Side note- Do NOT play a drinking game wherein you have to drink every time I say “New” while reading this article. You’ll get wicked sauced.
It has been QUITE a year for the “little console that could”. The Nintendo Switch is under a constant barrage of new game releases every week, sometimes it seems like every DAY in fact, and while you have your requisite garbage that sneaks in- the overwhelming majority of them are really fucking good. With no signs of stopping AND with more and more developers pushing the capabilities of the machine, we’re looking at it getting nothing but better in 2020 too. I’ll be posting a “Best of 2019” article soon and believe me- it’s tough work trying to pick the best out of an absolutely mind-blowing year. Captain First World Problems reporting for duty!
You can bet the kid’s college fund this game’ll be on that list.
What I didn’t mention above is that out of ALL the fantastic stuff that comes out and each and every week, there’s a small handful that go light years beyond awesome straight into GLORIOUSLY AMAZING territory. The instant classics, the 10/10’s, the game-changers. The ones everyone goes bat-shit crazy for and that set a new bar for everything that comes after them, and I’m here to tell you that New Super Lucky’s Tale is absolutely one of those. By leaps and bounds it’s the best platformer of 2019 and it’s probably the best one on the system entirely that doesn’t star an Italian plumber.
Many have tried and many have failed at their efforts to capture the magic of the platforming greats. Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country, you know the list. The best of the best still hold up (mostly, besides the off-puttingly blocky fucking polygons- I swear they didn’t look THAT bad back then right?) because they were made by people who understood how to MAKE them great. I think a lot of modern developers are trying to do too much, trying to design the biggest, most powerful, most pixels per square inch, most open-world, most “slam your head into the bricks” difficulty, all of the above. To me, it’s when you distill things down to their essence that they really start to shine.
“Keep it simple, stupid.”- Michael G. Scott
Super Mario Bros. 3 isn’t a great game because of its multiple-branched story path or its convoluted loot system (it doesn’t have them at all in fact, for the kids in the back)- Super Mario Bros. 3 is a great fucking game because it’s Mario to the tenth power. The animal suits are insane, the secrets are everywhere, and it’s a small handful of elements done WELL. Boom, there’s your winning formula. Dead Cells isn’t awesome because you fucking craft your own wheelbarrow or whatever, it’s awesome because you’re a headless bastard hacking your way to some kind of redemption through a desolate landscape with the MOST bad-ass of weaponry.
Code, rinse, repeat.
See, if you start to think about it you realize that the best things are often times the simplest. That’s where New Super Lucky’s Tale comes in. Is it the most groundbreaking thing in existence? No, of course not. It’s a video game about an anthropomorphic fox, let’s get some perspective. Does it have multiple systems like farming, crafting, or relationship sim stuff? Nope, it doesn’t and it doesn’t need it either.
Where New Super Lucky’s Tale shines (Developed by Playful Studios, published by PQube Games) is in the details, and the foundation. The game is built upon a few core mechanics and ideas (run, jump, slide, burrow, collect stuff, save other anthropomorphic creatures and restore the Book of Ages, etc.) and then it refines them to near technical perfection. Everything feels tight and responsive, and the little dude (Lucky) is a joy to control and one of the most determinedly adorable protagonists you’ll find in video game history. The world he sets out to save & explore is BURSTING with color and detail, and every NPC has a little something to say/do which makes the world feel so much more alive than other games of its kind.
It’s not the longest game, and it’s not the shortest game. Everything is perfectly paced, it respects your time, and it achieves a flawless balance between challenge and fun. I never got stressed but it didn’t pander either. That’s a rare feat to pull off by the way, and it is put to excellent use throughout this game. Anyone can play this game. Your kid, your grandma, your whoever, this is a game for everyone but at the same time it doesn’t insult ANYONE’S intelligence either. It’s well done, it’s fun to play, and it has those extra layers of “well done” that all too many game devs miss these days.
LET THE HATE MAIL COMETH.
I’ve tried a lot of the games that have emerged from the recent resurgence of the 2D/3D platformer and to be 100% honest- most of them haven’t been that great to me. I’m aware that many of them are perfectly great games in their own right but they just didn’t CLICK with me like New Super Lucky’s Tale. As I’m sitting here I think I’m actually realizing why too- I fucking HATE it when games start to feel punitive. Cause that’s crazy. These are GAMES, which are supposed to be FUN. My main problem with Hollow Knight, whose art style I fell in rapturous love with by the way, was that it began to feel like some kind of religious atonement every time I died or took a wrong turn. I don’t need Catholic-school level punishment for dying in a video game, just let me get back about my business and don’t make me hate you.
New Super Lucky’s Tale never made me hate anything, in fact it made me want to go hug animals in the woods but I decided to not be weird and I just went on about my day. Good call. Anyway, all jokes aside it truly is a masterclass in how to make a game FUN. It’s not trying to wow you with hyper-realistic hair physics, it’s not concerned with throwing puzzles at you that will make your brain ooze out of your ears, it is concerned with doing a DAMN fine job at being a fun video game and it succeeds with the absolute highest marks at that. It excels around every corner and it is one of the MOST essential indie releases of 2019, or any year for that matter.
Seriously, you’ve just spent $40 without doing ANYTHING.
There are cheaper games on the eShop, New Super Lucky’s Tale clocks in at $40 USD (also available physically BTW) which puts it a good bit above the average indie platformer, but that’s the thing- this ISN’T the average indie platformer, it’s the franchise player. It is a game that is worth EVERY bit of its price and then some, because it feels like a AAA game in every respect. It’s polished and gorgeous, the sound design is excellent, and the gameplay is pitch perfect. I’m honestly not sure what the hell else I can say about New Super Lucky’s Tale that I haven’t said- or the countless other sites that echo my adoration- Playful and PQube have a certified hit on their hands. I genuinely hope we see more of Lucky soon, and I can’t stress enough to you that ANY gamer would be stoked to have this wonderful game in their stocking this year.
Review code graciously provided by PQube Games to my good friends at Review Rush who then provided it to me. Check out Playful here, and please tell your wallet I apologize for causing you to empty him/her so often. 🙂
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