I know, I know! This is a strange title but I grew up in a household where my father was constantly working on fish tanks. For years, I can recall hearing terms like protein skimmers, chillers, and fluorescent lights and never batted an eyelash. Now I can finally live in the footsteps of my father (just in a virtual medium).
Megaquarium is a theme park management game for the PC where you get to live the life of an aspiring aquarium owner. Manage not only the layout of your aquarium but the workers and amenities that are provided to your park goers. Understand the true struggles of fish management and learn that without trash cans, patrons will just leave their empty cups on the ground.
Let me start by saying this was a free game provided to me by the developers. I am also not a common connoisseur of park management games (although I have played a few in the past). That being said, I did enjoy my time with the game. As someone who might not be adept at the ins and out of an aquarium, the game does a good job of easing you into creating scenario-based levels.
Each scenario will have a different aquarium layout, from you modifying an existing setup to building one from the ground up. Each level adds more layers of complexity on how to filter, heat, chill and light your tank to maintain the sea life you plan on housing.
I enjoyed that this wasn’t just the management of the fish themselves but also included managing your workers by leveling up their skills for multiple aspects that come with running an aquarium. Will you sacrifice cleaning skills for someone who has higher experience with feeding or vice versa? It all depends on how your aquarium is running at that time which you can easily tell based on the various tooltips. Toggle indicators to show things like which sea creatures haven’t been fed, tank quality warnings and even percentage of tanks viewed by customers who enter. Once you get your hands wet with the levels you can also run your own aquarium by starting a new game in sandbox mode. I enjoyed the fact that you could set this up from any rank you wanted including all items so you can jump right into some of the cooler tanks and creatures.
Visually the game looks very blocky and cartoony but it seems to fit the tone of the game. I don’t think the graphics should be the main focus of a game built around management anyways. That being said, a concern for this game is that at a certain point, some of the tanks begin to look very similar. It might not seem like a lot but when taking a look at the items in the games or the tanks themselves, there are few ways to add your own flair. Something as simple as allowing you to change the color of the tank or maybe the color of the novelty items that go inside the tank could mix things up. This leads to many of the aquariums having the same visual style but that could just be my lack of creativity shining as opposed to a flaw with the game.
Still, additional items would not hurt to make each experience seem more unique. Overall, the level of complexity in Megaquarium is perfect for a beginner to management sims. But the customization options, or lack thereof, are sure to be found wanting by veterans of the genre. It didn’t feel like there would be much room for the amazing mansions/parks you might see in other simulations.
One thing that might not get mentioned much is the soundtrack in the game. Although there were only a few tracks, they all sounded amazing. I wish there were more because each one can easily get stuck in my head. Unfortunately, for those who want to put in some serious time into this game, these songs will repeat quite a bit.
Megaquarium also throws random quests and trade events throughout your levels to give the game an element of side quests. Growing a full-sized fish or building a tank with specific elements that will end in new items to grow your aquarium, reputation or money all lead to the eventual increase of your collection of sea life. Adding a goal to work for helped during periods where you had to wait for more money or new items to become researched. As you add new creatures you will level up your facility with plant and science points which will also allow you to build better equipment or house new creatures. Putting random side quests in during this time allowed for additional tasks rather than just waiting for experience points to grow.
The developer of this game, Twice Circled, also seems to be pretty receptive to feedback and managing patches for any bugs that have been caught so far. In my time playing this I have seen multiple improvements to the game so far which is a positive sign to see developers keeping up with their community. I think this game could use a little more polish in some additional areas that I hope the developers look into. Things like removing the initial loading screen from showing you every texture and object that is being put into the game and instead maybe a graphic or tip to the game would make the opening feel much cleaner.
The UI can also feel a little confusing at first and could be more friendly when showing you how to start the different modes. I wasn’t sure where the sandbox mode was for a while because the option was small and I simply overlooked it. The last point would be to give us a way to change the size of text in that game. Everything is way too small and incredibly hard to read on smaller screens. With a few quality of life changes, I think this game could stand up much taller.