Our review of Another Fisherman’s Tale, developed by InnerspaceVR. Available now for PS VR2 (reviewed), Meta Quest 2, and SteamVR.
WHAT IS IT?
The sequel to one of our favourite virtual reality games.
IS IT GOOD?
Yes, though it’s more complicated than it needs to be.
WHO SHOULD PLAY IT?
It’s a fine showcase for VR, though (see above) it’s less accessible than its predecessor.
DIFFERENT KETTLE OF FISH
The original Fisherman’s Tale was one of our favourite VR games back when it debuted. Delightful and full of amusing, inventive surprises, it set a memorable standard for accessible and immersive VR – the kind of game you can show your parents to help them understand the hype.
Another Fisherman’s Tale is not that game. Although it carries over some aspects of the original – notably, a central marionette-like character playing about in a miniature doll-scale world – a flurry of new gameplay mechanics make it more convoluted than it needs to be, while a clumsy narrative undercuts some of the fun. It’s still full of the incredible set pieces and engaging gameplay that made its predecessor such a charmer, but we can’t help thinking that another Another – one that stuck to the basics – would have been a better choice.
FISH OUT OF WATER
In Another Fisherman’s Tale, players take first-person control of a wooden marionette named Bob. Bob, you may recall, was the fisherman/lighthouse keeper of the original game, whose pint-sized adventures largely centered around his life in a narrow, cluttered cabin. Moving around – as in, actually moving around, your VR headset warning when you’re about to bump into your living room sofa – you solved simple puzzles which generally involved poking, prodding, and manipulating Bob’s virtual environment. A Fisherman’s Tale was intuitive, which is why your parents could play it: if you wanted to pick up an object, you could reach out and pick it up. If you wanted to peek out a window, you could lean and peek out a window.
Another Fisherman’s Tale is a textbook example of what happens when a sequel clutters up a winning formula. Yes, you can poke and prod and peek around. And yes, the virtual environment makes a certain sort of sense when you’re navigating through it. But, as sequels are wont to do, it layers on additional elements which, though interesting, wind up detracting from what worked before.
Once again guided by an outrageously faux-French-accented narrator, Another follows Bob not in the constrained space of a lighthouse cabin, but across multiple discrete environments, spread out across linear chapters. While the new environments are entertaining, some work better than others, and each new one that you’re thrown into takes some getting used to.
What takes more getting used to are Bob’s new abilities. Before, Bob’s movements (and by extension, yours) were simple to understand: you walked, you grabbed things, you manipulated them. Now, Bob has gone all Swiss Army on us: his hands can be detached (or fired off) and manipulated independently, and you can even swap out your normal (wooden) hands for a claw or a hook. Sir Daniel Fortesque fans will also be happy to hear that, at nearly any time, you can pop off your head and throw it, whether to get a better view or solve a puzzle.
While the game puts good use to these mechanics with its many, varied puzzles, the controls are not always the most responsive or intuitive. These new puzzle mechanics also put Another Fisherman’s Tale slightly out of reach of the coveted non-gamer demographic. Put another way: Another Fisherman’s Tale fails the “parent” test.
OFF THE HOOK
If the new controls and gameplay mechanics are a bit much, so too does the story – which introduces themes around aging and illness – depart from what worked before.
Look, video games don’t necessarily have the best record of grappling with these themes. For every That Dragon, Cancer or Silent Hill 2, there’s a The Medium or Heavy Rain, games which fundamentally misunderstand the nature of illness or which use it as a cheap shortcut for character development. Another Fisherman’s Tale – which is, after all, a comedy – isn’t exactly that, but its maudlin framing device (no spoilers!) feels, at best, unnecessary.
In the end, however, Another‘s narrative missteps are forgivable, not least because they’re all in service of a genuinely well-intentioned story that never once feels exploitative. While the game would have been better served if it focussed purely on the whimsical elements which made the original a success – and which, to be clear, are also present here – it’s still fun in its own right.
Neither can I really find too much to fault in the new, slightly more complex controls. Though these will, inevitably, alienate more casual players, Another Fisherman’s Tale definitely rewards those gamers who see it through. Plus, I’m glad to see there are still developers out there experimenting in the VR space. More fishermen, less zombies, please!
Final score: 8/10 Pinocchios.
Visit the official website for Another Fisherman’s Tale here.