Developed by Innerspace VR and published by Vertigo Games — of Arizona Sunshine and Skyworld fame — we have here a VR puzzle game called A Fisherman's Tale, available for PlayStation VR (PSVR), HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality, and Oculus Rift. It opens with news that a terrible storm is set to hit the coast, and not every fishing vessel has yet returned to port. What could a fisherman who lives in a cabin attached to a lighthouse do?
- Smart use of scale for puzzles
- Velvety voice acting
- Charming animation
- Heartfelt story
- High amount of polish
- Just under two hours of content
What you'll love about A Fisherman's Tale
In A Fisherman's Tale, you play as a miniature wooden puppet living inside a model cabin attached to an old lighthouse, which also has a model cabin attached to an old lighthouse inside that, and so on down. The scale goes both ways, meaning there seems to also be an endless supply of larger lighthouses and cabins outside your model, which makes for some very cool visuals akin to facing two mirrors at each other and watching an infinite tunnel extend.
A Fisherman's Tale is a polished combination of storytelling and artwork, and it's filled with puzzles that rely on scale and alternate realities.
This is a puzzle game, and most of the challenges involve this level design in some way. In your attempts to reach the top of the lighthouse, you'll generally need to find parts to fix years of neglect or keys to open long-locked doors, but not everything is contained on your scale. For example, if you have a miniature piece of hardware that needs to be larger to work at your scale, you can drop the hardware into the model inside your model. What happens above, so happens below, and that miniature piece of hardware you found in your cabin just became much larger.
Yes, most of the puzzles involve tracking something down that's been lost over the years, but I didn't find them repetitive (no doubt helped along by the relatively short playtime). You meet new characters who are keen to help you along (after you find something to help them), the size and multiple-reality mechanic will cause you to pause more than a couple of times, and puzzles get more challenging as you get used to how the game works.
The backstory of the fisherman is told through superb voice narration by Augustin Jacob, and the feeling that you're inside a storybook is only heightened by the art style and smooth animation. It's completely full of charm, and the story told is heartfelt and wraps up in an endearing way. During a playthrough, if you choose to have puzzle hints on, instead of just pointing at your objective, the narrator will add some depth to the story that also helps you in your quest. In the background, beneath the gull cries and whipping winds, a beautiful soundtrack complements your time here.
What you'll dislike about A Fisherman's Tale
It took only about an hour and 45 minutes of playtime to see the credits roll in A Fisherman's Tale, which is sadly too short. There are pearls to be found in each level to promote another playthrough, but other than letting time pass and forgetting the tricks to the puzzles, I don't think there's a ton of replayability. That's not to say the game isn't worth the $15 price, but I could have easily spent more time here listening to further exposition and solving more puzzles. I understand that the developers wanted something tight and smooth without getting repetitive, and in that sense, they succeeded.
On a technical side, the game is polished. I didn't come across any crashes and except for an item or two clipping into a wall (pieces that go where they shouldn't are shortly reset to their initial position), everything worked smoothly. You might hear the narrator repeat a couple of phrases if you take too long solving a puzzle, hints turned on or not, but nothing egregious.
Should you buy A Fisherman's Tale?
If you think of A Fisherman's Tale as something akin to an evening at the cinema, the $15 is well spent. You're probably not going to play this game over and over until you're sick of it, but if you don't mind dropping that much dough on a couple of hours of entertainment (lengthened if you go for all the pearls), this game should be well worth the money.
The multiple-reality puzzle mechanic keeps fetch quests from getting stale, and you will certainly have to do some thinking to get to the end. There's a ton of detail, the artwork is beautiful, and the narrator does a perfect job of setting the tone.