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Magnetic Scrolls/Rainbird, Amiga 24.95

Fish! Thought you were the sole goldfish in the bowl, didn't you? Cod, what a prawn! You didn't anchovy think that Mission HQ would let an international information shark like you spend his well-earned rest mackerelling about in any old plaice. And you were looking forward to dace and dace of inactivity, too! Some bream! Well Rear Admiral Sir Playfair Panchax has his rays (ways, moron). When a tacky plastic castle plops into your bowl, you know you're in for a bass-ically active time. Oh well, you were starting to get a bit chubby, anyway. Perhaps you'd just better talk to Panchax eel sort something trout.

Anyone who didn't laugh at those fishy puns can come and discuss the fine details later. Meanwhile, it turns out this is no ordinary crisis. In fact it's pretty damn serious. An inter-dimensional gang of anrachists the Seven Deadly Fins have warped themselves to a planet inhabited entirely by fish. Well, fish people to be exact. Er... yeah... apparently they have perfectly human torsos and thoroughly fishy legs tails, I mean. Weird! (Those concerned about the mental health of the programmers should apply direct to Magnetic Scrolls). The Fins are a dead nasty lot they're planning to sabotage well-laid plans to build a device designed to irrigate Aquaria, a planet in danger of drying out. You need to recover the stolen parts of this secret device before it's too late.

Not for nothing are we called the greatest espionage organisation in the... er... well, in the near vicinity. Carefully research into warping (a painful form of molecular travel, more painful than being tricked out of your lunch by a billy-goat in red pajamas) has made it possible for you, agent extraordinaire 10, to travel to four different locations. As you (the parasite) pass through each of the warps (the last one is only accessible if you've sold the first three) your mind is transferred into the body of a living thing (the host) from the appropriate dimension... no wonder it hurts!

As you're still an inexperienced warper, you need to slightly gentle start so the first three scenarios, accompanied by some melt-in-the-mouth graphics, aren't all that difficult to complete. All you have to do is avoid a maniac junky with a tendency to become angry (and boy, does he get angry!), weedle your way past an extremely loudmouthed record baron, and avoid the infamous Fins while dicing with death in the bowels of a crumbling abbey. Easy as falling off a log.

Loud noises and flashing lights break down the host-parasite interface but when this happens you get just thrown back into the bowl an older and a wiser fish. Fish don't have any arms, wise guy, so don't start trying to take anything back with you into the bowl it doesn't work. Back among the pondweed you muster your resources and get ready to try again.

By the time you make it to warp 4, the going starts to get really tough. As Dr Roach, an eminent individual of some social standing (like me) you can take a paddle to Padlington station, visit the local guppy pub for a snifter (don't forget your fishofax), groove on down at the disco or just buy yourself some new and nifty clothes. Trouble is, the Fins are hot on your trail unless you outwit them and manage to avoid all situations designed to break down your precious interface you might end up suffering a fate worse than sharing a tin with a team of skinhead sardines or being mashed into a pot of anchovy paste.

As a top inter-warp spy with more letters to your name than you can remember (let alone write), no puzzle is too hard for you. That's lucky because this is one goldfish bowl that has more than the average number of wicked twists. Just when you think you're getting some where you become a candidate for entry into the next tin of catfood and you won't get any holidays there. Even the sub-games have enough substance for you to get your teeth into. There's always some kind of logic to a solution even if occasionally the reasoning is pretty warped (geddit?).

Fish! The parser is up to Magnetic Scrolls usual high standards. Most variations of a command are recognized and there are loads of abbreviations: L for LOOK, X for EXAMINE and so on. You can even summon up a list of pronouns available at any one time by typing PN. There isn't all that much scope for interactions, but then interactions isn't always all what it's cracked up to be. What's the point of having loads of potentially interactive characters when they don't actually contribute that much to the game? You can never really converse with NPCs (just ask them questions) so there's no reason they should be included just for their own sake.

You still have to enter a separate command to open specific doors when it's quite obvious you can walk through them (I'm really sick of bashing my nose against doors) but as there aren't as many fiddly situations as you find in, say Jinxter, that doesn't matter too much. Who cares anyway when almost anything you type in gets an appropriately fishy response?

It's getting a bit boring really. Ever Magnetic Scrolls adventure gets praised to the skies, wins a thousand (or thereabouts) awards and gets an incredibly high mark in all the magazines. You'd think they could produce a dud once in a while just for variety's sake (what do you mean, you can't imagine that just use your brain will you?). Well, so far they haven't, so Fish! is just going to have to get another rave review. Altogether, it's slick, subtle and sparkles with subaquatic humour. What more could your average haddock want?
(Can I have my turbo-power totally infallible and hyper guaranteed billy-goat flame-thrower now, Anita?).

Zzap! Christmas Special, Issue 44, December 1988, pp.132-133