The Curious Tale Of The Stolen Pets is the VR equivalent of Puss in Boots’ glassy pout in Shrek.
As a puzzle game it seems feather-light and roadblock-free. I manage to solve its introductory level in just over three minutes. I worry that, perhaps, it might be a little too easy. But then I see a bug-eyed rabbit hop out of a chest of carrots, or a puppy enjoying a ride on a swing, and my concerns sort of melt away a bit. It’s like a quick visit to r/aww in the office toilets when you’re dodging work.
The latest from Apex Construct developer Fast Travel Games is something of a passion project. Gone is serious stoicism of post-apocalyptic worlds and epic adventures. This is not a continuation of the mission statement of a bunch of former DICE developers making ‘real’ games for ‘real’ gamers. Instead, think of this as more of a breather; a palette cleanser designed to endear and delight. With those modest aspirations in check, it’s easy to fall for A Curious Tale’s charms.
It’s another exercise in diorama-sized VR, taken straight from the school of Astro Bot and, to some extent, A Fisherman’s Tale. Narrated by the protagonist’s grandfather, you return to imaginary worlds you dreamed up in your childhood. The first is an idyllic cottage island, twirling on the spot to the tune of a musical jewelry box. Sitting atop the sprawl of rockery and woodland is a summer house not unlike one you might find north of Fast Travel’s Stockholm offices. You’re there to locate a series of critters in hiding.
A Curious Tale’s world (or worlds) are impossibly wholesome. The bedroom you visit at the start has a sheen of craftsmanship that carries through to the first island, boasting fine details that hold up to close scrutiny. Special mention, though, goes to the stop motion animation of the game’s characters and pets. The way they scarper about levels brings about a childlike wonder. This is essentially an Aardman production come to life, and something of a miracle to behold in VR.
There are some extra lovely touches, too. Knocking bushes causes berries to tumble down to the depths below, and you can push the doggo on the swing once he makes a home there. I only wished to pluck petals from the daisies sprinkled around the scene or, better yet, enjoy the world at human scale once I’d solved its challenges.
A Different Kind Of Puzzling
Puzzles are at least amusing, if not especially taxing. A locked chest requires you to scour the scene for three buttons to unlock. It doesn’t take long, meanwhile, to decipher that a randomly-placed teapot needs heating next to an enormous candle before being poured. This softer brand of puzzling is clearly intentional
On the one hand, it’s nice to play a puzzle game without those frustrating brick walls. It’s maintaining engagement that’s the tricky part. A small spark of invention does ignite when I use dried tree leaves to turn a cup of water into tea. I’m hoping to see more of those lightbulb moments as the game progresses.
This seems destined to for that familiar level of VR endearment; warmly whimsical while it lasts but likely over pretty soon. Whether or not later levels can elevate it to the likes of Ghost Giant I’m not so sure, but I am confident this is going to be an adventure you won’t regret taking.
The Curious Tale Of The Stolen Pets is due for release this year on Rift, Vive, Index, Quest and PSVR.