You could be forgiven for thinking that I Am Fish is a Pixar film, especially as it channels strong Finding Nemo vibes. As the story goes, four fishy friends find themselves separated from their pet shop fish tank home, and long to be reunited in the freedom of the open ocean. You play as each of the four fish, experiencing unique adventures as they journey to rejoin with one another.
As you may expect, each fish ends up dotted around the game world which offers the opportunity for you to explore different environments. Your journey from level to level is tracked on the world map, which gives the adventure a pleasing sense of scale (if you’ll pardon the pun).
Being a fish, you’ll need to use water sources to get around. A lot of the time, this means rolling around in a container such as a glass ball, mason jar or mop bucket in order to get around. Quite remarkably, your little fish is able to steer its vessel by pressing against the side of it in the desired direction (you’ll have to just accept the physics here).
As a result, once you get moving and gain momentum it takes some serious effort to stop or change direction. This will result in a fair bit of inevitable dying, as you hurtle towards a drop or oncoming vehicle. The heavy controls make sense though in this scenario, and positioning your fish within its container requires a surprising amount of accuracy, meaning you need to get your placement just right.
You can choose from two control setups, Normal and Bossa. The first will just require you to use the left thumbstick to swim about, and the triggers will see you dive deep or spring upwards out of the water. The latter option makes things a little more difficult, requiring you to wiggle the right thumbstick to propel your fish along. If you crave a further challenge, the Iron Fish mode becomes available when you complete the game. The only difference here is that there are no checkpoints to hand, which are pretty regular in the normal adventure.
I Am Fish sees you escaping from houses, leaping through fields, swimming through sewers and racing across a bustling English coastal town. Things start pretty low key, but the scale and ambition grows as you settle into the game.
Some parts of I Am Fish will play out in more open bodies of water, and you can interact with all sorts of objects simply by pushing them to make the leap from one part of the level to another. This can vary from simply pushing a door open, to smashing into a sign and triggering a chain reaction to unveil the path ahead.
If you fall and smash your ball, or don’t return to water in time, you’ll flop around and slowly close your eyes as the screen fades to black. Or you may get stuck by a needle and then you’ve had it. It’s a pretty morbid way of illustrating you’ve died, especially for an otherwise cutesy game. Thankfully you can instantly respawn (effectively skipping this) by hitting Y.
What makes I Am Fish more interesting is that each fish (apart from the Nemo wannabe) has a unique ability. The blue Flying Fish can glide through the air, the Piranha Fish can bite onto objects to interact with them and the Puffer Fish can inflate in order to roll along the ground. Each works with varying degrees of success.
Playing as the Flying Fish is the most frustrating. Gliding is difficult to control without tying yourself in aerial knots, whilst there is the odd passage of play which is utterly frustrating. Now, I’m pretty decent at video games (I think) but it took me nearly two hours to get past a segment that should have taken a few minutes at most. Essentially, I needed to jump from one ice box to another, therefore climbing up a series of shelving units. I found it near impossible to control the power with which I projected my little fish from one container to another. If I wasn’t playing I Am Fish to review it, I would have switched the game off there and then in despair, and never have gone back to it. However I’m glad I didn’t.
This is because playing as the Puffer Fish is lots of fun, and it handles in a much more pleasing manner. You’ll be rolling down waterfalls whilst trying to avoid rocks (for example) which makes for punchier, more action packed gameplay that flows a lot better than some of the other levels.
I Am Fish doesn’t look too bad, in fact it’s idyllic setting is rather pleasing to jump into. However, the frame rate drops significantly every so often despite the game being optimised for Xbox Series X|S. There’s also an odd glitch which apparently affects numerous Game Pass titles. When you start the game, you will be stuck on the main menu as no button inputs will work. Only when you reboot the console and start the game again, will it work as it should. It’s very strange, but seemingly not an issue specific to the game.
On the surface, I Am Fish seems to be a basic platformer, with a simple story and cutesy graphics which are squarely aimed at kids. It also features cinematic style cutscenes which set up each level, complete with stereotypical British voice acting
However, after you have completed the first three levels and move to the other fish, it becomes clear that I Am Fish is actually a pretty challenging game. Sometimes this is because of the dodgy controls, but otherwise it’s by design. There are five bread pieces to find in each level, and five stars up for grabs depending on how quickly you complete it, and how many respawns you use. Getting five stars is not as easy as you may think it is.
There’s an enjoyable, well presented adventure on offer with I Am Fish which undeniably has charm. However, the experience is inconsistent thanks to some questionable controls.
You can become a fish right now by visiting the Xbox Store