Bossa Studios, the team behind cult hit I Am Bread, got a lot of mileage out of tasking players with controlling and moving inanimate pieces of food. It turns out the developer wasn't ready to let this concept go entirely, so players are back for a pseudo-sequel. However, instead of controlling inanimate loaves of bread, the task is now to move around living creatures. In this case, it's fish. I Am Fish feels like an extension of its bread-based predecessor, one that feels fun and clever, if slightly frustrating.
I Am Fish's story is simple. There are four different fish types who start life in a pet store aquarium. The four are fed bread straight out of the game's predecessor, I Am Bread, and become hyper intelligent. Later, the four fish are separated, which leads to players taking each of them on a magical journey in search of one another. All of the fish are in different places, but through sheer effort and ingenuity, the idea is to take the fish from their starting fishbowl to the ocean.
While I Am Fish's story and objectives are simple, the execution is far from that. Like I Am Bread before it, the world operates on strict real-world physics. The fish can easily swim underwater and jump across liquid-filled surfaces, but a chunk of the game involves navigating away from water and there's only so much time that a fish can be out of water before drying out.
Through a vast majority of the game, momentum is the key to movement. This is established early on with the goldfish, which starts out confined in its fishbowl. There are no clear waypoints that indicate where to go next, so players need to be observant and pay attention to any openings where they're provided. This can sometimes be frustratingly obtuse, like in the flying fish's levels, where its stages open up significantly.
Some of the frustration with I Am Fish comes in trying to figure out "Where do I go next?" That's fortunately balanced out with a generous checkpoint system. The next checkpoint is usually not far away, so once you figure out a few puzzles, you won't have to deal with them again. Better than that, respawns are instantaneous, so if you accidentally shatter your fishbowl or get kicked around by a careless human, you can simply go back to the previous checkpoint with the press of a button.
I Am Fish will often have players wrestling with the physics, but the game feels even worse when trying to struggle with the camera. Specifically, the piranha's portion of the game can be brutal, as there's more than one instance where players will have to jump up and try to turn a valve. Later, the flying fish will demand some precision jumps and fighting both the physics and the camera may lead to some players getting up and taking a walk to blow off some steam.
I will say that for as frustrating as it is to try and move these fish around, some of the game's set pieces are refreshingly unique. For example, the blowfish will somehow go from a bucket in the field to a hopping nightclub, where it needs to jump from the club aquarium, to a nearby mop bucket, through a crowded dance floor, and even through a drunk guy's stomach. Later, the piranha eventually finds himself in the Surgeon Simulator hospital, in a fun synergy turn, and needs to get through some of its rooms by flooding them with spilled human blood.
I Am Fish can be a delightful and imaginative romp, especially when Bossa Studios gets creative with its level design and world building. Whether players experience that whole world will depend on how much of a tolerance they have for the game's painfully strict physics, which can become enraging, especially when combined with the game's camera. But, even with its issues, Bossa Studios deserves credit for putting something whimsically different together while also combining it with a heartwarming story about fish friendship.
This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. I Am Fish is available now on Steam and the Microsoft Store for $19.99 USD. The game is rated T.
I Am Fish
- Lovable fishy main characters
- Imaginative set pieces and level concepts
- Generous checkpoints and insta-respawns
- Fun Easter Eggs referencing Bossa's other titles
- Physics can be aggravating
- Camera can often gets in the way
- The path forward is not always clear
- Flying fish sections can be brutally hard
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, I Am Fish review: Tasty seafood buffet
Pro tip: if for some reason you can’t get past the initial “press any button” screen on Xbox; restart the Xbox.
What a weird bug.