Fighting physics to find freedom in I am Fish

I swore a lot while playing a preview build of I am Fish. To be fair, it was mostly under my breath. I wasn't furious, just frustrated: sometimes at the fish, occasionally at myself, more often at the world the fish inhabit—which is full of obstacles and hazards preventing my colorful finny friends from escaping their restrictive fishbowls and reaching the freedom of a pond or lake.

But I think the frustration of failure is sort of the point of I Am Bread's successor. It certainly makes success all the more sweet. The controls need to be wrestled with (and sworn at), and the camera view of your fish can be downright irritating at times. But make it to a checkpoint or complete a level and the struggle suddenly feels entirely worth it.

Each of the four fish I played as began in a fishbowl in someone's house, and by swimming against the side of that bowl I could slowly, awkwardly roll it around and begin taking my first splashes toward freedom. But shattering this glass prison and plunking yourself into a new body of water is only the beginning of your journey.

Different fish have different abilities. All can swim, naturally, and with a little speed can breach the surface and leap out of the water. That's where the real fun starts and you can put the powers into play.

The puffer fish is simply delightful, able to balloon up into a prickly sphere, then roll and bounce across the land between the water. Adorable! And it's a bit of a rush, honestly.

Swim, leap out of the water, inflate, and bounce safely along the ground like a spare tire. As long as you roll and bounce quickly enough into the next bit of water, you won't drown yourself in the air. Plus, it's just fun to be able to inflate yourself. More game protagonists should have that ability, frankly. Just imagine if Shepard could do that in Mass Effect. You'd never get into your spaceship, you'd just roll happily around the Citadel like a pointy beach ball.

The piranha's ability is a bit trickier to use effectively, but ties into some of the indoor levels in a really creative way. This cute, razor-toothed fish can bite, and that bite can do damage to certain objects in the world, but also lets you latch onto others and move them.

What happens when you find yourself stuck in a kitchen sink with just a few inches of water to spare? Destroy the faucet by leaping up and latching onto it with your jaws and wiggling your angry, fishy little body around. The faucet breaks, the water starts pouring out of the broken pipe, the sink overflows, and now the kitchen floor has a few inches of water as well. Perfect for swimming!

Then it's time to cruise the kitchen like the world's tiniest shark, finding new ways to raise the water level higher and higher until you can escape the house. And just wait until you find yourself in the bathroom. With sinks, showers, radiators, and even toilets to tamper with, you'll eventually turn the place into your own personal Amazon River.

I'm not quite as fond of the flying fish, which can pop out of the water and glide through the air like a tiny airplane. Just aim for the nearest bit of water, whether it's a puddle in the desert or a few inches of rainwater collected in the awning of a market stall. It feels great when you manage a long flight and perfect splashdown, but missing your mark gives you a tragic little finale every time. I saw my lovely little fish die gasping on the ground a lot. I definitely swore the most while trying to glide.

I love all the fish in I Am Fish (there's a goldfish, too), though I got a bit tired of all the fishbowl pushing levels—and one long level where my piranha was trapped in a jar was exceedingly difficult to navigate, especially while being dive-bombed by hungry seagulls. But making it through obstacles, inching closer to freedom, and finally plopping into a safe body of water instantly made me forget all the hassles of getting there. You'll be able to see for yourself when I am Fish releases this summer.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.