Fetch is a delightful game from Big Fish with a foot in each of two worlds: One is the adventure genre, where you have to solve environmental puzzles in order to progress, and the other is the world of animated e-books, where parents and their kids can follow a story together on the iPad. Since Fetch features a dog, we can also say that it gets its paws into the arcade/action genre, plus the genre of family-friendly movies typically released by Pixar and Disney.
Living in these four worlds at the same time is a remarkable task. Fetch manages to be highly entertaining and interactive for players of all ages, but we think it will be especially meaningful to parents and their young kids. There are a handful of logic puzzles that require you to think, and some twitchy action sequences that require you to move quickly, but most of the time you’ll feel swept away by the game’s characters, storyline, and presentation.
At the beginning of Fetch, you play as a young boy who takes his dog on a walk in the grungy, robot-filled future. The bond between the dog and the boy seems to be the only good thing left in a Blade Runner-style city of lit-up advertisements and mechanical servants. It isn’t long before the boy’s dog is stolen by an overly-defensive automated fire hydrant, and the boy has to follow his dog through sewers, a pirate cove, and even Seattle’s real-life MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry) in an attempt to rescue his dog.
It turns out Operation Fetch is in effect, and the CEO of the robot-manufacturing company is looking to reclaim his lost youth by finding a dog that resembles his old, long-lost pooch. While there’s a slight element of danger, mainly Fetch feels like a lighthearted adventure, though the boy’s desperation will likely tug on your heartstrings as well.
One of the reasons Fetch works so well as a game, and not, say, as an e-book or animated short, is because of the level of interaction found on each screen. From the beginning, you can touch and interact with most of the background elements– poking skulls in the sewers to make their teeth chatter, or bothering the birds on pirate island. You can even pop the bubble wrap that comes with your first arcade prize, and you’ll get a special achievement if you pop it all.
Puzzle-wise, Fetch starts to lose its steam in the second half. The first half features a brilliantly layered series of puzzles to navigate the sewers, and then another quality scene follows in the land of the pirate robots. After that, there’s an extensive shooting gallery set in a future version of Seattle’s real MOHAI, and then a quick sprint to the ending.
You can replay any of Fetch’s minigames as you unlock them, but we didn’t think they were much of a highlight. They mostly serve to add variety and provide essential quest items. What will stick with you long after finishing Fetch are not the arcade games, but the overall story and atmosphere, which are very cinematic.
It took us 90 minutes to play through Fetch entirely (without collecting every hidden dog collar or secret achievement), but like a good movie, we think the experience will make a lasting impression. Despite its brevity, Fetch is an incredibly moving piece of interactive entertainment. It’s currently on display at Seattle’s MOHAI as an example of art in gaming, and by publishing it on the App Store, Big Fish Games is doing their part to bring art to the masses.