Backlog Talk- Mega Aquarium

During my time in elementary school my grade would go to the aquarium every year. The aquarium was always a magical place with aquatic life from all over the world, and hippos. It is only natural that a game like Mega Aquarium would fulfill my apparent life long dream of maintaining my own aquarium.

Mega Aquarium is a take on the theme park management tycoon games. It released September 2018 and was developed and published by Twice Circled. The game allows the player to plan almost every aspect of your aquarium, hire staff, and introduces a wide range of aquatic life that you can watch and help grow.

The Aquatic Life
Jammed a bunch of Clown Fish in this tank (17 died)

Damn there are a lot of fish in this game. There are more than twenty different types of fish; making it more than one-hundred different species of fish. Mega Aquarium offers Damsels, Groupers, Sharks and Rays to Schooling, Crustaceans, soft coral and Anemones. All of the fish act differently and are all incredibly beautiful. The Clown Fish are that perfect orange, the Moray Eel bobs its head while its mouth swings open, the Blue Tangs are of a deep blue. Twice Circled took the time to iron out all the aspects that make each species different and it shows when in first person inspecting the exhibits.

Mechanics/Gameplay

Mega Aquarium‘s story mode introduces to the player, over the course of ten scenarios, all the cogs and gears that allow an aquarium to function. Each scenario demands that the player achieve a certain amount of prestige points to “win.” Prestige points are earned when patrons enter and experience what the player has created. Points can be achieved through the aquatic life exhibits, decorations around the aquarium, and just about everything else.

Each scenario starts the player off with a certain amount of aquatic life and money and it is up to decision making to choose what life and machinery are important to research. ecology and science points are given when patrons enter and view the exhibits. Acquire enough points of either stat and you unlock that reward. Rewards can be and not limited to: An upgraded heater, chiller, protein skimmer, popcorn machine, deluxe bathroom, Clown Fish, Epaulette Shark, Moray Eel, Southern Stingray and even a Giant Pacific Octopus.

The difficulty in the later levels when prestige is not the only criteria to win. One level requires the player to rank up and house five different species of shark, while another requires that the player earn prestige while housing twenty-one different species. Each scenario requires the player to focus on constructing an aquarium that reflects the needs of the patrons. Patrons are the most fickle. Make the aquarium too big? Patrons will not be able to navigate it, become bored then ultimately leave with your prestige points on the downward spiral. Not enough food and beverage stations? Complaints. Not enough benches and waste bins? Complaints and trash all over the aquarium.

Difficulty also lies within the games core mechanic: housing the aquatic life. Mega Aquarium offers a wide range of aquatic life that has to be managed. Fish need to be fed with the correct feed, placed in the proper tank with the proper depth, coral and other life need proper lighting, fish that are prone to loneliness need to house with a school, etc. A lot of the game is studying each species and housing them properly so they do not essentially kill one another.

Aquatic life is not the only aspect that needs to be managed. Staff are hired to help the player with the day-to-day feeding, cleaning, fixing, gift shopping and the talks around the aquarium. In time the staff does level up and it is up to the player to choose what point goes where. The more points that are put into a specific skill, the more efficient that staff is in that skill. It really helps when the game throws more complex feeding regimens and repairs (that will take more time for those who are not adept at a certain skill).

UI

Mega Aquarium right off the bat tosses you into a scenario and teaches you how to build an exhibit, but it does not hold your hand. Every instance that a new mechanic or information is to be told, you read it and the game assumes you grasp the concept. Most of the concepts, granted are not that difficult to grasp. I think that the only problem that I had was with the fish tank requirements.

Everything that the player needs to create their aquatic masterpiece is on the left side of the screen. Each section is labeled to make navigating easy. Engineering is where heaters, chillers, and other machinery are located, Fish is where (you guessed it) the aquatic life are, tanks are where the fish tanks are etc. Each species has a group of symbols related to them and when you hover over them it reiterates what information the players needs to know. For instance: a thermometer that is blue refers you to remember that the fish belongs in cold water, whereas, red points you towards using a heater. Fish that are hostile towards other species will have an exclamation point and it will inform you of what the fish dislikes. All of this takes time to digest but it does get a tad bit easier when the later levels come along. From building tanks to bathrooms, decorations and fish food, Twice Circled made the UI incredibly easy to navigate.

Last Thoughts

Mega Aquarium caught my eye last year during a steam sale and I left it sit in my steam library and it was clearly a mistake to not play it. I put in roughly twenty hours into the game and I enjoyed every moment (except the time that I spent an hour trying to figure out why no one I hired was working). The feeling I got when winning a level was beyond words. creating an exhibit for each species was always a blast. Experimenting with what species can coexist with another in attempts to create a colorful exhibit was always a delight. More that once I tried to house Horse-Eye Jacks with any other species and it always resulted with me panning back and seeing that they had eaten every one of the other species. The scenarios are difficult but its a bummer knowing that on normal there are really no consequences. You ALWAYS generate money and it is never really a problem, so if you screw up, (like I did countless amounts of times) just fast forward, gain money and try again. Nevertheless, Mega Aquarium is a gem of game.

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