Developed and published by Twice Circled (the company responsible for another management sim called Big Pharma) Megaquarium does just as the title says — it has you manage a pretty huge aquarium. Simulations of this type are hardly a rarity these days, but Twice Circled really has made an effort to stand out with a solid game, rather than merely some cute and “unique” gimmicks.
Something smells fishy…
But in a good way! Megaquarium is a tycoon-type, meaning that you start out with a very small business that you try to turn into the next Disneyland. In this case the business is just as the title suggests: an aquarium. Starting out, you’re given only a small room and two tanks to place some fish in.
Through a nicely-paced tutorial, you’re then taught how to do more than just release some fish into a tank. There is a loose storyline to follow that guides you through quests and achievements while also teaching the basics of the game, along with the controls.
In that regard, things are as simple as they get — items are placed and moved via click-and-drag controls. There are some keyboard controls, but you can easily get by with just the mouse.
Swimming with the fishes
Megaquarium boasts a wide variety of fish and other water-dwellers — everything from pretty common crustaceans, like hermit crabs, to fish like the foxface rabbitfish. (To be honest, I googled it to make sure that was even a real fish!)
All of the animals have unique needs in regards to temperature, food, water quality, contents of the aquarium, animals they can and cannot live with, and even lighting conditions. In that regard, this sim really went all out by providing a huge variety of animals with very different and, at times, challenging profiles. This creates some issues, though. While a nuanced experience can be something to appreciate, Megaquarium can feel a little cluttered with its multiple menus, views, and info boxes which occasionally overlap. It’s just too much information at once.
There is a “close all” button for when the individual windows get too overwhelming, but even that doesn’t change the fact that it can be difficult to move Zebra Moray Eel 3 from Tank 3 to Tank 5 — a task that takes at least six or so clicks.
Diving into the game
Megaquarium’s main selling point is definitely the varied and quite needy fish that need to find good homes. Because of this, perhaps, the soundtrack and sound effects feel like a bit of an afterthought. They aren’t unpleasant per se, but the upbeat and repetitive music feels annoying after a very short while. The background music is also overlaid with the sound effect of water swooshing around which, although it fits the theme, sounds a little odd.
Fishing for compliments
In addition to all the fish management that takes center stage, players also need to manage the needs of their visitors. These include tiredness, thirst, hunger, and nature’s call. All amenities have a certain “reach” when placed, so it’s important to plant them strategically. Guests’ needs are far less prominent a feature than your fish are, however ignoring them isn’t a good idea either — visitors drop economy and science points that are used to study new species of animals, or learn new aquarium technologies, such as better filters, heaters, and pumps.
Watching the fish
Megaquarium looks stunning. While the aesthetic is cartoony rather than a realistic one like Jurassic World: The Game, the aquarium that you build up looks absolutely adorable. The fact there are plenty of purely cosmetic decorations that users can place means that you can truly make it your own, rather than just stuffing a tank full with content for stats. There is a lot of fun to be had by decorating and painting rooms like a beach or a shipwreck, for example.
The Verdict: Good
Megaquarium is an odd mix of really solid content and flawed gameplay. There is more than enough potential here to keep both experienced and new tycoon fans playing, yet the many menus that you need to navigate in order to perform certain tasks feel like they need improvement. With adorable graphics and mediocre music, the game is definitely fun to play, but it will take a few tweaks from the developers to really let it achieve its true potential.