Every once in a while I get to review a game that totally catches me off-guard. I usually try to keep expectations low so that I can properly gauge a game's merits as objectively as I can. But with that said, I'm afraid I'm also guilty of knee-jerk judgments based on a game's title and the handful of screenshots that the App Store offers for preview purposes. Most of the time, these snap judgments are right on the money. In Fetch's case? Well ... I was ass-backwards wrong.
Sure, I thought the art from the preview screenshots looked cool, but I was expecting nothing more than a title filled with mini-games that would be fun distractions. I was expecting mediocre fare at a fairly premium price of $4.99. Instead, what I found was an immensely satisfying title with all of the heart of a Pixar film and the interactivity of an old-school adventure game from the days of Sierra.
At it's heart, Fetch is the story of a boy searching for his missing dog. Strange forces are afoot in this world, which results in our tiny hero's dog, Lucky, being dognapped by some nefarious robots. What ensues is an adventure across parts unknown to retrieve a boy's best friend.
The artwork in this game is gorgeous. The environments are so detailed and lush that even the sewers look like a mysterious world that's meant to be explored. Peppered throughout each screen are points of interactivity that help broaden the experience and let players know more about both the story and the world around them. All you have to do is tap around on the different objects to have the boy use them or pick them up.
See a skull on the floor? Tap on it and then watch it chatter around and flap its jaw. See some bubbles rising out of the muck in the sewers? Pop those bad boys and be rewarded with that gratifying onomatopoeic sound. There's plenty to touch and you're welcome to explore, especially since a lot of puzzles need to be solved by interacting with the environment.
Thankfully, the puzzles aren't very taxing and never slow down the story or get you stuck. In fact, you can solve them so quickly that you'll wonder if you somehow skipped a step or two. To break up the tedium of solving environmental riddles back to back, some puzzles require you to play arcade games in order to earn some sort of resource (coins and other prizes), so that you can keep making progress through the game.
The collection of arcade mini-games is a representation of some of the best that casual gaming has to offer and can be pretty damn fun in their own right. In fact, you might like them so much that you'll want to play them over and over. It should delight you to know that you'll have access to each unlocked mini-game from the game's pause menu, so you can take quick arcade breaks while you're waiting to solve a puzzle, as often as you like.
Continuing through the game is like watching a film. Actually, the game takes a little over an hour to complete, so it's on par with most movies' running times. And like I said, it's got all of the charm of a Pixar flick, which is augmented since you can take the time to really take in the beautiful environments and the artistry that went into crafting them.
You'll always want to hurry up and solve an area's challenges just to get to the next screen and see how beautifully-animated it is and discover what kind of quirky characters inhabit it. A personal favorite character of mine is a bored Pirate Boy who has set up a stand in the middle of an island and sells items while looking supremely bored. He also throws swords around to remind himself that he got his own sword stuck in a rock located across a river of piranhas. Fun, right? Oh, and there's a bird that eats coconuts until he's so fat that he can be loaded into a catapult.
But eventually, all of the fun and wonder has to end, and end it does. You'll hardly believe that you've completed the game once the denouement plays on your iPad, but there it is. So if there is one big criticism I have about this game, it's that it ends too abruptly and you're left wanting more.
You can play the game again to see how much you can score and compare yourself with the global leader board, but you'll have to search through every nook and cranny of Fetch and have lightning-quick reflexes during some of the skill challenges for that. Still, it's a pretty cool incentive to play again. And of course, you can play the arcade games to your heart's content.
Sure, it may be a tad pricey at $4.99, but it's worth every single penny. If you're looking to have a light-hearted adventure experience filled with all sorts of wonderful art and a touching story, then Fetch is for you. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a dog to find -- again.
App Store Link: Fetch for iPad | By Big Fish Games | Price: $4.99 | Version: 1.0.0 | 766 MB | Rating 4+