Lucky’s Tale Rift
What’s in a name? Not much, really: Lucky’s
Tale is a 3D platformer starring a fox called Lucky who hits things with his tail. It’s hardly the most imaginative conceit, or the most modern, though as with many Rift launch games it’s lent a special air by the technology that powers it. It may be a game idea borrowed from ’95, running on hardware with origins in the late ’80s, but as a moving platform takes you through a tunnel in which you instinctively duck out of the way of tangles of vines, before you pop out above in a colourful village whose denizens, obstacles and traps stretch off towards the horizon, the sensation is thoroughly 2016.
Still, at its core, Lucky’s Tale is every inch the launch game you’d expect from a publisher whose CEO, Jason Rubin, co-created Crash Bandicoot. Enemies – including bats that lob bombs, and bees that fire projectiles – are dispatched with a tail swipe or by jumping on them. Hazards play with the 3D aesthetic: spike-covered logs swinging back and forth on vines, cuboid platforms that rotate every few seconds. The level design itself has been built with up-close 3D in mind, generally pushing you into the screen with sideways detours forcing you to keep an eye on your shadow when positioning jumps.
At its best, it’s the sort of game Nintendo would’ve made had child-safety concerns not compelled it to make 3DS’s stereoscopic view optional, rather than mandatory. Developer Playful Corp lives up to its name, using the automatic camera to position collectibles almost but not quite out of sight behind level furniture. In later levels, switches that you flick with a tail swipe cause walls to twirl 180 degrees, and reveal previously unseen paths. Rift’s in-built stereo headphones mean the studio can use audio as a mechanic too, alerting you to the nearby presence of an essential item with a faint sound effect that loudens as you draw closer to it.
Despite the fact you’re guiding Lucky through a 360-degree space, you have no control over the camera, and it’s this that means Lucky’s Tale has been given the Moderate comfort rating by Oculus. The camera moves slowly to dampen the inherent discomfort in your lack of control of it, but it’s often too slow, particularly after Lucky rises or falls at higher-than-usual speed. We’ve walked straight off unseen ledges while the camera was still following us up a hill, and fallen out of sight after a long drop to a faraway platform. And backtracking is unworkable, the camera moving so slowly that Lucky often seems to be walking into your frontal cortex and straight out the back of your head. Despite its name’s implications, this is a better game when you’re following Lucky’s nose, rather than his tail.
Coins are everywhere: strewn about the level to signal the critical path, shimmering on far-off platforms, or invisible until you draw near. They’re safely ignored: a hundred earn you a 1-Up, but lives are never an issue