After throwing explosive arrows at droids in Apex Construct, it was a surprise to see its developers go in a whole different direction for their next VR title for the Oculus Quest. The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets offers an adorable and heartfelt tale that rekindles the kind of memories you had as a child, as you explore its magical fantasy worlds in an attempt to recover various stolen pets.
Narrated by your grandfather, you revisit the curious worlds that you and your grandfather created together. Each world you can play in is represented by picture frames that hang on the walls and shelves of your childhood bedroom. To add to their mystery, each of these frames is covered with a cloth that you soon get to uncover and visit throughout the game’s story.
The aim of the game is to visit each world and uncover the stolen pets within them. Your grandfather reveals more of the story in each world and you get to learn who had stolen them. Tapping on a picture frame enters you into the world. After a brief introduction by your grandpa, it is over to you to explore the world in front of you and hunt for the set number of pets that hide within the world. I like to think of it as a game of Where’s Wally, in a cute and heart-warming 3D world.
As each world floats in front of you, you are able to grab and spin the world to revolve around it. Doing so allows you to view the various areas and interactions in the world. Various items and buttons can be interacted with by simply touching them, or grabbing them to pick them up. For example, there’s a puzzle that requires you to pick up a kettle of water, heat it up on a lit candle, and then pour the water that’s inside it to fill a teacup. Touching the timer, that sits nearby, triggers the teacup, revealing a tiny submarine that surfaces inside the teacup, and out pops one of the hidden pets inside.
Various tiny doors are positioned around the world’s landscape; where each of the game’s characters enters and exits them. Insects and creatures also go about their business, all of which give the sense of a living and breathing world. Exploration and curiosity are key to uncovering puzzles and interactions within the world. With so many things you can interact with in the world, you might be surprised at what you may uncover and where you might find the next missing pet in the world.
Sometimes you can simply uncover pets that are hiding in trees or bushes, or locked away inside various objects or buildings in the world. As levels progress, there are some more challenging puzzles in the game that require you to combine items together in order to recover the lost pets. Listening out for hints or looking for visual clues to solve these puzzles can be crucial if you want to progress through the game without aimlessly waving your arms through the world and hoping for the best.
To appeal to any completionists, the world also contains hidden tiny coins that your grandparents used to give you and your sister as a child. Each world has a set number of coins hidden in the world that you can also aim to collect. There isn’t much incentive to find and collect these coins, unfortunately. You can’t buy any locked items or extend the game in any way by collecting or spending these coins, which is a shame.
Each world has been wonderfully created in VR. The graphics are super cute, fun and it almost has a stop-motion animation feel to them, almost like they are toy-like. Every now and then you see yourself, your grandpa and your sister popup into the world too; and alongside the cute little animals, everything gels together nicely. There is a mix of oversized objects in the world that makes you feel like you’ve consumed the ‘drink me’ bottle in Alice in Wonderland.
The audio in the game is just as cute as its visuals. You and your little sister give out some ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’s whilst you interact with doors and objects in the world. Animals yap and give out little sounds too. It’s all very fitting to the game’s visuals, whilst the musical-box-like soundtrack fits well with the game’s child-like nature of its visuals and gameplay.
The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets retails for £10.99 from the Oculus Store. Although the game is great fun to play throughout, its playtime is very short-lived. You can easily complete the game in under an hour with your first playthrough. After this there isn’t anything else to do after you’ve completed all of the five levels other than play through it again, perhaps try and find all the pocket money.
To justify the cost, I would have loved to have seen twice as many worlds, along with more things to do once you’ve completed them. Although I had great fun for around forty-five minutes as an adult playing this game, it felt that this game will have a much longer life-span with a younger audience, who may find the game’s fairly easy puzzles more challenging to complete. As an adult or child though, The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is a short but well-crafted puzzle game, both in its visuals and in its solid gameplay mechanics. If you don’t mind spending this much for such a short experience, then there is some good fun to be had here.