Virtual reality (VR) is largely considered to be the domain of first-person experiences. Anyone who follows VRFocus regularly however, will know that this is not necessarily the case. This is a limitation forced by audiences and not designers, and Playful Corp. intends to push past that artificial barrier with Lucky’s Tale, a platform videogame inspired by the legends of the genre.
From that introduction you’ve probably got an image in your head of just how Lucky’s Tale would play. And it’s probably right. The demonstration version of the videogame playable on Oculus VR’s booth at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year offers an experience that doesn’t break the mould; it simply adds a VR head-mounted display (HMD) to the traditional formula.
Using an Xbox 360 control pad the player guides their cartoon fox around brightly coloured landscapes using the left analog stick and just three abilities: crouch, jump and bodyslam. The crouch isn’t actually used in this demo for any purposes other than it still being an active part of the control scheme, but the jump and bodyslam are used to overcome platform challenges, break blocks, collect items and defeat enemies. So far, so traditional platforming. The break from the norm comes in the form of camera control.
Lucky’s Tale uses preset camera angles. There is no movement of the camera on the right analog stick. Instead, the player can move their head in order to change their view: looking ahead to see the next challenges or up and over Lucky to better asses the distances between obstacles. This does, however, mean that the player is unable to pan the camera. Even in this short demonstration build there were instances where the challenge of the platforming was outweighed by the inability to correctly align your view, leading to a considerably more difficult challenge than was obviously the intention. Playful Corp. has assured VRFocus that the camera is something they are very concerned about and have done much research on, so these issues will hopefully be rectified by the next time Lucky’s Tale gets a public outing.
Of course, this double-edged sword leads to some interesting gameplay design of its own. Once you overcome the awkwardly placed platforming challenges you’ll find moments in which Lucky can pick up an egg or a bomb and throw these to any point the player wishes; simply look at a specific point and Lucky will hit directly on that spot. It’s a simple mechanic that performs well in it’s inference of just what VR can add to the genre. It’s unique moments like this that will make Lucky’s Tale a highlight of the Oculus Rift’s consumer software line-up, so long as the shortcomings elsewhere can be dealt with.
Of course, no first look at Lucky’s Tale would be complete without mentioning Lucky himself. Apparently the name does not infer anything about the relationship between Playful Corp. and Oculus VR’s own Mr. Luckey, but instead amplifies the ‘cuteness’ of the character. And this asset is something that Lucky has in spades. VRFocus can already see a time when fans are buying fridge magnets and soft toys baring Lucky’s likeness as this was obviously a consideration when designing the character. The appeal of Lucky is hammered home simply by looking at him; just as with Sonic tapping his foot or Crash Bandicoot’s yo-yo antics, Lucky too has a moment in which his personality is greater than a 10 hour adventure could possibly ever be.