Megaquarium is a management sim in which you, the player, are tasked with successfully running and maintaining aquariums that you populate with multiple different breeds of fish and other Marine life.
The main campaign of the game is broken up into ten different levels, or more specifically, 10 different aquariums. Each of these present players with a set of objectives to accomplish, and some have their own unique twists such as variations in temperature and availability of fish species. For example: In colder locations, Heaters are less effective while Chillers are more effective, and the complete opposite of this is also true for hotter locations.
There is also a distinct visual style that is on display in some of these aquariums, but they’re just that, visual. They have no bearing on gameplay, and It honestly seems like kind of a loss that some of the more unique locations like the abandoned theater aquarium were not utilized for a more unique experience.
Apart from the visual differences and the fact that the first five aquariums act as a sort of lengthy introduction to the game, introducing newer factors such as coldwater fish species and employee skill advancement gradually over time, each of the 10 aquariums play out mostly the same way.
You build tanks, most of which are expandable but some are a fixed shape or are reserved for a particular type of fish, and you populate them with different species. Each of these species then have their own unique requirements and you have to meet in order to ensure that they stay healthy.
These requirements start from the basics such as different food types, filtration levels and tank temperature, but quickly move onto the much more advanced and complicated requirements.
A fish with the “Wimp” classification cannot be housed with another species with the “Bully” classification, because they are at odds with each other. Some fish can only be put into a tank with a school of the same species, and some cannot share their variety of food with any other species.
There are a lot of these necessities that you have to be aware of each and every time you place a species into a tank, and I honestly found myself breaking out the calculator app in my phone multiple times to find the perfect mix of different varieties and calculate their numbers and their growth rate to ensure that no the space in my tanks ever went to waste. It was extremely time consuming, and also very rewarding.
I spent hours expanding my floor and finding the perfect layout for my tanks to ensure that the fish in them were properly provided for, yet at the same time any and all unpleasant machinery was hidden from my guest’s sight. I built interconnected rooms that provided easier access for my employees and I kept adding more and more variety to my tanks. The diversity in my aquariums was truly astounding, and I had to force myself at times to leave behind the old locations to move onto newer ones because everything in Megaquarium is just so much fun.
The game isn’t nearly challenging as some other simulation games such as say Two-point hospital, but I don’t think that would suit it either. This is a very laid back game about raising fish in an aquarium, and it never pretends to be anything else. It’s really very calming.
The marine life in your aquarium also reward you with three different resources, Ecology points, Science points and Prestige points. Ecology points are used to unlock new species of fish, Science points unlock new technologies and Prestige points unlock new levels on the Prestige chart, which in turn unlock new species of fish and technologies to research. The harder it is to accommodate and care for a species, the more of these points you are able to earn.
And there is a lot to unlock, with over a hundred different varieties of Fish, Crustaceans and Corals, and over four tiers of each of the different types of machinery such as Filters, Heaters and Chillers.
Also, did you know that even in real life big fish often eat smaller fish? I certainly did, and yet I still managed to waste some of the early hours with the game trying to figure out why my fish were disappearing from my tanks. Turns out I had overlooked the differences in size between a few of my fish, and as a result, dozens of them had become lunch for bigger predators, that I had made them share a tank with. I’m guessing that they died as they lived, fearing for their lives.
And I did not find out about any of this because the game does a poor job in helping you manage your notifications at times. Each and every time a research project finishes and each and every time an employee levels up, you are forced to pick a new option in both these cases or else the game cannot progress. The game literally goes into a paused state and does not resume until you make a decision. It’s incredibly annoying when you’re trying to build something, and yet every 10 seconds a new notification pauses the game and forces you to break from you were tying to accomplish.
Yet something as basic as your fish dying was not actually something I was notified of, even from the various different icons that appear when you hover your mouse over a tank. I had to find out about these through autopsy reports that are located among the rest of your messages through a small icon at the bottom left of the screen.
And this here is my only major complaint with Megaquarium, because everything else is great. The art style is adorable, the music is upbeat and the game just does it’s own thing. I won’t begrudge the game for not having features that in all honestly, like breeding, would make a lot of sense, but what we do have is great.
It’s a unique game that is more that happy do occupy it’s own niche in the simulation genre, and one that I intend to jump back into as soon as I finish typing up this review.
Megaquarium is set for release on the PC, Linux and Mac OSX on 13th September 2018. It is developed and published by Twice Circled. This review covers the PC version of the game.
The review copy was provided by the publisher.
Megaquarium is a unique game about managing aquariums that is more that happy do occupy it’s own niche in the simulation genre. It it fun, relaxing and incredibly addicting.