A Fisherman’s Tale is an experience that VR was made for because of how it uses the technology to do things that (probably) can’t be programmed as a regular game. Moreover, the game doesn’t have to work overtime on selling immersion or its gimmicks because the whole thing is awesome right from the start. A tall tale for the VR generation, this interactive short story uses an unconventional medium to tell a poignant story about familial expectations.
What I love most about A Fisherman’s Tale is that it has a style, aesthetic, and sensibility that feels right at home with the Double Fine family of products. The storybook feel coupled with the somewhat exaggerated style of the lighthouse architecture gives the game a fun, whimsical vibe. The charm is laid on thick from the start as the player is cast as a small, wooden puppet modeled after a fisherman, complete with cotton beanie and yellow overalls. An unseen narrator tells the story of a fisherman who created a miniature model of his lighthouse and how he guides the puppet along his morning routine, like brushing his teeth, dusting his collection of shells, and lighting a small stove - all of which you’ll perform with the PlayStation Move wands. One day, a strange happenstance causes a disruption in that routine and helps reveal the game’s magnificent twist: you’ll interact with the model lighthouse that’s occupied by a smaller version of yourself that performs the same movements. Not only that, looking upwards shows that you’re a puppet inside a model that’s inside a model that’s inside a model that’s... well, you get the idea.
This isn’t merely a flashy VR parlor trick. What it does is provide the means to complete puzzles that play with scale. You’ll encounter situations where someone or something needs a particular item but is either too big or too small in your model. At one point, a hermit crab makes a demand for a Captain’s hat but the one in your room is too large. To “shrink” it, simply find it inside the smaller model and pluck it off from the shelf. Conversely, if you need to enlarge something, just grab it and drop it into the smaller model. What makes this mechanic such a strip is seeing the larger version of yourself dropping and picking up items as you do them at the same time. It’s a wild sight that never gets old. Across the game’s five chapters, you get to pull apart the lighthouse model and access new areas as they relate to the story about a boy and his father.
The PlayStation Move wands do a good job of letting you play with all the bits and bobs found inside the lighthouse. I’ve played a lot of VR games that replace the bulbed peripherals with hands that can push, grip, and pick up items in a manner that feels smooth and natural. In A Fisherman’s Tale, I thought they were pretty twitchy, almost to annoyance. Your virtual hands never go farther than your arm’s length and in order to grab hard to reach items, clicking a button on the wand will extend it almost twice the length and as a consequence, the controls become extra sensitive to movement. Adding to the annoyance is how interactive items can collide with the environment, sometimes causing them to fly out of my hands for no apparent reason. It does take some getting used to and by the time I reached the story’s final puzzle, I had a better grip on the handling but had wished it wasn’t an issue.
Nagging control issues aside, A Fisherman’s Tale is a charming PlayStation VR game that I found to be a total joy to experience - the same joy I felt playing Astro Bot: Rescue Mission. As far as first-person virtual reality experiences go, this makes the medium so worthwhile. Shooting zombies and exploring derelict space stations is fun in VR but could easily be reproduced and playable as a regular console title. I couldn’t fathom playing A Fisherman’s Tale without VR and experiencing the same feeling of wonder and delight. Consider this an essential addition to your PSVR library next to Beat Saber, Moss, and Astrobot: Rescue Mission.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.