Released Spetember 13, 2018 by developer Twice Circled (developer of Big Pharma), Megaquarium is a theme park management game that tasks you with creating and operating your own aquarium. Like most management tycoon games, you'll be in charge of placing facilities and hiring staff to attend to the needs of your guests, but it's your aquatic livestock that really change things up from the norm.
Of course, the foundation of your aquarium is the fish. 97 species of fish, crustaceans, corals, turtles, cephalopods, starfish, and jellyfish will serve as the star attractions of your facility. However, things aren't as simple as plopping them in tanks for your guests to enjoy. Each species has a different set of requirements in order to survive; while some livestock are very tolerant of most conditions, other species require a massive amount of care and perfect conditions if they are to survive and thrive. The game starts you out with fairly tolerant fish; all they really require is a filter and small heater to keep them alive, and maybe the occasional rock, plant or cave. Larger fish must be placed carefully as they will consume smaller tankmates, and because many species will grow overtime, what works for the moment may cause problems much later on in the game. As you progress, you will encounter more species with stricter requirements: cold-water species need chillers to survive. Corals, sponges and anemones require light for proper growth. Some species must be housed in large schools, others are loners. Some fish need rounded tanks to properly swim, and jellyfish can only be housed in special kriesel tanks. Bully species will pick on wimps and prevent them from eating. With enough attention, you can create amazing tanks that house a multitude of species to delight guests, but one mistake can bring the entire thing crashing down!
Your goal is to use your fish to attract guests and earn points: prestige, ecology, and tech. Prestige points are what attract guests to your aquarium and help generate wealth. Adding new fish can be a boost to your prestige, but you will receive a significant penalty if any of your fish die. Ecology points are used to research new fish, to add more species to your facility. Some of your fish are "ecological fish" and as your guests view them, they will generate ecology points. Other species are "tech fish" and will generate tech points. These are used to research the different equipment required to keep you animals alive, including filter, pumps, nitrite reactors, UV sterilizers, skimmers, chillers, heaters, autofeeders, and your new tanks.
Guests are your source of revenue as they will spend money upon entering the aquarium as well as buying food, drinks, and merchandise in your gift shop. They will also generate points as they view different fish; for a significant boost in points, the player can even direct staff to provide guests with a live animal talk that can be used to generate prestige, ecology or tech points based on the subject species. Guest needs will need to be monitored, as bathrooms, benches, food, and drinks will be required to keep them happy!
Finally, you must manage your staff. Staff members are essentially for the well being of the animals and the success of the aquarium. Staff have several different skills: feeding, cleaning, fixing, talking, and gift shop (each are fairly self explanatory). Each member is a little different, some are jacks of all trades and are low leveled across the board, while others may only have one of two skills but be more highly trained in that area. As staff level up, their skills can be increased, either enhancing existing skills or teaching them new ones. As the game goes on, having high level staff is essential; some animals take a great skill to successfully feed, and more advanced equipment may require a more skilled staff member to repair!
I stumbled upon this game completely by accident and was hooked instantly. Perhaps the most incredible aspect of the game to me is the realism; having worked behind the scenes of an aquarium, I can say that Megaquarium captures that kind of management fairly well with regard to caring for animals and managing the life support equipment. It's the amount of attention you have to devote to each species; though it can be frustrating in game, it does reflect what we see in an animal care setting, as some species are so sensitive that anything less that flawless conditions could spell their immediate doom. It is immediately obvious that this game was developed with a great deal of collaboration with expert aquarists. (This is especially obvious when you reach the final goal of the game: to create a tank capable of housing a whale shark.)
If you are a fan of park management games, you cannot miss Megaquarium. It is a solid builder that perfectly balances on the line between being overly complicated and not having enough substance. As the saying goes, it is easy to learn, but difficult to master, with each choice you make carrying consequences for your animals. With nearly unlimited potential, who knows what watery worlds you will create!
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