Developer / Publisher – Innerspace VR / Vertigo Games
Price – US $29.99 / CA $34.99 / EU €29.99 / UK £24.99
Release Date – May 11th, 2023
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Sitting, Standing, Roomscale
Store Links – Steam, Quest, PlayStation
Reviewed on – PlayStation VR 2
This is Another Fisherman’s Tale, the follow up to 2019’s Fisherman’s Tale, one of my favorite VR puzzlers thanks to its unique use of scale while manipulating the world around you. This releases May 11, 2023 for the PSVR 2, Quest 2 and PCVR headsets for roughly $30 US and for this review, we checked out the PSVR 2 version of the game. I absolutely love the first game and thus the bar is high coming into this review so let’s see if Innerspace VR delivers a bigger, better sequel or something else entirely.
Hello puzzle lovers, Ryan for the VR Grid back with another review, but before we get to it, don’t forget to do all the YouTube things to help us out and for some live VR conversation, check out The Virtual Boys Podcast which airs live Thursdays at 9PM EST on this channel! Now let’s get to it, shall we?
Did I mention that I love A Fisherman’s Tale, because I do, and it still holds a place in my heart as being one of my favorite VR experiences thanks to how you messed around with both large and smaller scales. It was an all to brief adventure packed full of unique puzzles and a quaint and clever story that made the entire game a treat… so when I caught wind of a sequel in the works, I got excited. I will say that this game is definitely not the same as the first though thematically it carries a similar style. Instead, this opts for a more involved story as discovered by the Fisherman daughter Nina, who is packing up boxes in her parents’ basement while reliving the tales told to her by her dad, Bob, through the use of toy models. These interludes are brief but poignant as the relationship between Nina and her parents is explored through Bob’s Tales which places you in the role of puppet version of Bob as he recounts his fantastic adventures while you try to decipher their true meaning.
Where the first game focused on manipulating the world around you in some very clever ways, this time around it’s you as they wooden puppet of Bob who will be manipulated as that use of scale takes a backseat to the use of well…. Bob. The core mechanic pushing almost every puzzle in here is that Bob can detach both of his hands and head and even swap those hands for different tools needed to bypass obstacles. You may need a hook which acts as a grapple to help scale heights, or a crab claw will be used to cut ropes with a few more interesting appendages popping up throughout this 4-hour campaign. You can launch either hand in any direction as if they were canons, allowing you to reach and grab far away objects, bringing them back you or in the case of grapple points, pulling you toward them. Once launched, your “normal” hands can also scamper about the map and can crawl into smaller openings (think cousin It from The Addams Family) and when you toss your head, you will now view the play area from that vantage point but can still control your body using thumbsticks and move your arms and hands separately turning this into a bizarre mix of 1st and 3rd person puzzling that, by design, will be intentionally awkward at times.
While I was initially disappointed by this new direction for this series, once I moved past my own misguided expectations, I began to appreciate just how unique this puzzler is as balancing all the various mechanics at any given time can be very challenging. Initially you are typically only tasked with focusing on one action at a time be it grabbing nearby pieces of wood to make a bridge, climbing using hooks, or just grabbing something from afar and bringing it back to you. Where things get substantially more interesting is when you need to chain your abilities together, like when you need to retrieve a gear buried within a complex machine. To do this you’ll need to detach your hand and guide it through the machine while walking around it to keep your hand in view though at some point, you will lose site of it and be forced to launch your head into a hole on the machine to change your vantage point and continue to manoeuvre your hand to the gear. Using my head and hands in this manor was a breath of fresh air when it comes to VR puzzlers and while these core mechanics will repeat throughout most of the game, the puzzle designs almost always feels fresh thanks to the different areas you find yourself in including underwater levels where you and your appendages can swim around freely or during a surreal dream sequence where that creative use of scale comes back into play.
In fact, I would say that this is easily one of the most unique puzzlers I have ever played as its blending of 1st and 3rd person controls offer up new ways to tackle traditional VR puzzle elements. Controlling your hands or even your body while your head is detached is nothing short of obtuse, but it oddly feels like I think it should, so while I did struggle during some of the more complicated sections, it never felt unfair and was fun. I did struggle with the crane puzzles where said crane is mapped to the movements of my arm and I found it very challenging to move the crane close to me or make more precise movements, but even with this issue, these puzzles never held me up for too long and only show up a couple of times during campaign. Each of the 5 main stages is broken up into a few parts and should you decide to quit before that part is completed, you have no choice but to start over from the beginning of that part, a mistake I made once though what took me 20 minutes or so the 1st time only took me about 5 the 2nd so not too much time was lost. There are also a variety of comfort options covering the typical VR basics as well as a verbal hint system that can be toggled which basically has Bob telling you what too look out for should you be taking too long in an area and I’m sure some will appreciate that extra assistance, but for the most fun I say turn it off.
If you are familiar with the 1st game then this sequel will be visually no surprise and while the stages and overall game design are much larger, it still matches the look of A Fisherman’s Tale. Each of the stages is cartoonish looking with a pastel color design that makes this a very friendly and vibrant game. I don’t think it’s going to blow anyone away thanks to the muddy looking textures and harder edges that do give this the look of an older game, but it’s the charm behind just about everything that really had me ignoring most of the visual shortcomings in favor of reliving Bob’s fantastic stories. You’ll start off on an island cove, explore an underwater shipwreck, navigate through a not so friendly boat as well as a few more later game areas that make each stage feel fresh, offering new obstacles and even singular missions like navigating a submarine through treacherous waters. Later stages do bring back some crazy uses of scale giving hints to what the 1st game offered, though for the most part the stages play out a little less surreally than I expected from this sequel. It’s a shame then that, even on the PSVR 2, there is rampant and distracting pop-in that made this feel unoptimized for the headset. Even in the smallest room, turning my head at a normal speed would often have nearby walls and floors just have textures change to a point where it did annoy me as there is no justification for it considering the power of the PS5. When in between gaming levels, you’ll play as Nina, talking to herself or mother via intercom as you pack up boxes and play with those models with the visuals here looking much more realistic, but still retaining the pleasant design that permeates the game. Outside of my issues is a very clever title that forces the VR player to change just how they view many situations and despite my minor misgivings, the undeniable charm of it all had me ignoring any foibles in favor of the fun.
Speaking of fun and charm, the story is shared by Bob’s recounting of his tales along with Nina’s memories of her parents and is told in a fun a heartfelt manor. As Nina packs up boxes, she remembers how her father had loved her and it soon becomes clear that Nina is going through a little bit of a crisis. The story doesn’t get to heavy and when the pieces of the puzzle start to take form, I appreciated how it all played out. The performances are also great thanks in large part to Nina and especially Bob, who tackles a wide variety of roles as he voices many of the characters he stumbles across during his tales. There is almost always some type of upbeat and jaunty tune playing as you peruse your surroundings, looking for the next obstacle or clue and the soundtrack does an excellent job at keeping things friendly and fun, even when the situation could be a little dire. 3D audio is utilized though given the overall design of the game, it’s underused as most of the time you’ll find yourself in small areas, underwater or in situations where I never really noticed it but that’s not a bad thing as I was really enjoying the entirety of the game to be nitpicky of things I didn’t really miss or miss noticing while playing.
Last up would be the haptics for the PSVR 2 and for the headset, they are great! When you remove your head to toss it, the HMD shakes quite a bit until you pop your head off and summoning it back to your body elicits a similar strong shake. As far as the sense controller haptics go, they are underutilized to a point where I questioned if certain actions even had haptics at all. They do…I think though for almost every action involving your hands, the vibrations are so subtle that unless I was specifically paying attention to them, I didn’t notice they were there which is a little unfortunate.
I’m not going to lie, it took me a minute to fully appreciate this sequel as it does tackle puzzles in a much different fashion than the as 1st and given my love for the 1st game, I expected the devs to build upon that foundation. Instead, they changed the core game mechanic to offer an experience unlike any other and once I realized just how fun it was to guide my limbs through mini mazes, toss my head through windows for a new perspective and use all new tools to bypass some ridiculous puzzles, I had a ton of fun figuring things out. In fact, my appreciation of this grew so much that I can’t wait to see what the developers do next in this series as they have proven that VR can do things that flat games just can’t. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys casual puzzles and if you haven’t played the first game, don’t worry about it as each Tale is its own contained adventure and can be played without ruining the other.
Vertigo Games provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!