Megaquarium – Nintendo Switch
Developed and Published by: Twice Circled
Release Date: 18th of October 2019
Megaquarium is the tycoon title you never knew you needed. Creating a place for people to come and see all kinds of exotic fish is a joy matched only by games like Zoo Tycoon. Unlike those games, which are brilliantly put together and just as enjoyable, this is an experience you can take anywhere you go.
Players have two options when they start out in Megaquarium. The first is a scenario mode, which unlocks new levels as you complete each one, easing you into the game and its mechanics. The second is sandbox mode, which drops you into a blank slate of a building and lets you figure things out by yourself. Trust me when I tell you that the scenarios are there for a reason.
In leiu of a tutorial, Megaquarium instead gets players learning by doing, which is a great advantage for those who despise tutorials. The game’s complex control scheme is explained with helpful hints for each objective, and before you know it you’ve got your very own aquarium up and running. What’s more, it’s possible to continue playing with the aquarium you’ve ended any scenario with, meaning there’s no need to start from scratch if that’s not for you.
On the topic of the controls in Megaquarium, there are a lot. There’s no hiding the fact that this is a tycoon game when you cycle through the options for building, managing, and overlays on the left hand side, bottom, and top of the screen respectively. Unfortunately this is what comes from porting an aquarium management game to the Nintendo Switch, but Twice Circled have done their best with the space available to them.
Yes, it takes a while to get to grips with where everything is, which only adds to the steep learning curve of pleasing visitors and keeping your fish alive. However, once you’ve played the game for a couple of hours, it becomes second nature, more or less.
The gameplay in Megaquarium is fairly simply. You build out some floor space, place a tank, put some fish in, add on the filters, heaters, and place some food nearby, and you can open for business. Visitors will pay to enter the aquarium and award science and ecology points for the types of fish they’re seeing. Each fish awards its own score according to how rare or beautiful it might be to them.
Players then use the extra cash to hire more staff, build more tanks, and expand the aquarium. Science points are used to research new technology that will make life easier, like larger pumps or better heaters. Ecology points on the other hand are used to research new fish to hold in the aquarium.
As players unlock new types of fish, they’ll find the needs for those fish get increasingly complicated. Suddenly you can’t simply throw every fish in the same tank, you need to make sure that there isn’t an eel in there that will eat everything else. It’s also important to pay attention to how your fish are fed. I created a tank full of Hermit Crabs, and left my staff to do their thing with the nearby feeds. After a few more hours I suddenly realised that all my Hermit Crabs were dead, and I had 15 autopsy reports for 15 Hermit Crabs that had starved to death. what I’d failed to realise is that these guys will only eat the scraps of what other fish eat, meaning that if there are no other fish in the tank, they don’t get fed.
Pushing to create a better experience for visitors is what Megaquarium is all about. Players need to accommodate places for them to rest, like benches, vending machines to keep them hydrated and well fed, and shops so they can hand over even more money. Visitors are surprisingly needy, and if there are too many of the same fish along their route then they’ll become bored and leave.
Visitors quickly became the bane of my life while playing Megaquarium, both for silly reasons such as some of them finding a quiet corner in my aquarium to leave all their trash on the floor, and good reasons, like the visitor who became trapped behind a wall. To be fair to the game, I deliberately trapped the visitor after accidentally pushing them to the wrong side of the wall while building. I liked the idea that they’d come to an aquarium for a fun day out and ended up trapped by the machinery, just out of sight of any fish, or people to help them.
Megaquarium caught me off guard with its depth (haha!), but I’m glad that it did. I had given up hope that a decent management simulation game or tycoon game would ever come to Nintendo Switch, yet here there’s one to keep me busy for hundreds of hours. The game definitely has its flaws, but they add to the overall charm, and at the end of the day it’s the charm of tycoon games that keeps players coming back.
My last point about the game regards customisation. There’s a ridiculous amount of options for building your aquarium, from a single floor to some sort of multi-floored monstrosity. You can even create a tunnel of water for visitors to walk through, and you can definitely fill it with sharks and smaller fish so all the visitors are horrified as they walk through.
If you’re looking for a serious management title then this might not be for you. But if you’re after a game that harks back to the days when games like Hospital Tycoon and Constructor were the peak of the tycoon genre, then Megaquarium is for you.
Buy Now – $24.59
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A review code was provided to The Switch Effect from the developer.