The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets has just released on VR and let me tell you, if you own a VR headset then you better be playing this game today. Delightful, charming, astounding, imaginative, entertaining, and mesmerizing are all words that come to mind, yet still don’t do justice when trying to describe this enchanting (there’s another one) VR experience. Videos and certainly screenshots can’t even begin to clearly showcase the grandeur of this title. It truly is something you MUST experience in VR to appreciate.
Did you just go buy it? Is it downloading? OK…keep on reading and I’ll keep this short so you can start playing right away.
The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is not as much a game as an interactive playset; five of them actually, where you will scour these imaginative worlds searching for a variety of adorable (and missing) pets as well as some hidden gold coins. It’s an almost-too simple premise that would certainly fall “flat” if it weren’t for the total 3D immersion VR brings to the equation. Of the hundreds of VR games I’ve played in the past three years my favorites have always been the ones where I get to interact with miniature environments. Moss comes to mind, and while vastly different in execution I would say that The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is worthy of being mentioned alongside that groundbreaking title.
The setup is simple; as you find yourself playing as the grandson exploring their childhood bedroom while your grandfather narrates this engaging tale of past memories all leading to a sibling rivalry with your sister about “who grandfather loved most”. What starts off as a rather innocent tale of wonder and discovery turns surprisingly emotional in the final moments. In your room are five covered pictures that are revealed one by one, allowing you access to five incredibly charming and diverse worlds, each one better (and more challenging) than the last.
You start off at the family home, one of the easier levels meant to introduce you to the clever hide-and-seek mechanics of finding pets and coins. When experienced in the VR space a “world/level” is about 3-feet tall; an island floating in a matching atmospheric environment. The game can be played seated or standing, although you will eventually have to stand to interact with elements at the top of the level. You can grab and spin the island or simply use the analog stick on the Touch controller to rotate the landscape. The game also supports room-scale, so I suppose you could walk around the island if you wanted, but that seems unnecessary and potentially hazardous with cables twisting at your feet. I spent 98% of the game seated. A smaller island sits just outside your view to the right, showing your collection tallies for coins and pets as well as an alarm clock that returns you to your bedroom. Even your bedroom showcases your progress with cute animal stickers for each found pet and a jar that slowly fills with coins.
Almost everything in the worlds of The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is interactive to some degree. Plants will rustle, trees will bend, people will stop and wave if you touch them and animals will react when you scratch their heads. Much of this engagement is superfluous to gameplay but goes a long way in conveying that feeling of immersion in these storybook environments. Many items interact with others like a key in a lock or waving a magic wand over a hat. One of the more imaginative puzzles was getting a hammer to break some ice to get a hairdryer to melt snow that changes the landscape entirely. This puzzle was a part of my favorite level in the game that also featured a train steaming around the tracks that you could stop with gates or redirect with a track switch. This totally brought back memories of my model railroading days.
Another favorite level was the tropical island, which of course included a pirate shipwreck and buried treasure. The great thing about this was the giant shower head rising from the island that, when turned on, would entirely submerge the island allowing you to explore from beneath the surface and interact with a submarine and other interesting elements. What was especially cool was that if you stood up your head would poke above the waves complete with atmospheric sound change. I won’t go into the other levels. I don’t want to spoil anything and your download should be finishing up about now.
I played The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets on both the Oculus Rift S and the HTC Vive with the expected outcome. The Vive doesn’t control as well and the image clarity is slightly sub-Rift S with the Oculus offering crisper visuals and better controls with the move comfortable Touch and its analog stick. There aren’t a lot of options in the settings menu but everything looked great as delivered. Since the game is rooted in fantasy storybook art it works perfectly in VR, and given the player’s limited movement there is no motion sickness at all. The game makes a big deal about the music created by Wintergatan. Never heard of them before this, but I will say I REALLY enjoyed the whimsical music that was playing out in the background while I was exploring these worlds.
The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is only a 2-3 hour game and nothing is randomized so there’s little reason to replay when finished, but that won’t stop you from insisting that anyone who enters your home puts on the Oculus and tries it for themselves. Watching the joy on somebody’s face is almost as good as playing the game yourself, and it’s only $15. What else are you going to spend $15 on and get this much engaging entertainment?
VR was made for games like The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets. Sure, I would have liked it to go on for 2-3 times longer, but that in no way lessens the enjoyment I had or diminishes the smile on my face every time I think about it. The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets is currently available on Steam and also for Oculus Quest and Rift owners on their respective stores. Buy it now and thank me later. Just kidding; that smile on your face is thanks enough.