I’m a sucker for a good story-driven mystery game. Quite possibly the finest execution of this genre was the fantastic Alan Wake. The Strange Story of Brian Fisher: Chapter 1 certainly has the same vibe, despite a slightly unimaginative title.
The game follows the titular character, a 38-year old police detective who is searching for his long lost father, and has since specialised in missing persons. There’s more going on than Brian realises, with a potential supernatural secret of his father’s which a shady, unseen character wants to get his hands on.
You begin the game in a large cage, after being kidnapped and locked away in a dank, dark cellar. You’re thrown straight into it, and the action plays out in a similar fashion to an escape room, with you needing to study your surroundings to find clues and solve puzzles that help you to escape the creepy cabin.
Being honest, The Strange Story of Brian Fisher: Chapter 1 doesn’t look amazing. In fact this seems especially apparent when you cycle through your inventory of items which look like they are graphically a generation behind at least. The cabin is dreary and whilst that creates a creepy atmosphere, it doesn’t do much to capture the imagination.
Brian is your narrator, retelling his experiences as you play. The voice acting and script are pretty cheesy and lack emotion, which sometimes veers into the hilarious. The game is also littered with dodgy translations such as “You Found a Ice”, when you are hunting around for items. It’s here where it starts to feel like a poor imitation of similar games in the genre.
Anyway, The Strange Story of Brian Fisher: Chapter 1 is all about exploring and investigating. Puzzles are fairly challenging but typical of a point and click adventure. Some, such as where you need to decrypt a computer file, are long-winded, woefully boring and frustrating affairs. Others do a better job of hitting the mark.
As well as puzzle solving, you’ll need to search everywhere for clues. And I mean everywhere. There’s no obvious path, with logic abandoned in many parts, so expect to get stumped fairly often. Instead of a steady flow of cleverly interconnected puzzles and hidden items, it feels like a random collection of isolated challenges, of which in between you need to ransack the place in the hope you find something you don’t even know you are looking for.
You’ll also miss important things, as the items don’t stand out or are stashed in far from obvious places. Strangely, the hardest to find are often hidden in plain sight, on tables for example. Because they don’t have a telltale glint and blend in to the wishy washy visuals, they are so easy to miss. You can switch it up from third to first person, but I didn’t really find this helpful in solving this problem, which was quite possibly the biggest puzzle of all.
The Strange Story of Brian Fisher: Chapter 1 changes item locations and puzzle configurations in each new game, so maybe I just got unlucky. But I’ll be honest, I was getting so frustrated I had to cheat a little thanks to some other poor soul who decided to upload a YouTube walkthrough. Thank you for your sacrifice.
I imagine these random elements are designed to add replayability, but I’m not sure I have the strength to play through the game again and again, never mind further episodes. It really wasn’t an enjoyable experience.
That’s right, as the eagle eyed amongst you will have realised, this tale is episodic. The opener lasts for a couple of hours or so, depending on how often you get stuck, and there are plans for more episodes, as Brian makes abundantly clear in some strange ‘breaking the fourth wall’-styled narration.
The upside is that this first chapter will only set you back £5.79 if you decide you want to give it a go. There is also a demo available for Chapter 2 to help you decide how far you wish to follow Brian on his adventure.
Unfortunately, despite an intriguing proposition, The Strange Story of Brian Fisher: Chapter 1 fails to meet its ambitions at almost every turn. What results is a lacklustre experience for which I cannot recommend saving your pennies for.
Uncover a story of mystery and intrigue with The Strange Story of Brian Fisher: Chapter 1 on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One