I have to admit that Fish! (with its free exclamation mark) puts me in a tricky position, and I don't just mean at the start of the game when you're swimming upside down in a goldfish bowl. No, what I mean is that this latest Magnetic Scrolls title is co-written by our very own Phil South, so it's a bit difficult being objective when you've heard about the game from the start and seen the blood, sweat and beers that Snouty's put into the writing of it. Nevertheless, I shall try. I shall also try to avoid fishy puns, mainly because every one you could possibly think of (and some you wouldn't want to) have already been used in the game, or in the packaging.
Our old friend the blue box this time contains the inevitable disk - very sorry, tape-type persons, but this is about 170K of adventure - and a one-week travel card for the Hydropolis Underground Omnibus Company, which is not valid before 9.00am Mondays-Fridays, except Dogger Bank Holidays - gerroan! There's a Fish Identification Chart, a sheet headed "How to Look After Your Fish" and a document from the Mission HQ of the Department of Inter-Dimensional Espionage. At this point you might be forgiven for thinking. "Goldfish... espionage... swimming upside down in a bowl... what the fish is going on here?"
What you obviously don't know is that some fish are in fact really Inter-Dimensional Espionage Agents in disguise, and that means you. You thought you were on holiday in a bowl, but you are about to be recalled to duty by your boss, Sir Playfair Panchax, told to pull your fish finger out and get on the trail of the Seven Deadly fins, that dangerous group of inter-dimensional anarchists. To help you, your boss has conveniently sent you three time warps, and you can go through any of these at the start to revert to your normal state (whatever that is) and wind up in three different introductory adventures. It's through tune-warping that the Fins manage to commit many of their dastardly crimes.
On the other side of one warp is a recording studio - the music business features very heavily in Fish! You might even find a cassette made by the Fins, and the machinery with which to play it - that's provided you're quick about it as the producer keeps asking you to make him a cup of coffee and if you don't oblige he throws you out on the streets, where you automatically warp back to your goldfish bowl - and warping hurts!
Another warp leads to you waking up in the back of a grotty van, and you now seem to be the roadie to a group of some kind, who've all gone and left you to wander round in the ruin of an abbey, trying to avoid the attentions of a group of hippies. This isn't easy, especially as you end up wandering past their camp-fire carrying a church pew. This does rather tend to draw their attention to you. By now you will have gathered that Fish! is one weird game, probably a love-it or hate-it job depending on the wavelength of your sense of humour. Anyone weird enough to read YS in the first place is probably going to love it.
I did have some trouble in the third warp, however, which leads to a forest clearing where another espionage agent, Micky Blowtorch (author of Warping Along With Blowtorch), is lurking. Not that he's very co-operative. In order to have a good look round the location where he was stubbornly staying, I asked him to go south east. The response was "Micky Blowtorch says, "What would anyone want to go Please insert the game disk and press any key" Now I know the games weird, but not that weird. The game disk was already in the machine. I pressed a key. Same message. I turned the disk over, even though I knew the 'B' side was blank. Same message. I turned it back again, Same message. I switched off and reloaded and made a note not to try that again! There were niggling parser problems elsewhere, too, partly due to the tricky things you had to try to do in the game. I thought the problems had just a bit too much emphasis on timing - doing things in the right numbers of moves, which means that you have to repeat actions quite a lot so as to work out the best order, that type of thing.
But one thing you cannot say is that Fish! is just another mundane adventure. It's one I've kept loading up, returning to each of the warps in turn and trying to make a bit more progress in the hope of getting through to the following major part of the adventure which takes place in Hydropolis. It's tough going! It's also full of funny finny jokes, leaving no fish unpunned, and no barrel unscraped in the quest for aquatic cracks. Spectrum adventurers seem to like that kind of thing - and they should definitely like Fish! (Can I have that fiver now, Snouty?)