When it comes to 3D platformers, I’ve had a strong opinion throughout the years: Mario is best. And I still feel that it is true! However, seeing as Nintendo is slow to drop the price of their games (and even when they do, it’s usually not below $40) it only makes sense that others would try their hand at undercutting them in the market – but with the cost of 3D development, it ain’t easy. I’m not sure I actually have any experience with these sorts of “budget” titles since I wasn’t around in the N64 days, but thanks to our Patron/Writer duo KAMaxmilianK, I’ve been given the opportunity to play through one of the newer games. Kmax, I am happy to present to you and our audience my review of New Super Lucky’s Tale!
Although certainly with a much lower budget, this game was able to beat out Mario in the place he lacks the most: the story. Now, it isn’t super deep or anything, but there’s actually stuff here to discuss. The main character, Lucky, is the youngest in the Swiftail family, many of whom are Guardians of the Book of Ages. Although he hasn’t achieved Guardian status quite yet, he had been on the run with the rest of the Guardians for years until the sorcerer Jinx and his children the “Kitty Litter” finally caught them. Reacting to Jinx’s magic, the Book of Ages sucks in Jinx and his crew as well as Lucky, who finds himself in a mysterious land all alone. It’s then up to him to find the pages of the Book that have gone missing and fight against the Kitty Litter.
Yeah, it’s not anything crazy, but with the addition of some extra lore drops given during loading screens and through gameplay, the background of these characters certainly goes deeper than I expected and that is very much appreciated. Story is one of those things I really don’t feel like takes away from the gameplay experience as long as it’s handled correctly, and I’m glad to see thought was given here.
The most important aspect of any 3D platformer is the gameplay, especially the controls. It definitely doesn’t feel bad to control Lucky, but I do wish he had some more ways to speed up his momentum. As it is, you can walk/run (based on how much you tilt the control stick), jump twice, do a tail swipe, and dive into burrowing underground. The digging mechanic is definitely the most unique here, and I think it actually feels better to do than any of the other moves. It’s used in a variety of creative ways, such as slipping under walls and attacking enemies. However, this only works on certain types of ground (like dirt or sand), so if you’re up on a wooden platform don’t count on it as an option.
Of course, you’ll need some motivation to do this running, jumping and digging in the first place… it’s to collect pages! Every main level has four different pages for you to collect. You’ll always get one for clearing the level, but they’re also given for collecting 300 coins, getting all the hidden LUCKY letters, and to get the secret page, find and complete a bonus challenge. There’s also smaller challenges strewn about each hub, usually in the form of a sliding puzzle or marble-rolling challenge. These only reward you with 1 page upon completion, but are typically very short and make for a good palate-cleanser in between traditional levels.
You’re required to collect about half the pages in any different world before you move on, so if there’s things that are giving you trouble, feel free to skip them. You will always have to complete a boss fight at the end of the world, though.
Unfortunately, with a 3D environment also comes more opportunities for bugs, and while I’m sure Playful Studios ironed a lot of them out, I still found a handful while adventuring through. I saw models/characters mess up a few times, and often found that some object’s collision didn’t quite match its visuals. Most surprising to me was that there’s actually a way to infinitely climb walls. With the right combination of tail swiping, diving and jumping, you can scale most every big wall to totally break the game. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword; I find it super fun to go out of bounds and make the game do weird things, but on the other hand, it was tempting to just jump over everything instead of completing levels as intended once I knew I had this power.
Granted, I seriously doubt many players will discover this on their own and less experienced ones probably won’t be able to pull off the inputs required, so it likely won’t be a problem for most. Still, I really feel like the devs should have caught this and fixed it, as it’s just too game-breaking and simple enough that I would expect testers to find it.
This is actually one of the few games that I’d recommend lots of people try and go for 100%. It’s probably too big an ask for younger kids, but I was able to 100% most levels on my first try, and rarely found any one task to be overly difficult. I got every single page and all 54 achievements in just about 13 hours of gameplay, and that included me doing a good bit of messing around. I’d say the biggest barrier to full completion is the last couple sliding-statue puzzles, as those gave me a much tougher time than the rest.
Time to talk about the graphics. I played this on my PC, at max settings, and was honestly disappointed. I can definitely understand things being simple and not too detailed, but I really feel that some better lighting, textures, and a couple extra polygons would have gone a long way. It reminded me of what Fortnite looks like when you turn shaders off completely: things look plain and bland. I think the environmental design was fine, it’s these aspects that would benefit touching up. I’d consider it the game’s biggest miss to be honest.
On the more specific side of things, you’ll sometimes find assets that only load very close to you, and at the wrong time. As an example in this screenshot here, there’s some text (by the pig) that loaded before the sign it’s on did, along with some floating eyebrows in the bottom right that you’ll discover belong to a character if you move closer.
None of these things ruined my experience by any means, but certainly seem like they should have been avoided (especially text loading before the sign.) I would just call these graphics “fine” overall. They work well enough with the world, convey the things the developers want them to, and probably help the game run better on Nintendo Switch. Just don’t expect to be wowed by anything.
I do also understand that Playful Studios is far smaller than Nintendo and it’s only natural for things to be less pretty, especially at a lower price of entry.
From a faith perspective
One of the things that stuck out the most to me in the story were the Guardians. As human beings, we naturally gravitate towards groups, as they can help us better ourselves and bring us together with people that share the same values/interests. In the case of the Guardians seen in NSLT, we’ve got ourselves a Yeti that looks like somebody’s uncle, a robot that’s into 80’s workouts, a… smart worm, and Lucky’s sister Lyra. I want you to take a good look at the picture below and ask yourself: do these characters seem like they could achieve much on their own?
I know they are really just silly cartoon characters, but in a way that’s sort of what we are without others. Humanity is only where it is today because the past generations have been able to build upon what our predecessors accomplished and work together with others to accomplish things nobody would ever have dreamed of. This is especially the case with the Catholic Church – for generations, the greatest theologians and philosophers have worked together to dive deeper and deeper into the realities of our world and the mystery of our faith. Even St. Thomas Aquinas wouldn’t have been able to produce the works he did if he didn’t have access to the writings of others, including those outside the Church.
So, if forming groups is necessary for humans to achieve many things, are there any downsides to joining one? Well, of course. Groups can devote themselves to destruction and evil while only surviving via parasitic means, such as gangs, the mafia, or even some governments. So, remember to be careful about what sort of groups you join and thank God when you find a good one. If you don’t, you might end up in some bad places – perhaps in Jinx’s kitty litter.
Magic/Occult/Religion: Plenty of magic in this tale – the main antagonist is a sorcerer, and the Book of Ages you are protecting connects various worlds, and is said to be able to rewrite history. There’s also a ghost who tells fortunes. Finally, in one of the worlds you’ll meet spiritual Yetis who are based on Buddhism, so you’ll hear talk about the Eightfold Path, Zen, Yoga etc.
Violence: Extremely mild cartoon violence – defeated enemies disappear in a puff of smoke.
Misc: In one of the levels you can burrow into character’s shower stalls – but they’re all wearing what they always do. And usually wouldn’t bring this sort of thing up, but since it is such a kid-centered game I’ll also mention that there are some characters who act poorly or will insult you.