Coming from French studio Innerspace VR and published by Vertigo Games (of Arizona Sunshine fame), A Fisherman’s Tale is a puzzle game that combines interactive space with twisted logic and physics to tell the story of a lighthouse keeper who needs to turn his lamp on. It might sound simple enough yet it’s anything but… think Inception meets Honey I Shrunk The Kids and you might be about halfway towards grasping the concept. Does this unique idea manage to delight with innovation all the way through, or does it descend into creating an existential crisis?
It’s all about scale and perspective. That’s what you repeat to yourself over and over as you get into the meat of A Fisherman’s Tale. After being introduced to the interactive controls through a standard routine of brushing teeth, cleaning the room and finishing the fabulously intricate model of your home, the lid (literally) comes off and your view on the world shifts seismically. See, that model in the middle of the room has a puppet in it that mimics everything that you do, just on a smaller scale, and they can see a puppet mimicking, and so on. Glance up through the roof and you can see lighthouses that stretch on forever – it’s like being caught in a hall of mirrors, only without out the glass to stop you reaching through. Before you get too much chance to take in the surrealism of the situation there’s a storm warning and someone’s headed out to sea oblivious to the danger. You need to light the lamp and get them to safety, but first there’s the small matter of getting out of the room you’re in.
With both hands controlled by the Move wands (there’s no DualShock support here), A Fisherman’s Tale offers up a wonderfully tactile puzzle game where the mechanics hinge on your ability to work on three planes of existence: large, normal and small to make progress. Moving heavy objects, “shrinking” or “growing” components to make them fit for purpose, or simply moving items around to make pathways – it’s all about considering what you’ve got on hand and what it will be like in the other planes, and whether that’s going to solve your immediate problem. Reaching in to the model to take items off yourself, or dropping bigger versions in is as bizarre as it is gleeful, though it’s quite hard to describe in words what’s going on without sounding like a philosophical dissertation, so if you’re having trouble imagining it head to the trailer below to see it in action.
The story is told through the titular fisherman recounting his… err… tale of what happened on that day. Each level is effectively opening up a different section of the lighthouse, and getting to the top needs help from not only the different sized versions of yourself, but some supporting characters as well. These are brilliantly realised and align with the world so well that it just oozes charm from start to finish. They’re equal parts guides and chastisers, particularly when the father figure crops up, and if the hints have been left on, they’ll reveal clues and point in the right direction along with the narrator. It’s probably worth turning these off because the hints are almost too quick to jump in – sometimes just routing through the environment for a few seconds is enough for it to think you’re stuck, when in fact you’re just seeing if you can throw a book into another dimension.
Speaking of manipulating the world, A Fisherman’s Tale implements a feature that I hope we start to see in other games. To address the problems of staying within the play area when reaching for items, a quick tap of a face button sends the relevant hand out a few feet so that grabbing anything that’s dropped to the floor doesn’t involve fiddling around with the camera position or real life furniture for seated players. Likewise, it means you can grab anything in front without have to lean through scenery and break the illusion. There’s also a fair amount of snapping to interactive objects, mainly when putting items together, that makes it a breeze to do what you need to, though it errs on the right side of making you get things lined up correctly first. Movement is via teleportation and is the right fit here given the tight confines of the rooms. In fact, it feels like the controls in the developers eyes have been refined to exactly the right style because there are no options to alter them at all, and they don’t need it.
A Fisherman’s Tale does everything right in immersing the player, getting its concept across without melting brains, and delivering an outstanding puzzle game with enough on offer to get back in and replay once the main story is done. The only drawback is that it will likely take around 90 minutes to complete depending on how quickly you click with the mechanics. Despite its length though, there’s a feel here that studios are really getting to grips with the power of VR and the interesting and stylish games they can produce. This looks fantastic, is sublimely executed, has surprised with it’s innovation, and it makes you hopeful for what else is to come. If you’re a VR owner then make sure you buy it.
A PSVR review copy of A Fisherman’s Tale was provided by Vertigo Games PR team, and it’s available now on PSVR, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive for around £15.