Super Lucky’s Tale is a Microsoft-exclusive 3D platformer and celebration of past beloved platforming traditions. The developers at Playful grew up loving Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie and Crash Bandicoot, and found their experienced has helped them in designing a game that mechanically uses modern controls in a charming nostalgic universe.
Speaking with the game’s director Dan Hurd and playing about fifteen minutes of the game at E3, Stevivor recognised a lot of influences from earlier 3D platformers streamlined in its narrative and level design.
The game’s protagonist, Lucky, is a curious young fox and descendant of a family of guardians, tasked with protecting the many worlds found in pages of a large book called the Book of Ages.
“He’s on a quest to preserve and save these worlds from the mischievous Jinx who wishes to steal that book for himself to write his own worlds and change things up,” said Hurd.
As you venture into the book and discover new chapters, you’ll meet plenty of colourful characters and locations, including one of Jinx’s children and mini-boss, the ninja cat Master Mittens.
“[In the Book of Ages,] there are a whole bunch of different worlds altogether, so you’re going to see a set of things that might appear in a floating sky castle land but not in a snowy environment,” said Hurd. “We have other biomes, too, and some characters you might see over and over again, but some are very unique to that place. We love this format because it lets us say, ‘okay, we’ve told a story of this place, now here’s a new place to talk about.'”
In the demo we played at E3, we explored floating continents and underground platforms with animate jumping fireballs, aggressive pot plants and friendly damaged golems powering a mechanic titan. The trailer debuting in Microsoft’s E3 conference hinted at hub-town locations, including a carnival pier inhabited by friendly ghosts, a village of worm farmers, the insides of a clockwork tower and a Halloween-themed level.
Lucky plays more diverse than most platform heroes. He can burrow underground to find hidden coins and gems, swipe his tail at enemies and jump and double jump, as well as carry items and other moves tied to certain environments.
“[In the E3 demo,] you carry golem heads over to their bodies to replace them, and that’s one aspect of that, but elsewhere, you might be unearthing secrets by burrowing under the ground,” said Hurd. “We want to start with that core set and then [within] each environment, have a different context for how you use those core abilities and how they might challenge the way you think of them.”
According to Hurd, Playful is designing a family friendly experience but doesn’t want to sacrifice challenging gameplay. The world is colourful and cartoonish but not “too kiddy-looking. It’s just enough.”
Hidden collectibles, such as a lucky clover leaf and the individual letters in Lucky, are true to form for the genre but the team plan to design collecting them more challenging than the rest of the game. Most of the letters in the demo were found in slightly obvious places — behind and above buildings, for instance — with one rewarded to me for solving a textile statue manoeuvring puzzle.
“We want to have a good amount of collectibles, but not too many,” he said. “I get fatigued if there’s like, ‘collect a thousand things,’ and I’m like, ‘uh, no, I’m not.’ We want to give you enough to really dig into.
“If you can find a vista point, you get a little visual treat,” he continued. “That will unlock different things all the way from little story beats to new levels. We think with the right amount there’s enough to say, ‘ooh, I can just go back in and clean up that collection.'”
Lucky and his tail have the potential to be Microsoft’s new mascot and flagship 3D platformer, boasting an entertaining cast of characters, charming colourful visuals and at times challenging gameplay.
Super Lucky’s Tale heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and Xbox One X on 7 November.