Virtual reality is a video game format that is a playground for storytellers, allowing players to interact with characters and environments in ways they simply can’t in traditional flat screen games. It can create experiences that get players invested on an entirely different level. Another Fisherman’s Tale has a relatable and poignant story to share, but unfortunately, it contorts itself in such a manner to accommodate the puzzle-based gameplay that it renders that story mostly incoherent until the last chapter. It manages to tell the tale, but it’s like trying to convince someone that a television show finally gets good in the fifth episode.
Doing my best not to spoil the story, it revolves around a girl named Nina and her father named Bob, who used to tell Nina stories of his fishing (pirating?) adventures, which he would share in the form of dioramas, handmade props, and even fish tanks. Each chapter of the story has an interstitial moment where you – as Nina – explore the basement of your parent’s house, viewing mementos or interacting with the environment. This is where you study the various models Bob made for you as a kid and recount each part of his epic tale. Again, I don’t want to spoil anything, but this seemingly bedtime story begins with Bob shipwrecking his fishing vessel on an island in search of a mysterious place called Libertalia – a sort of Shangri-La. From there you’ll encounter pirates, a kraken, and plenty of puzzles across its two to three-hour play time.
The puzzles range from clever to frustrating, but they make good use of VR controller inputs, even utilizing the haptic feedback in the PS VR2 headset, which is a nice touch. The controls are mostly intuitive with the exception of driving your hands by pulling the triggers and moving your real hand to change direction. I spent a decent amount of time manipulating my hand as if I was opening or closing a jar lid trying to get my in-game hand to go the proper direction. Puzzles require you to remove your (in-game) body parts to solve environmental conundrums. Need to cut a rope to let a bridge down? Pick-up a crab claw and hold it over your hand to swap out the parts, then fire the claw at the rope by pulling the trigger. Sometimes you will need to reach a higher platform, which you do by replacing your hand with a pirate hook and then firing it like a grappling hook to pull yourself up. For especially tricky situations where you don’t seem to have the right vantage point to solve a puzzle, simply pop your head off and launch it at a nesting point to get a better look. The puzzles are neat but the novelty wears off fast, mostly rinsing and repeating across levels. While there are a couple of set piece moments that break the mold, they are rare.
While most are straightforward, a few puzzles felt unfair. At first I thought I was just being impatient, but in retrospect, I have no idea how I would have solved them without simply exhausting all available options. In those moments, I didn’t feel like I had figured anything out at all, which zapped my enjoyment. One puzzle in particular asks you to scan the environment for clues to match a certain part needed to open a door. I never could find what I needed, and instead had to result to grabbing every part and trying them all until one worked, which made the puzzle feel somewhat meaningless. There is one way – and only one way – to solve each puzzle. The game gives you hints through Bob spouting off places to check or actions to try, but most of the time he provided a hint for something I had already done, meaning Bob is not much help at all. Beyond the puzzles, there is some other minor wonkiness, specifically when launching your head across a level. When viewing things through my detached noggin, the screen would fade to black off and on as if it was trying to reset if I moved my real head too much.
Like Bob’s body parts, the story and gameplay of Another Fisherman’s Tale feel detached from one another. It’s a shame considering the overarching story here is so relatable, and one that many people have experienced in their own lives. It eventually comes together to stick the landing, but the gameplay and narrative gymnastics you go through to get there drag the experience down. It’s the video game equivalent of trying to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time – eventually you figure it out and everything works in tandem, but it takes a minute (lots of minutes in this case) to sort out.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the newest member of Gaming Nexus. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours. I also co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.View Profile