Wednesday, February 17, 2021

New Super Lucky's Tale (Xbox One) - Luckier Than Ever

The original Lucky’s Tale was originally released as a launch title for the Oculus Rift in 2016, however what prevented me from playing it, despite it catching my interest, was my disinterest in the platform itself in favor of PlayStation VR. The game did, however, receive a sequel in 2017 in the form of Super Lucky’s Tale for the Xbox One, as a launch title for the system’s Xbox One X counterpart, which I actually was able to play. While I generally liked what I played, I did have some issues with it, plus I bailed on it when the final boss proved to be too difficult for me.

All of the game’s problems and more would later be addressed in an updated rerelease known as New Super Lucky’s Tale, which originally launched for the Nintendo Switch in 2019 and was later ported to the PS4 and Xbox One in 2020. In the interest of seeing what was changed about the original release, I waited for a physical Xbox One version to be available for a more consistent experience, which paid off when I spotted Best Buy carrying said port. After getting the game on sale, I found the changes made it the absolute best way to experience Super Lucky’s Tale.

In comparison to the original game, the story has been completely overhauled into something a bit darker. The evil Jinx and his children, known as the Kitty Litter, have taken over the land in pursuit of the Book of Ages, which the Guardians seek to protect. Lyra, Lucky’s older sister, is one of the Guardians, who along with a small team of others tries to keep the book safe in her home of Foxington. Jinx manages to track down the Book, however in what appears to be a defense mechanism, the Book scatters its own pages across several worlds, opening a portal that takes Jinx, the Kitty Litter and Lucky along with the pages. In the process, Lucky ended up taking Lyra’s cloak, which held her Guardian sigil and her only means of traveling between worlds. Now, it is up to Lucky to rebuild the Book of Ages and stop Jinx.

The basic gameplay is much like that of a 3D mascot platformer, with some complexity of its own. Lucky’s main attack is a tail swipe and he can double jump, however he also possesses the ability to burrow underground. Burrowing has some uses, such as collecting buried coins or working your way underneath certain obstacles, though some levels require heavier use of this ability than others. Furthermore, any attempt to burrow on solid ground causes you to skid or roll instead, which is a nice attention to detail. I will also mention one change from the original release is that you now have the ability to freely move the camera, allowing you to approach certain areas differently and more easily find hidden objects.

On startup, the game starts you with five lives, with three hitpoints each, though reaching a checkpoint refills your hitpoints and provides a place to respawn on death. Should you lose all of your lives, you have to start the level all over again with only five lives. Levels are grouped into a number of hub worlds and each non-boss level, which can mostly be played in order you wish, has a set of four Clover Pages (Clovers in the original release) to collect, with the requirements of finishing the level, collecting all of the hidden L-U-C-K-Y letters, finding a Hidden Page and collecting at least 300 coins. Hidden Pages are often found in foxholes hidden around each level and hub world, providing additional challenges to complete (at least some of which are skippable) such as puzzles, enemy waves and time trials. The main incentive to collect Pages is to unlock the boss fight at the end of each hub world, in addition to a new feature I will get into later. There is also some good variety in the level design as well, as while most are 3D platforming stages, there are some 2D platforming and endless runner-like levels to help mix things up.

2D levels provide some gameplay variety.

One other aspect of the gameplay is collecting coins, and there’s a lot to it. Most coins are out in the open to be collected, which don’t respawn in hub worlds, however some of these coins are invisible, the explanation via a loading screen being that it was Jinx playing a prank on the Guardians before he turned evil, and can be found by looking for a faint outline of said coins. Some larger coins and even gems are worth more coins and some other coins can be found by hitting objects a few times or by defeating enemies. Coins that spawn from those last two events are automatically added to your coin total and are the only ones to reset in hub worlds, which alongside replaying levels allows you to grind for additional coins. The aforementioned time trials also grant additional coins and even an extra life by picking up flashing coins within a time limit after touching a floating clock, with further bonus lives obtained after collecting 300 coins in a stage and making it back to the hub world.

Previously, coins served no purpose in the original Super Lucky’s Tale, making them pointless to collect aside from adding to the collect-a-thon nature of the game. However, as of New Super Lucky’s Tale, coins finally have a purpose, allowing you to exchange them with the golem merchant Geovanni to purchase cosmetics for Lucky, namely hats and clothing for 700 coins each. New costumes are unlocked by reaching the next hub world, however even more become available upon defeating bosses (essentially letting Lucky cosplay as them), collecting every Page in every level of a hub world, or other conditions in the late game.

The art direction for New Super Lucky’s Tale is very stylized and features an appropriately bright color palette, though the final world and the boss fight against Jinx have a suitably darker color scheme to fit in with a “horror” theme. There are also some new comic-style cinematics drawn by comics artist and The Spectacular Spider-Man character designer Sean Galloway which fit nicely with the visual style of the game, bringing out emotions in the character designs in places where the in-game models cannot. While the graphics are well-done and animations very fluid, I did notice some small draw distance on some objects, which even affects being able to tell from a distance whether or not you completed a foxhole. I will also not here that, fitting with the new direction for the story, any animations or models relating to Clovers have been replaced with Clover Pages, including a new animation where Lucky gets said Page back into the Book of Ages upon completing a level.

With some exceptions, most characters outside of cutscenes audibly speak gibberish, with subtitles to discern what they’re actually saying. One detail I appreciated though is that the gibberish language is unique to each character, including different tones, intonations and accents. In some cases, such as in Veggie Village or anything involving the antagonist Tess, many characters’ gibberish was very enunciated to where I felt the need to hold off on reading the subtitles until they finished since it was otherwise difficult to ignore.

As for the exceptions, Lucky and Jinx now have full voice acting in addition to Lyra, with Lucky even having his own pre-battle dialogue against the Kitty Litter. The voice acting itself is generally good, though now it’s possible to get a better idea of Lucky and Jinx’s personalities. Also, the pause menu features a magic sparkling surrounding the Book of Ages, which sometimes got a little grating to me for some reason.

After the original release of Super Lucky’s Tale, two new DLC hub worlds were added, Gilly Island and Guardian Trials, both of which are included as part of the regular game for New Super Lucky’s Tale. Gilly Island is island vacation-themed and allows you to finally fight another member of the Kitty Litter, Lady Meowmalade, who is a social media influencer/musician and speaks in lingo related to the former. In the rerelease, this area is placed before the final hub world with Jinx, and interestingly provides some clever foreshadowing for a post-credits scene, aided by the loading screens informing you of another unseen character’s existence.

The other DLC, Guardian Trials (aka Foxington), is unlocked after you defeat Jinx and has the premise of passing a series of difficult trials so that Lucky can obtain the rank of Guardian. These challenges are, indeed, difficult, as they range from physical challenges, rolling ball puzzles and battles, including remixed versions of boss fights that are more difficult than they were previously, and completing all three sets of these levels gives you more costumes to unlock. Additionally, each of these levels has a hidden hot dog in it, and collecting all of them lets you purchase to one final costume where Lucky is dressed like a hot dog vendor. While I did try my best on these levels, I was only able to successfully complete a little over half of them before the difficulty proved too much for me. However, knowing that completing all of the trials gives you the aforementioned post-credits scene, I made sure to watch it elsewhere.

And now for some additional notes about my experience that I didn’t know where to put elsewhere. Between versions, many of the levels and hub worlds got name changes, including some new layouts for at least one of the latter, so be sure to keep this in mind if you need to look up a guide. The loading screens can be genuinely helpful at times, such as informing you that a tail swipe can be used as a third jump in midair, though they also contain a combination of world-building and jokes. One minor detail I noticed is the controller vibrates when you screech to a halt, which I found to be a nice bit of immersion.

One thing to mention is that one level in Gilly Island, Trapped in Paradise, consists of a complex maze, one which notably warrants the level having maps you can look at to track your progress and general position within the level; Foxington also features one in the hub world due to its large design. Along with the other alterations between releases, the final battle with Jinx has been remade entirely to follow a different pattern than before, making the fight easier to complete. While I was finally able to make it past him, doing so required me to lose 10 lives in the process, though some of that is likely on me and my own capabilities as a player. One legitimate complaint I have though is that one of the L-U-C-K-Y challenges in the Veggie Village level Egg Roll is a bit too cryptic. Getting one of the letters requires you to lead a group of chicks into a pen, however your only hint to this is a heart that floats above their heads, making this particular challenge very easy to miss.

With numerous tweaks, alterations and improvements across the board, New Super Lucky’s Tale is the definitive way to play Super Lucky’s Tale. The new story raises the stakes higher than the previous version and the gameplay is overall better, including coins finally having a reason to be collected, plus all the DLC content is included on-disc and weaved seamlessly into the campaign. Only play Super Lucky’s Tale if you’re curious, otherwise New Super Lucky’s Tale is the version to go for if you want a fun 3D mascot platformer.

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