Studio: Playful Corp
Platform: Oculus Rift
Price: Free (Bundled)
Release Date: March 28, 2015
Each time gaming makes an institutional jump between platforms, it requires at least one game capable of justifying and highlighting all of the new hardware’s unique capabilities. It’s debatable whether or not Nintendo’s Gameboy would have been quite as successful if it didn’t come with a free puzzle game that perfectly demonstrated just how fun and addicting mobile gaming could be. That game was called Tetris.
Super Mario Brothers decided how 2D platforming would be done on the NES and Mario 64 proved to the world that a 3D point of view could be successful in video games. Today, gaming is leaping forward once more – this time through the immersive doorway that is virtual reality – and once again the industry needs a title capable of convincing the masses that this new play style can not only be successful, but enjoyable as well.
Fortunately, that champion has emerged right out of the gate. He’s a tiny, adorable, brave little fox. And his name is Lucky.
Lucky’s Tale has a cute, simple story that fits perfectly with the game’s protagonist and setting. The opening moments treat you to a few frozen-in-time scenes of Lucky’s best pal Piggy being kidnapped by a horrible tentacled monster. This scene gives you the time to get to know Lucky and his motivations, while also familiarizing yourself with your new point of view inside a VR headset. Looking around Lucky’s house while the story unfolds is a delightful way to introduce players not only to Lucky’s world, but to virtual reality gaming as well.
3D platforming has not changed all that much since Mario 64 wrote the rulebook in the early 90’s. Gameplay in Lucky’s Tale consists of all of the genre’s major troupes: basic combat, running, jumping, exploring, and treasure hunting.
Lucky can perform either a single or double jump and has two simple attacks: a tail swipe and a ground pound. The ground pound can handle most enemies in a single shot and deals area-of-effect damage to multiple enemies at once. The tail swipe is quick and handy and takes high priority over enemy hits meaning that Lucky never seems overpowered by his environment.
Although combat is simple it can become quite satisfying as you face more and more enemies at once and string several hops, swipes, and pounds into one unbroken combo.
Every little detail in Lucky’s Tale feels like it was designed from the ground up to specifically succeed inside of a VR headset.
Most stage’s task you with using Lucky’s limited array of basic, but incredibly tight, movement and combat options to simply get from point A to Point B. There are hidden paths and “foxholes” to explore but levels are essentially linear. Although the replayable “Time Trial” modes for each level reveal just how many different ways the game’s highly tuned controls can be used to uniquely navigate each environment.
The childish nature of Lucky’s Tale doesn’t stop at its aesthetics. This is not a difficult game. Later levels have a few controller-flinging platforming moments but combat never feels all that challenging and most levels can be easily accomplished on a first play through.
Lucky’s adventure is also not terribly long. I beat the game in slightly over 3 hours. Replaying levels to explore every beautiful nook and cranny of each level may add another hour or two but the end result is still a decidedly brief title.
What makes this even more frustrating are the shoehorned ways the game tries to extend its own longevity. Lucky must collect a certain number of “paw prints” before unlocking the next chapter in his story. This can only be done by replaying entire levels to either find red coins or beat time trials.
These game modes are certainly fun in and of themselves, but it would be nice if they could be completed for pleasure and not as a forced requirement to continue the story.
Lucky’s world is a beautiful place. The cartoony art style works perfectly in VR and half of the fun in this game is simply taking the time to lean in and explore every flower, rock, and enemy you see. The game constantly rewards you for craning your neck with little easter eggs placed all over the levels that only keen-eyed explorers will spot.
The camera is perfectly timed to avoid inducing any sort of motion sickness while also never feeling sluggish as it follows Lucky around. The game frequently has fun with scale and angling in ways that could only be possible in VR. One of the most awe-inspiring moments comes midway through the adventure when an active volcano emerges onto your horizon spewing bursts of lava that you can watch all the way from initial expulsion to final detonation.
Lucky’s Tale is exactly what this industry needs right now.
Every little detail in Lucky’s Tale – from levels that are clearly designed to reward and anticipate VR’s unique point of view, to a treasure-finding method that requires you to physically lean in to make sure you don’t miss anything – feels like it was designed from the ground up to specifically succeed inside of a VR headset. But perhaps the best thing VR does for this game is forge a real connection between you and your furry little friend.
You can get right up close to Lucky and he’s always happy to see you. He waves and smiles and says hello while looking up at you with his enormous shiny eyes. You know in those moments that you’ll play your heart out to ensure no harm comes to your optimistic new pal.
Lucky’s Tale is exactly what this industry needs right now. While cockpit shooters, and tabletop puzzlers will always be fun in their own right, it will be this brave little fox that is remembered as proving to the world just how beautiful and entertaining VR video games can be.
Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.