In an industry full of video game characters who are oozing with snark, cynicism and attitude, a young fox steps forward to remind us that enthusiasm, curiosity and friendship still mean something. Super Lucky’s Tale is a colorful little platformer developed by the aptly named Playful and will be published for Windows 10 and the Xbox One family of consoles by Microsoft. This partnership is an act of genius because the character of Lucky and the Xbox need each other.
Older gamers may recall that the platformer genre was largely responsible for the resurgence of video games after the console crash of 1983. The most famous games of the early 1980s were typically single screen challenges or score chasers. The idea of beating a unique level and moving on to another with the goal of actually finishing a game was not entirely unheard of but it was fairly uncommon before the reign of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Arcades and television screens alike blazed with the bold colors of Super Mario Bros. and were complemented by an upbeat musical score. The visuals and sound effects perfectly blended with the natural tendency to run and jump and the result was one of the most recognizable video game franchises ever made that is still going strong today. Mario would be followed by the likes of Kirby and the return of Donkey Kong along with a slew of rivals such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Bonk and Earthworm Jim all the way to mostly forgotten characters like Rocky Rodent. The platformer genre became dominated with characters celebrated for their crudeness – Conker and Ratchet & Clank are noteworthy examples of this.
There are no shortage of platformer video games around these days and whether you prefer brutal difficulty, puzzles, level creation or retro visuals, there’s something out there for you. However, it seems – at least to me – that many modern platformers have forgotten the third vital ingredient for a classic game. Along with vibrant visuals and tight controls, you need a character with personality. Enter Lucky.
Although his luxurious tail may be reminiscent of a certain squirrel, Lucky is a young red fox who wears blue sneakers and a matching cape – accessories which may be homages to past platforming heroes. While some mascot characters will get by on thinly veiled innuendoes that a fifteen year old may find funny, Lucky has two characteristics that are closer to the classic gaming stars of old. Lucky shows an enthusiastic curiosity about the world around him. Everything from an innocuous butterfly to a flock of birds to a stunning landscape vista against the sunset fascinates our little hero. Even his makeshift cape captures the “Adventure is out there!” approach to life. Many of us likely used a beach towel or something similar as a cape when we were children and that “secret jungle” we discovered a block or so from our homes was an important discovery worthy of National Geographic.
While Super Lucky’s Tale will be the first contact with the titular Fox for many gamers, this is not a new IP. Lucky made his debut as a VR game for the Oculus Rift. Super Lucky’s Tale was generally praised for its polished gameplay and tight controls while some critics lamented its relatively short length and the fact that the game didn’t bring anything new to the genre.
Super Lucky’s Tale is not a remake of the old Oculus Rift title. This is a full sequel which began development as a VR title but has broken free of those headset constraints and will be playable on your PC or Xbox One console. The developers have brought in some high pedigree talent to work on Lucky. In fact, one of the level designers from Donkey Kong Country Returns is working on this new adventure.
Lucky traverses his world with the usual platforming moves. He can run and double-jump. His main attack is a spinning slap with his luxurious tail. The move that sets Lucky apart is his ability to burrow underground ala Bugs Bunny. You can use this move to travel around the stage and it even serves as an area attack at the point where Lucky surfaces. While the game is mostly centered around platforming and boss battles, Microsoft says there will be carnival style mini-games as well as challenge levels.
Xbox One X owners will be able to enjoy this game in native 4K resolution and a smooth 60 frames per second. Those who play on Xbox One or Xbox One S should expect 1080p resolution and the same frame rate.
Lucky arrives on Xbox at a crucial time. The console needs more first party games that are family friendly and achieve that cute aesthetic. With an MSRP of $29.99, I would not expect an overly long campaign but what’s there is quality platforming action. Like it’s predecessor, Super Lucky’s Tale is not seeking to reinvent the platforming genre and that’s okay. There is something to be said for just making a fun game that plays well.
Super Lucky’s Tale releases for Xbox One and Windows 10 on November 7th.