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Fish Fillets

(Altair, re-released as freeware)

This game was originally released for MS-DOS, but ported to Linux, MacOS X and probably other OS's. It is both a spoof on twentieth-century pop culture, especially The X-Files, and an ingenious variant of Sokoban. The intro AVI, not included with the freeware version, shows a whale and a goldfish, meant to represent Mulder and Scully, sitting in the living room when a flying saucer crashes into their underseas house. The game starts with two fish, the four-by-two-squares whale ("Mulder") and the one-by-three-squares goldfish ("Scully") receiving a secret (and humorous) message from headquarters about all the mysteries they have to solve: the UFO, the Bermuda triangle, Atlantis, Long John Silver's sunken ship, secret plans to remake the world etc. etc., followed by a demo on how to play. Their missions are just backstory; the real objective is to get both fish out of a succession of rooms, each room filled with obstacles that have to be carefully moved out of the way and might just drop on them and crush them. The little fish can swim into places that the big fish can't, but only the big fish can move steel objects. The starting screen shows the main rooms as a route of connected dots, some rooms branching into side-routes when they are solved.

This game is included in openSUSE 10.2, where it needs an update to work, and openSUSE 11.3, where it works straight away. The normal way to start it is from the Gnome or KDE menu; I can start it by typing "fillets" in a terminal, but in that case the cursor keys don't work properly, sending the fish shooting sideways if I so much as press a key. The voice actors speak Czech, so subtitles are provided; in MacOS X, I didn't get voices. The opening screen is VGA-sized (640x480), but the rooms differ in size. The image below shows one of the smallest:

Although it is a puzzle game with no timer and plenty of time for thought, the fish will remind the player that they want to get out when no key has been pressed for a few minutes. They will generally make snarky remarks, bicker with each other, and fool around from time to time; when the big fish finds himself before a mirror on top of a submarine, he makes faces until his partner, trapped inside the submarine, tells him to cut it out and help. The few living things they find on their way are likewise animated in all senses of the word: crabs and snails blink, corpses sing, disembodied marble heads broadcast bulletins. Click here for a gruesomely funny message, and here to see the game's tribute to Tetris.

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