A wonderful marriage of narrative and puzzles, that’s just too short.
The first came across InnerspaceVR’s virtual reality (VR) title A Fisherman’s Tale, the mind-bending puzzle experience at Gamescom 2018, the title has proved to be continually fascinating. With an early preview of the first area sowing the seed, and a secondary previewunlocking the second chapter, this only heightened the interest, so much so the videogame made it onto our ‘Best of Oculus Rift Games Coming in 2019’. Now that publisher Vertigo Games (Arizona Sunshine) has launched the experience they can say that while enjoyable, it feels like it’s over before truly finding its feet.
Right from the start A Fisherman’s Tale comes across as a classic children’s story, involving a lighthouse keeper and a seafaring tragedy. But then it turns all weird and magical once you come to realise that you, in fact, play a wooden puppet inside a model lighthouse. Even stranger still is the moment you get to interact with said model, finding that it is actually one of many, continually repeated indefinitely.
The model plays with scale, and this forms the core mechanic of A Fisherman’s Tale puzzles. Beautifully, elegant in its design, you can shrink and grow the size of any objects that are interactive, whether they are relative to the current puzzle or not. This has allowed InnerspaceVR to create a world that’s both physically small, yet much larger in scope, encouraging you to examine the world as much as possible.
The puzzles themselves are genuinely interesting and fun to solve as you work out what size either you or other items need to be to find all the secret nooks and crevices hidden in the title. A Fisherman’s Tale eases you into the whole experience, with a nice difficulty curve which should mean you won’t ever get truly stuck on the later levels. To help you out should a challenge become too great, InnerspaceVR has included an audible hints system which is switchable in the settings menu, offering little nudges in the right direction.
Another neat little option in the settings is the choice of roomscale, standing or seated gameplay positions, offering plenty of accessibility for most players. What was a little disappointing to see was the lack of options when it came to movement. Even in roomscale you still need additional locomotion which is only provided in teleportation form. While this works perfectly fine, it did break the immersive quality the videogame had managed to create, being unable to casually walk around and play with the model.
There were a couple of other negatives that are worth pointing out. Firstly there’s the collision detection. At point objects being held would clip a door or window frame and suddenly become stuck, or worse disappear. The item in question would then reappear in its original location after a few moments, but it did become somewhat frustrating, especially on the last puzzle which is a little more intricate.
Secondly, A Fisherman’s Tale is just way too short. You’re going to be looking at an average playtime of around 2 hours, less if you try to rush it. There are essentially four main puzzle chapters with additional bits or the story extending the gaps in between. InnerspaceVR has done such a good job interweaving a delightful narrative with a superb puzzle style that it’s over before it’s begun, like reading a child’s bedtime story that’s only a few pages long.
A Fisherman’s Tale is in many respects the VR title they hoped it would be, inventive use of the technology that oozes heart and soul, making you care about the character and his astonishing little world. The puzzles help to carry the story along yet don’t offer anywhere near the complexity of titles like Transpose. The main downside, it leaves you wanting more when there’s no more to be had.