Aquariums have always been a special place for me. There’s nothing I find more relaxing than watching the different inhabitants of the sea swimming around in a beautifully decorated tank. Megaquarium pulls you into the role of managing your very own oceanic tourist attraction, balancing the needs of the animals with your profit line. You learn very quickly that the game revolves around designing suitable enclosures to best display a variety of creatures. Heating and filtration levels of each tank must be maintained, alongside the individual food and environmental needs of its inhabitants. Guests at your aquarium are only satisfied if they see the sea critters in their ideal habitat, but they also don’t want to see the less glamorous pumps and filters on their visit. Showcasing the beauty of the ocean isn’t easy with such discerning customers!
You begin with a limited number of fish to showcase, but in no time you’ll be researching how to care for a huge variety of real world crabs, eels, sharks, sea turtles and everything else you might see at your local Sea Life Centre. Each creature has its own list of requirements to live happily in your aquarium. Plants, rocks and shelter are all often needed to keep your scaly friends happy, and can be provided in the form of decorations. Not all creatures can be simply placed in a well designed tank either; some fish like to shoal in large groups, some don’t like competing for food, and some larger creatures (as you might expect) will happily chow down on their smaller tank mates.
All of these complicated systems are introduced to you incredibly elegantly, in one of the most enjoyable tutorial/campaigns that I’ve personally played. The learning curve is just perfect, and the moment you start to get comfortable Megaquarium adds a new element or two to keep you entertained. With paying customers to impress, designing tanks is only one important aspect of your job. Guests need access to drinks and snacks, a place to sit down, and toilets to enjoy their stay. Additional extras like guidebooks can be provided too, for an extra source of precious income.
You also need staff to keep the operation running smoothly. Some employees specialise in fish care, others are just really good with a mop! As they spend longer under your employ staff members even level up, and can specialise in different fish feeding methods and the use of medicines.
Playing a management game on a home console is something you’d expect to come with its share of control issues. Megaquarium uses the d-pad to select menus and the thumbsticks to navigate your aquarium, and it didn’t once feel cumbersome. The smaller scale of the indoor area you’re managing means that you never long for the ease of a mouse to scroll around your attraction. Alongside the well designed control scheme, care has been taken to make constructing your aquarium as easy as possible. At any time an object can be picked up, rotated and deleted at the press of a button. More complex parts of your aquarium can be grabbed individually, or in the group they are connected to. To keep things even more simple – if you make a mistake moving or placing a particular bench or bin, you even have an undo.
The campaign takes you to a varied selection of aquariums, each with their own challenges. Your journey will take you to popular aquariums, run down old attractions, research facilities, and even a disused theatre. Sometimes you’ll need to create tanks for specific features, carefully managing the animals inside; other times you’ll just have to create the best attraction possible on a blank canvas provided.
Outside of the main game, there is also a fully customisable sandbox mode. You can turn off the requirement for money entirely, start with as many creatures unlocked as you want, and even add regular side objectives if you need something to work towards.
My only slight disappointment with Megaquarium is in its visuals. For a game that showcases the majestic creatures and environments of the ocean, everything looks very blocky and basic. You never have any issue with the graphics hampering the gameplay, but it’s a little underwhelming to look at.
Megaquarium is frankly the best management game I’ve ever played. It has a very interesting theme, and designing tanks never gets boring with all the new creatures and equipment you unlock as you progress. The controls and tools at your disposal make constructing every aspect of your aquarium an absolute joy. If you enjoy tycoon style gameplay, the wonders of the ocean, or both, Megaquarium is a game you absolutely shouldn’t sleep on.
Learning curve is perfect
Regular new equipment and animals keep the game feeling fresh
Controls and tools make aquarium construction very easy
Graphics are a little lacklustre