Review: I Am Fish

  • Version played: Xbox Series S
  • Release Date: 16th September 2012

From the creators of Surgeon Simulator and I Am Bread comes I Am Fish. It’s a platform game with the “frustrating control” style of gameplay, hiding its difficulty behind an incredibly adorable graphics style, which looks way too nice for a game about fish that want to escape to the ocean.

Four fish: a goldfish, pufferfish, piranha and flying fish, are fed magical bread while living in a pet store, gain intelligence and become friends. Three of them get purchased and taken to different homes, while the goldfish gets transferred into a small fish bowl and placed on a higher shelf. Although a bit of artistic license is taken and fish bowls in the game’s universe are perfectly spherical with a watertight lid.

While Surgeon Simulator, I Am Bread and other similar games are difficult due to purposefully bad (but still functional) controls, controlling the fish in I Am Fish is pretty simple and feels very responsive (although there is an option for a ridiculous control scheme). The dilemma is that you’re always controlling the fish itself, and the fish starts off in a ball. As it takes time for the fish to swim to the edge of the bowl, it means there’s a delay in moving, which you will have to calculate while maneuvering around.

If this was a game about moving containers around and you controlled the container, the controls would feel pretty sluggish and bad, but the idea of controlling the fish means that you understand why things feel delayed, and as a result the controls themselves don’t feel delayed. You’re playing as the fish, not the bowl.

Most of the time, there’s usually a path to follow, with some visual clues finding the way (and checkpoints that are clearly marked from a distance so you know you are heading the right way. The bowl smashes very easily, so to get down from high places, you’ll have to figure out the route down. You won’t be spending all of the time in a bowl, as you will swim through various bodies of water like ponds, lakes, puddles and swerers, and end up in other containers, the most common being mop buckets and jars.

The mop bucket is the easiest container to move, but the jar will cause the most frustration. In the jar, you can’t just move in the direction you want by swimming that way, you have to push forward at the left and right corners of the jar to turn it around, then in the middle to push it forward. It’s very difficult to get used to it, but quite rewarding when you get the hang of it.

One you finish the goldfish’s missions, you get to play as the other three fish, all with special powers. The pufferfish can puff himself into a ball, rolling along the ground for short periods and launching himself out of the water, the piranha can bite and destroy certain objects and the flying fish can, well, fly. Well more glides, soaring between different bodies of water.

There are 12 levels with the individual fish, all of which are great fun. They’ll all have some really tough moments, but there are lots of creative ideas that make them worthwhile, along with the satisfaction of having bested the game. You’ll swim through swers, shops, farms, markets, hospitals and more. There’s a surprising amount of variation for a game with a simple premise, and background details and story elements that you can overhear from humans talking.

After all the fish are in the ocean, you’ll get one final mission where you can swap between all four fish. I wish there were more levels played as a group as I really enjoyed the puzzles in this one, utilising the abilities of each fish to progress. There are puzzles in the individual levels as well, but they’re more straightforward as you only have a limited amount of tools.

I Am Fish is a surprisingly fun game, the difficult controls make a lot of sense and there’s an immense amount of charm in the game, with some really fun and unique ideas you’ll encounter in each level. It does have some issues, such as checkpoints occasionally being really far apart, and seagulls being annoying (like real life, I guess), but I think it’s definitely worth checking out.

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