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x=RND(4839) #5: Fish!

March 4, 2009

With the good ship Atari Legend once again afloat upon the seven seas of the world wide web, it is once again time to cast my net into its briney wash to see which tasty gaming morsel shall sate my hunger. Well blow me if it isn’t Fish!, a very Piscine interactive fiction penned by a bunch of pilchards from London, namely Magnetic Scrolls.

fish_01

  • Fish!
  • Vintage: 1988
  • Developer: Magnetic Scrolls
  • Publisher: Rainbird
  • Genre: interactive fiction

With Infocom slow to export their hugely succesful text adventures across the pond, doors were left open. It wasn’t long before game developers here in the UK capitalised on this gap in the market. Two major players, Level 9 and Magnetic Scrolls began to write interactive fiction to rival the US giant; their games also featured intelligent parsers and compelling storylines, but an irrepresible Britishness pervaded their games too.

As the 80’s plodded on the UK companies were quick to jump on the 16-bit bandwagon and utilise the machine’s new graphical capabilities, and the ST and Amiga versions would feature high resolution colour graphics to pad out scene descriptions, give visual clues and further immerse the player.

In a similar strategy to Infocom, Magnetic Scrolls would stuff the box full of tidbids and curios to further entice the player into the game world and offer valuable clues. This would be taken to a new level with 1987’s release Corruption – a crime thriller packaged with an audio cassette. Players would be prompted to play certain parts of the tape during play, the recorded conversations alluding to clues needed for progression in the game.

Fish! would prove no exception in the Magnetic Scrolls canon. Superbly drawn scenes, engaging plot, advanced parser and silly stuff in the box all present and correct: Fish! comes packed with a Hydropolis Underground Travelcard, a fish identification chart, a ‘How to Care for your Fish’ pamphlet, and a mysterious document entitled ‘The 7DF Project.’ Fish! differs from its stablemates in its light-hearted, irreverent approach to the genre.

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I was going to describe the premise here, but I could not hope to put it as concisely or as entertaining as the blurb on the box, so here it is:

One nibble and you’re hooked.

JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GET OUT OF THE WATER:

The tide is turning in the teeming metropolis of Fishworld. The oceans and seas are boiling off into space. The Seven Deadly Fins – an interdimensional group of anarchists – are on the loose. The project has been sabotaged… And you’re a goldfish.

Tough. But then life’s like that. Sometimes you’re dealt a real deal. Toast falls buttered-side down. Phones ring when you’re in the bath. And there’s always chili sauce on your kebab.

From rain-soaked forests and London recording studios to the farthest reaches of time and space, Fish! will bemuse, dazzle and thrill you before confusing, razzling and killing you.

Fish! is brought to you by Magnetic Scrolls, authors of such classic award-winning adventures as The Pawn and The Guild of Thieves. It’s full of what you’re least expecting, lacking in all that’s rational, and devoid of much that could reasonably be expected… So, dust down your tackle, dress up your flies, reel in a winner and play Fish!

The game starts with you on a well earned break after once again thwarting a nefarious plot by The Seven Deadly Fins. This vacation (you have warped into the body of a goldfish in order to truly relax) is rudely interrupted when your boss contacts you to tell you that the fins are at it again, and you’re the only one who can stop them. You are given a strange box and a choice of three warps and off you go.

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I won’t divulge any more of the plot to you; you will have much more fun discovering the bizarre goings-on for yourself. I will say that though I am a text adventure novice, I found the parser very accommodating and rarely got stuck because I couldn’t find the grammar the game was looking for. Rather I would constantly get stuck because of the devilish puzzles. Fortunately, the rush experienced and continued exposition when overcoming these mind-bending obstacles more than compensates for the game’s more frustrating interludes.

It would be interesting to hear what a more hardened interactive fiction fan makes of Fish! As a beginner I found it to be highly entertaining if a little difficult at times due to some of the more oblique puzzles. Thanks to the excellent parser and well realised graphics, Fish! surprised me with just how accessible this genre could be. And I surprised myself, too: not a single fish pun in the entire review. Cod only knows how I managed it.

Score: stickstickstickstick

Further reading:

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3 comments

  1. Another brilliant write-up of another brilliant game dear StickHead. And a pun that actually worked! How very impressive 🙂 Besides, Fish! is my second favourite Magnetic Scrolls game (second only to Wonderland) of all time, though I, err, never quite owned it in its original box.

    Glad you find the genre accessible too. You’ll soon find out what you were missing.

    Oh, and these links you gathered.. wow.


  2. Love the new design too, though I believe it could be a tad wider.


  3. Glad you like it Gnome! Unfortunately, this is a ‘Fixed Width’ theme, heaven knows why.



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