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Posted by GG Goblin On September - 17 - 2018

It’s not just big, it’s mega.

I love fish. They are generally peaceful and relaxing to watch, unless the owner has opted for a more exotic collection. I also love tycoon games, which also happen to be generally peaceful and relaxing, at least until things start getting serious. Twice Circled, the developers behind Big Pharma, obviously realised this same connection between fish and tycoon games, or maybe they just spotted a hole in the market. Either way, Megaquarium was born and recently released on Steam, offering players the chance to create and manage their very own public aquarium attraction. Move over Sea Life Centre.

megaq1 (Copy)

Anyone who has played an economic sim game in the past will quite likely be able to slip comfortably into the role of running an aquarium, right before all of their fish start floating belly up. Megaquarium can be a surprisingly complex game, but does a good job of introducing players to the challenges of keeping fish on this scale. There is a sandbox mode and a campaign mode for players to enjoy. The sandbox mode offers all of that freedom players would expect, and has a variety of different parameters that the player can choose from. The campaign, on the other hand, just asks for a difficulty level before taking the player through a variety of different aquarium keeping scenarios that will teach the player how to play while also introducing new problems as the player progresses. At least spending some time in the campaign before heading for the sandbox would be advisable.

So what does it take to make some money in this game? Well, there are actually a few factors to take into account, with the most obvious being catering to the public. Players have a finite amount of space in most cases with which to turn a profit, and so making the most of any space makes sense. This quickly can become a balancing act, as the player wants to make sure the public are comfortable and catered for, while also ensuring that the attractions are looked after. Even coming down to something as simple as how much staff to hire could have an effect on the space in the aquarium.

megaq2 (Copy)

So, at the very beginning, the player will need to set up some tanks, ensuring heating and filtration is provided. They will then be able to buy some fish, hire a keeper, and make sure that there is food for the fish. Maybe drop a few benches for the public and the result is a functioning, if basic, aquarium attraction. Watch the money roll in. However, before long the player will have to start thinking about bigger tanks with maybe a variety of new species in, more advanced heating and filtration, and pumps for that matter. Then they may need more staff and a staff room, and with more visitors the player will have to consider things like toilets and gifts. Things become more and more complex as the game progresses, but never gets to the point of being overwhelming. Realistically, so far this is pretty standard stuff for a tycoon game.

But the real fun comes when the different types of fish are involved. Some of these little bundles of fun can be really difficult. Understandably, fish may have different requirements when it comes to things like water quality, temperature and food type. However, there are plenty of other requirements to take into account. Some fish may prefer to live alone, others may need to be part of a group of the same species. Some may be a bit wimpy and can be prone to being picked on by the more bully-like fish. And then there are some that will, quite simply, eat other fish, sometimes even of their own species. The placement of fish becomes something of a puzzle game as the player tries to meet the requirements of the different fish while also trying to squeeze as much in the attraction as possible.

megaq3 (Copy)

So, the money comes from people paying to see the fish, along with sales of food and drinks or gifts. However, the player also has to deal with other currency in the form of Ecology and Science points. These are collected as the public look at the exhibits, with different fish having different ratings for each of these two additional currencies. These points are then available to use for research of both new, better equipment for the aquarium, and new fish that the player can put on display. There is also a prestige rating that gradually builds up, giving an idea of how popular the aquarium is, and allowing the player to level up and unlock more stuff.

Visually, Megaquarium is certainly functional, if nothing special. There is a simplicity that does the job, but doesn’t leave much room for gasps of awe. The visitors and staff have a similar simplicity which make them look a little cute, but feel at odds with the serious business of running a commercial attraction. Also, the user interface feels quite obtrusive and is sometimes difficult to see. The soundtrack, on the other hand, suits the game perfectly, and would not be out of place playing in the background of any aquarium open to the public.

megaq4 (Copy)

Megaquarium, much like Big Pharma before it, is a fairly niche tycoon game. It works very well and can prove to be enjoyable to any tycoon gamer. However, the players who will get the most out of the game are those who have an interest in keeping fish in the first place. For them, this would be a dream come true. Megaquarium is a great little tycoon game for players not afraid to get their hands wet.




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