Megaquarium is a deep and challenging simulator where you design aquariums without much concern to what goes on on the other side of the glass.
Megaquarium is a management strategy game by Twice Circled, an indie studio that already brought us similar games like Big Pharma.
At first glance, the game seems like a stripped-down mobile title, with its simple graphics and menus optimized for touch screens. But you soon realize that that isn’t the case. The main campaign is superb, the difficulty is challenging, and you might even learn a thing or two about fish.
Build a Mega Aquarium
Megaquarium is all about managing a mega-aquarium – a huge compound filled with fish tanks and marine life. You decide where to place your aquariums and what to put in them, from fish to vegetation to even the type of pebbles.
It all might sound simple, but in truth, it’s way more complicated than you imagine. You have to provide every fish with proper living conditions, such as the correct water temperature, cleanliness level, heating lights, food and more. Some fish might even not get along with other types of fish, while some can only live in a pack or require a tank of a certain size.
Apart from the fish, you have to manage a staff of employees, develop their skills, and above all – make your visitors happy.
Dip Your Toes in the Water
I decided to start from the campaign, and it turned out to be the right choice. The campaign helps you build up your skills and understand how everything works by starting with simple tasks and plenty of guidance. Some of you might find the first steps of the campaign a bit boring, but in my opinion, it all proves useful at the game progresses.
As you play, you slowly get more familiar with the tools at your disposal: the pumps, filters, heating, and the aquariums themselves. You learn where’s the best place for everything, how it all works together, and what your visitors want to see.
At a certain point, the campaign becomes really challenging, and you might find yourselves restarting the same level a couple of times, as I did, because you made a big mess, or didn’t live up to the visitors’ demands.
Luckily, you can restructure or demolish anything you don’t like or doesn’t suit your needs at the moment. But you should still plan to avoid that, as it’s costly and time-consuming. Pro tip – don’t put the employees’ gear in the pump room, it takes them forever to get there. The better you plan, the more money you’ll save on your staff and equipment, and the happier your fish and visitors will be.
Jump in the Deep End
After some time with the campaign, I decided to try Sandbox mode, which doesn’t have any special missions but you can choose from which level to start on. As in any management simulator, you also get to pick the difficulty and a starting budget.
Budget management is critical in Megaquarium. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might find yourself with a beautiful aquarium, but a lot of dead fish when you run out of money for the pumps and heating. For every level you gain, new tools will be available for you, from new aquarium types to more efficient pumps that don’t take as much room and free up critical space.
Also, you’ll get the option to explore new species and new facilities for your compound. When you start placing different types of fish in the same aquarium, you have to make sure they get along, and that they don’t require different treatments, such as hot or cold temperature.
There’s More to It Than Fish
The vegetation and pebbles inside the aquarium aren’t just for show but provide a home and environment for the fish. Therefore, it is imperative you choose the right ones. But don’t worry – every time you add a fish into an existing tank, you’ll be able to see if what living conditions it requires and if the tank can provide them.
You’ll also need to maintain a working staff. Your employees can gain new skills as they work: from cleaning, public speaking, repairing, feeding and more, the better skilled your workers are, the more you’ll have to pay them, affecting your operating budget. You can also decide to keep an employee in a specific area, which makes sure that that area is taken care of, and the fish there are happy.
Your Megaquarium doesn’t include only aquariums and utility rooms, but also souvenir shops, vending machines, and sitting areas. You can place a podium wherever you’d like and have one of your employees speak about a subject of your choosing in front of the visitors, which in turn will grant you extra points from them.
The number of items available for management outside of the aquariums themselves is smaller than I’d expect from such a game. I’ve found myself thinking how I wish they would’ve added a more extensive variety of items, such as paint, tiles, benches, statues, and maybe even a whole food court instead of just vending machines.
50 Shades of Blue
Megaquarium is clean and straightforward. The aquariums look great and change according to what you place inside of them. Some are filled with rocks and appear somewhat alien, while others are lively, with a huge variety of algae and fish in different colors. Its evident Twice Circled chose to focus on the aquariums themselves most of all.
Your entire building area looks as if floating in space, without any background image or solid ground around it. It’s a common practice in building simulators, but I still felt the absence of an actual location or terrain.
The sound definitely get the job done, and helps get you in the mood for building a marine tourist attraction. In all the hours I spend with Megaquarium, I haven’t found myself irritated by the music, or having it take over the game. It fits so well you barely even think about it, for better or worse.
Megaquarium might seem at the beginning as a simple and easy game you can kill some time with, but as you quickly find out, it requires thought and careful planning. The campaign is well-made and challenging, while Sandbox mode allows you to go wild and create the aquarium you always want to visit. The variety in fish species is often staggering (in a good way) and demands careful consideration in a look of different aspects.
The aquarium design options allow for a large number of different layouts, and although the number of styles isn’t large, I’ve never found myself building the same compound twice.
The downside is the lack of attention anything that doesn’t fit in an aquarium gets, and no actual settings to speak of – both hurt the whole “simulation” part of the game. The focus is definitely on the aquariums themselves and all that is inside of them, but not on anything else.
But even so, Megaquarium is a great sim that’ll suck you in for hours at a time without you even noticing. Better remember to go up for oxygen every once in a while.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.