Simulation games have become the kind of indie that anyone can play, no matter what their skill or interest, because of the wide array of available titles. Recent ones that come to mind are Jurassic World Evolution, Two Point Hospital, and the latest, Megaquarium. All have something relatable – if you’re into dinosaurs, or have a crush on Chris Pratt, it’s considered “relatable” – and I can say for certain that I love aquariums.
Megaquarium is tycoon-style simulation that has you making money by buying more fish. To buy the fish, you need to build tanks with certain sizes or specifications. In turn, the tanks need to be managed by filtration systems and heaters. Lastly, your fish need staff to look after them.
Is this what it takes to run an aquarium?
The game begins with the player learning how to manage the basics of building and managing a small aquarium. Objectives are provided to the player, so you know you’re not just plonking down tanks, but find a little meaning in looking after fish.
Of course, you also learn that an aquarium is a business and businesses have clients with needs. After all, the clients are the ones providing the dollars (as well as two other currencies in the game), so these need to be met or they’ll go stomping out of the aquarium in a huff. Please don’t stomp out of here, Miss, here’s a chocolate vending machine right in front of this tank, just for you.
Not all the fish, equipment and extras arrive straight away. These need to be earned by gaining Ecology Points or Science Points from the customers, each pooling towards the opportunity of new discovery. With Ecology Points, the player can discover and curate fish or other water animals that can be placed in their aquarium. With Science Points, research is done on equipment, finding better filtration systems, improving pumps and being able to create more open, bigger spaced tanks for larger creatures.
Megaquarium does offer you the freedom of redesigning the entire aquarium at your leisure, even if it is a pre-given environment. Playing Megaquarium did remind me that I have an organisational OCD – if the tanks weren’t exactly two floor tiles apart, I would redo the entire environment. It also reminded me that I sometimes lack spacial awareness. That vending machine in front of a tank? Yes, that really did happen. I’m not proud of it, but it is what it is.
I loved the mechanics surrounding each fish and while playing, would make notes about which fish I could do what with. Each fish does have its own needs and requirements to stay healthy and happy. Other than being constantly fed by the staff, and having the right quality and temperature water, a multitude of nitty-gritty can put your carefully earned and bought prized fish at risk. Some needed space to grow – and you got a mail every other day to tell you how much your fish has grown – while others didn’t even need food but would scavenge off other fish in the same tank. Some fish would also eat others, considered “wimp” and “bully” fish. Should your fish also perish, you would also get a mail from the coroner, telling you exactly what happened and what to improve on.
The controls were quite easy to learn, as long as you could contain yourself when you pressed the Shift button. Using the Shift key would have you zoom into the building and the Ctrl key would have you rotating it in thin air - Makes you feel the powers of being the god of the fishes.
If I had to point out one bad thing, it would be the repetitive Calvin Harris-style music playing over and over as you get stuck into the game for hours on end. I would play for three to four hours without even realising it, but I could pick up when one of the two or three songs (I’m not even sure how many there were, but the tracks became one after a while) would change, and eventually turned it off. However, the ambient sounds of the filters and pumps, people walking around and the cha-ching of earning money never got dull. These sounds are so perfect, you could almost say you’re sitting in an aquarium, on the bench that you just spun around for 15 seconds, enjoying the Jellyfish display.
Will I continue to play this game in its campaign and sandbox modes? I guess we’ll have to sea.
I couldn’t resist.
I certainly will keep on playing. A game like this that has over 95 different species that need to be curated, hundreds of objects to research and decorations to be… decorated? There is still so much to be done! I'm ready to dive right back in.
A conundrum of killing all the things, but also into unicorns and glitter pens. Wears her allegiance on her sleeve. Lok’tar ogar!
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13 September 2018
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