Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
I Am Fish Cover

I saw that Xbox was adding a few new titles to Game Pass for September, and one that stood out to me was I Am Fish. The trailer seemed just cute and wacky enough to be a fun time, so I eagerly downloaded it on release day. There looked to be the option for co-op play given the 4 fish in the game, but it’s actually only available for single-player campaign. But I’m a lone wolf, so that didn’t bother me at all. I was surprised at how large the file was, over 10gb for a relatively simple indie game. Still, I waited patiently, and excitedly booted it up once it was ready. Was it everything that had been promised from the trailer? Find out, as I delve into my I Am Fish review for Xbox Series X!

Story

4 friends, bonded by a single tank in a pet shop. However, all that changes one fateful day, when a net suddenly appears and takes them, one by one. Sold to different owners, and cruelly separated, they’re all alone in the world. Now, each fish must fight for their freedom, and take any opportunity presented to them.

It’s a simple premise, and a worthy one, because I like the idea of helping them find freedom. Fish bowls are a cruel remnant of the past, and honestly, I think they should be made illegal. That’s no way for a creature to live, and it made me sad seeing the goldfish in one, even though it was just a cartoon. It’s the reality for so many innocent fish, and so I was motivated to help this fictional one escape.

I Am Fish Review Xbox Series X, escape to the ocean.
Find your freedom, little fishie!

I also liked the nods to I Am Bread, one of Bossa Studios’ previous games. We see the sentient bread in the initial cutscene, and throughout the game it’s a collectible. In every level, there are 5 pieces of bread hidden, which our fish has to munch on. The levels are continuous, and the story makes sense in the transitions. The culmination of one level will neatly lead on to the start of the next. The goldfish’s ultimate goal is to get to the ocean, and in each level we see him nearly succeeding. I’ll be honest, I don’t know the story for the other fish, because I didn’t finish the game. Why not? All will become clear when we discuss the gameplay.

Gameplay

I had such high hopes for I Am Fish, but they were dashed pretty early in my playthrough. It became overwhelmingly apparent that this game was gonna be pretty darn boring. The environments, whilst well-rendered, were pretty empty. There were physical assets spread around, but aside from bumping into them, there wasn’t any further interaction. For a game that calls itself a ‘puzzle-platformer’, there wasn’t much puzzling, and there certainly wasn’t any platforming. You couldn’t jump, or climb, or dash, or do anything other than roll/ swim. There were no platforms to jump between, or moving surfaces that require timing. No platformer elements at all.

Rolling along a plank isn't platforming.
Sorry, Bossa Studios, but rolling along a plank doesn’t constitute as platforming.

The routes were obvious and straightforward, except for a few which required a little extra thought. However, there weren’t really puzzles to be solved. Instead, the trick was actually manoeuvring yourself onto the route you wanted, and this was such a grind. Less a test of skill, more a test of patience. The physics were horrible, and therein lies my biggest gripe with I Am Fish. You can’t make a game entirely dependent on precise movement, and then have an inconsistent physics engine. Trying to get your fish where you wanted them was torture.

However, the worst issue came in level 3, and it’s the reason why I didn’t progress any further. Having made my way through most of the level, I was transferred to a new container. I was now in a glass jar, and I cannot express how broken this was. It was nigh on impossible to move straight, as they made the inside slippery, and unless you were dead centre, you’d spin out. The physics seemed different each reset, and in the end I rage quit. It wasn’t fun, it was infuriating.

I Am Fish Review Xbox Series X, awful physics.
Who thought this was a good idea?

Graphics and Audio

I was impressed by the realistic cartoon style of the graphics. It was much higher quality than you’d reasonably expect from an indie game, and looked great. If only they’d put as much effort into the physics engine as they did for the graphics, the game would have been a lot better. The detail that went into each surface, building, and character was beautiful. The lighting was also great, and changed depending on where the sun was in the sky. It definitely made use of the Series X’s enhanced capabilities.

I thought the fish designs were very cute, and it made my happy to see my little goldfish. Nothing is worse than an ugly main character, as you have to look at them all the time. So it was refreshing that they’d made such a lovely design. However, that made it all the more sad when you died. They didn’t immediately reset the game to a checkpoint, no. You had to watch the poor little guy flap around helplessly till he blacked out! Traumatic as it was, I have to give them props for it.

Goldfish trapped in plastic.
I like that the game drew attention to the plastic pollution problem in our waters.

The music was… Fine. Just fine. It was simplistic, with lots of tinkles and beeps, and it definitely conveyed the underwater theme. It did a great job of working for I Am Fish, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I just didn’t like it that much. The music did change between areas, and some tunes were better than others. However, overall it mostly kept the same atmosphere, and I wasn’t thrilled with it. The sound effects and ambient noise were brilliant though, and very believable. I also loved that they used voice actors for the dialogue. On the whole, the graphics and audio were a plus point.

Other Things of Note

I made a few other observations over the course of playing I Am Fish, which didn’t really fit into the other sections. So, time for a quick-fire round!

There are difficulty options on the main screen. You can make it so instead of just swimming with the left stick, you have to manually flap your fins using the right stick. I have no idea why anyone would put themselves through that, but they can if they want to. Also, once you’ve completed the game, you have an option for ‘Iron Fish’ mode. That means you don’t get any checkpoints, and you have to complete each level in one life.

I Am Fish Review Xbox Series X, difficulty controls.
You can change to the harder controls at any point during your run.

Speaking of checkpoints, one thing I loved was that you could skip them. If a particular section of a level was giving you grief, you could pause and skip to the next one. I loved that there wasn’t a skill barrier to experience the rest of the level. Unfortunately, you couldn’t skip to the end of a level if the last section was the problem. So my frustration with the physics of the glass jar in level 3 meant that I never played the other levels. Still, it’s better than most games.

You can’t save progress within a level, once you quit out, you have to start again. I think there should’ve been options to resume from the last checkpoint if you’ve quit the game, as the levels can take a while if you get stuck on a particular part. There also don’t appear to be many levels. There are 70 stars total, 5 per level, which means there must only be 14 in total. Personally, I think that £15.99 is a little pricy for what you’re getting.

Goldfish glitched in pipe.
The game glitched at times, and our little fish would get stuck in places it wasn’t supposed to.

Overall

I have to say, I Am Fish ended up disappointing me. The trailer made it seem fun and exciting, when in reality it was a slow grind. And whilst the visuals were phenomenal, it didn’t make up for the boring gameplay. The physics engine needed to be so much better than it was, and it really let the side down. I think this game had potential, but the execution just wasn’t there.

How about you, have you played I Am Fish? Join the discussion over in our Facebook community! And if you want the chance to play a game that isn’t disappointing, enter our giveaway for a free copy of Yooka-Laylee!

I Am Fish

£15.99
6.5

Verdict

6.5/10

Pros

  • Beautiful graphics
  • Optimistic story
  • Used voice actors for dialogue

Cons

  • Game physics are inconsistent and awkward
  • Gameplay is boring
  • It's not a puzzle-platformer like it claims to be
  • The routes are too simple, and the controls too infuriating

By Screen Hype

Hi! I'm Melika Jeddi, a content writer and aspiring author. I've created Screen Hype to share my unique brand of entertaining articles with the world, and to create a fun space that everyone can feel a part of :)