages and collect clovers, which are needed to help get back control of the Book of Ages. For the most part, each stage has four clovers, each earned in a different way: you get one for simply finishing the stage, one for collecting 300 coins in the stage, one for finding the five letters that spell out L-U-C-K-Y, and there’s a final hidden one tucked away in each level to be found. It’s a relatively safe but simple way to ensure some replay value, as you aren’t always likely to get all four clovers in your first playthrough of a stage.
Controlling Lucky is generally a breeze. His move set is fairly limited; he’s got a useful double-jump, a tail whip attack and the ability to burrow under the ground, and that’s really it. It may not be the most diverse range of abilities but it could be argued that this is a strength in a game like this; nobody likes a platformer where your hero can do 20 different things, many of which are only called into play once or twice. Here you can get a feel for Lucky’s entire repertoire pretty quickly, allowing you to focus on the far more important task of actually enjoying the game.
Will you enjoy it though? If you’re of a certain vintage and remember the days of PS2-era platformers like Jak and Daxter (or even Ty the Tasmanian Tiger) then yup, we’re certain you will. This is a game that isn’t exactly light on plot – there are plenty of occasions where you’ll stop and have a chat with various NPCs, most of which are well-written – but still has the presence of mind to not milk it. It knows you’re just here to run, jump, hit things and collect stuff, and is more than happy to let you do that in its well-designed stages.
It’s easy to want to do so, too. The game is a delight to look at, with colourful environments and fun character designs. Nowhere is this more evident than Lucky himself: he’s the living embodiment of happiness, and it’s hard to think of a character in this gaming generation who’s more immediately likeable. You want to see this little fox doing well, because seeing his happy wee face sparks the sort of joy Marie Kondo has dreams about. We bet this is what it would have felt like to play that cheery N64 Conker game before Rare scrapped it and turned him R-rated.
As well as the main game, New Super Lucky’s Tale also integrates the two DLC expansions that were released for the Xbox One version of the game. Gilly Island chucks in a few extra levels with an overall goal of destroying a set of speakers to stop a cat enemy singing a (genuinely) terrible song in the hub world. Guardian Trials, meanwhile, is a series of more difficult stages (complete with a nifty ‘80s theme), designed to give players a final challenge.
The latter is particularly welcome because one of the main criticisms you could level at New Super Lucky’s Tale is that it isn’t a particularly difficult game, even with those new levels added. Lucky’s limited move set may make things easy to get to grips with initially, but it also doesn’t provide the game with much scope to evolve beyond offering you slightly more difficult obstacles to navigate with your three moves.
When it does deviate from the norm the results are varied; we enjoyed the series of marble puzzles, where Lucky’s placed in a giant ball and you have to tilt the stage (a bit like that infamous shrine in Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but nowhere near as annoying). We had less fun, however, with the numerous sliding puzzles that appear from time to time, which start as a mere inconvenience and end up being a real pain in the rump. Just bring up a YouTube solution and move on, they’re not worth wasting time on.
There are a few other niggles, though how much they’ll matter depends on your own personal tastes. Although the game looks gorgeous, its performance isn’t perfect: it hits a steady 30 frames per second for the most part but there are dips here and there. Never really anything to affect your timing during platforming sections, but it’s worth mentioning regardless because the internet. It’s also worth mentioning that the game is still relatively short even with the DLC added; a simple playthrough can be done in around 6 to 8 hours, so this is a game that really requires you to want to collect all the clovers in order to extend its lifespan.
In terms of other new additions, the most immediately useful is the improved camera. Most of the criticism levelled at the Xbox One version of the game boiled down to its terrible camera, which often provided awkward angles, particularly during certain boss fights. This time it’s been revamped, and we have to say we didn’t really have any issues with it at all during our Switch playthrough. When the best thing you can say about the camera is that you didn’t really think about it much while playing, that’s the sign of a good camera.
You can also dress Lucky in a variety of outfits using the coins you collect in each level. These serve no purpose other than to make an already adorable character look even more appealing, and therefore this feature gets our wholehearted approval. Incidentally, the outfit feature was already added to the Xbox One version in one of its DLC packs, but there are roughly twice as many outfits to unlock here. Ultimately, we had a lovely time playing through New Super Lucky’s Tale again. Owners of the Xbox One version may not feel the need to double-dip; while there are some new stages in there and some of the existing stages have been overhauled so dramatically they make the originals look poor in comparison, we can’t say that’s enough of a reason to revisit this world – unless, of course, you’re a massive fan of the game.
With all this said, allow us to return to our original point. This is a game we all need in our lives. In an era of service games, microtransactions, loot boxes, Twitch streaming, procedural generation and ever-increasing toxicity in the online gaming community, it’s such a beautifully welcome detox to play a game that keeps things simple. It’s offline, here are the levels, here’s what to collect, here are some fun little outfits to unlock through gameplay – have fun and forget life for a few hours.
At the risk of sounding too serious in a review of a platformer starring a cuddly fox: our hobby is becoming more complicated and stressful at an alarming rate, requiring us to invest more of our money, our time and our mental capacity with every passing month. Games like New Super Lucky’s Tale and the recent Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair are the antidotes to this (the ‘play tonics’, if you will); the games that ditch the ever-growing ‘play now and unlock this within a week or you’ll miss out forever’ pressure of modern games and give us nothing more than colours and smiles. And we all need that from time to time.