Lucky is not a new Mario. He’s not Banjo, Sonic, or any of the other beloved anthropomorphised furbags many of us remember as pioneers of platforming. He’s adorable and entertaining, well-designed to be the mascot of an Oculus Rift launch game, but lacks a distinct personality, instead relying on cliches that keep him from truly standing on his own as a character who can come to symbolize a new platform. And like the bouncy fox himself, Lucky’s Tale evokes fond memories of the great 3D platformers that define the genre, but feels somewhat half-baked—introducing you to an assortment of fun enemies and obstacles, but then reusing them for the short duration of the game.Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed playing through Lucky’s Tale’s roughly four-hour story. A platformer’s controls are crucial, and although I did have some difficulty trying to jump onto small objects like fence posts, developer Playful Corp has done a great job at making Lucky control smoothly. Coins and gems are scattered around every level, enticing you through the vibrant environments—each with charming sound and music design that is clearly a love letter to old Rare games. I jumped on enemies’ heads, navigated shifting platforms, cursed every time I fell short of a landing, and watched my score counter satisfyingly tick upwards with each collectible.Lucky’s Tale has the unique privilege of also being the first platformer in modern VR, and it utilizes the new tech well. Looking down on Lucky made it feel like the game was taking place on my desk, which I wouldn’t exactly call immersive, but it was definitely the coolest way I’ve ever played a platformergiving me a helpful 3D perspective for every jump. And while linear platformers like this are always pushing you forward, VR gave me the ability to look back. Lucky’s Tale’s level layouts cleverly play with verticality, so guiding Lucky to the top of a windmill meant I could turn around and proudly gaze over my progress from a perspective I’ve never seen before in a game like this. There’s the occasional gimmicky fish thrown directly at your face too, but Playful generally uses the VR medium effectively.It was disorienting at first, turning my head to move the camera for a third-person 3D platformer, but playing Lucky’s Tale and watching its cute but generic protagonist bounce around in virtual reality soon felt natural. It’s maybe a little too natural, because once the novelty of playing in VR wore off, I saw it for what it really is: a very short, very conventional game loaded with unnecessary repetition.Most of Lucky’s Tale could have been an N64-era platformer. It’s that same kind of straightforward double-jumping, ground-pounding platforming while collecting coins and avoiding simple enemies we’ve seen for decades, but easier than most and lacking interesting puzzles or secrets to find. There’s no difficulty progression to speak of, either — the first level teaches you pretty much everything you need to know to get through the entire story mode and rescue Lucky’s pig buddy, and it rarely tries to compound on those simple skills to make its platforming more challenging or exciting. The few boss battles are the most fun, since they take the most advantage of action and platforming with a faster pace than the action in the regular levelsAll the other camera movement could have been done just as well with the controller — I would have preferred it, even, because the camera sometimes auto-scrolls forward in an awkward way that occasionally made me feel dizzy because I wasn’t in control. Other times, I’d advance Lucky faster than that scrolling overworld camera could even move, and I’d have to crane my neck or stand up a little to see where I was going. It doesn’t seem intentional, and I wouldn’t have had those awkward breaks in my movement had I just been able to manually control the camera position and movement speed myself. It makes the VR part of the experience feel forced rather than adding anything to the platforming.That’s a miss on its own, because the Rift’s stereoscopic 3D effect could have been a great way to play with depth perception and mess with what we expect from a 3D platformer. Instead, I didn’t even notice a difference in my ability to gauge my jumps. That doesn’t make the platforming bad — Lucky’s Tale is well done in general, though simple — but it doesn’t make it good, either.Lucky’s Tale only takes around four hours to complete, which is to its benefit. It’s clear Playful didn’t have many mechanics or enemies to work with, and the short campaign meant my experience with them didn’t entirely sour. I genuinely did have fun playing through the similarly styled levels and fighting only subtly changing enemies, but I don’t think I would have for much longer. Had Lucky’s Tale used the complexity of its later levels to set the bar for the entire game, I’d gladly be looking to play more. But the vast majority of the playable stages aren’t very challenging—a conscious decision, I imagine, to make sure anyone who purchased the Rift could enjoy the game—and I finished with nearly 30 extra lives.To stretch Lucky’s Tale a bit longer, after completing each level you unlock two secondary modes for it: a time trial mode, and a mode that asks you to collect 25 red coins hidden throughout each course. I enjoyed these other ways to play, as the time trial mode adds an extra level of difficulty to stages like the bomb-target one mentioned above, now asking you to aim your shots quickly and perfectly in a previously forgiving segment. The red coin hunt was fun as well, but hampered by the inexplicable decision to remove all the checkpoints from the stage for its duration—meaning if you collected all but the last coin, then mistimed the final jump and fell into the insta-death water, you would keep all the coins you already collected but have to start from the very beginning of the level again. The time trials were naturally more challenging, but if this is Playful’s way of increasing difficulty in the red coin hunt, it’s a bad one.Lucky is a lovable mascot, and he stars in a fun (if introductory) platformer, but Lucky’s Tale feels like an almost game. Playful built the core of a great game and put a beautifully presented world around it, proving that 3D platformers can thrive in VR—but then seemed to stop, reusing enemies and level elements to a fault. I’m excited to see how other developers—like Playtonic, which is developing Yooka-Laylee—tackle 3D platformers in the nascent medium, but while Lucky’s Tale is a great game to play for anyone already sold on the Oculus Rift, it won’t sell headsets on its own.There’s some charm to Lucky’s Tale’s simplicity. It’s not exciting, but it’s finely polished. Old-fashioned 3D platforming is still fun, especially some of the boss battles, which require more precise jumping and dodging than any of the more slowly paced levels. It’s just not remarkable, especially as a showcase for VR.