Look, we’ve not got time for life histories here. If you’ve read anything of mine on this site or elsewhere, you’ll know full well I really like, y’know, fish and that. Sea Geezers. Damp Daniels. The Wet Squad. Call them what you will, I’m into them. I subscribe to Practical Fishkeeping magazine. My office at home has ten fish tanks in it. If you weren’t aware this was my thing, you are now. So you can imagine how keen I’d be on the prospect of a proper aquarium management game. Now admittedly, Megaquarium is not my ideal aquarium game. But since that would be a game so hideously in-depth and dry that it would probably sell about eight copies, all to me, I feel it’s a decent compromise with the appetites of reasonable humans.
Do I really need to explain the premise? You dig out your premises from a map full of solid blocks, Dungeon Keeper style, and then place tanks, before putting fish in them. There are many fish in Megaquarium, all real and well-researched, and they all have their own requirements for water conditions, tank scenery and so on. As punters come in to gawp at your Watery Walters, you gain both moneys (for the buying of more facilities, livestock and staff), and “prestige” points, which rack up to unlock new kinds of fish, tanks, equipment and facilities. Sometimes your guests want to eat or rest, so you can build chocolate machines and stuff for them.
It’s not wildly complicated. It’s not wildly difficult, either. Even on harder settings, the game is extremely forgiving of poor financial hygiene, and once you’ve got an instinct for the mechanics that make it tick, you have to try pretty hard not to succeed. More than anything else, especially in the campaign mode, it becomes a puzzle game about fitting giant filtration systems in tight spaces, and working out successful community tank fish combos. And I’m well good at that.
But you know what? That’s absolutely fine. Megaquarium is more than relaxing enough to make up for any lack of challenge, and its campaign levels spice things up with some interesting spacial restrictions (such as the infinitely satisfying challenge of squeezing a high-end public aquarium within the floorplan of an old boat). It’s certainly going to give you £20 worth of satisfaction before you start to feel like you’ve got it sussed, and even then, there’s a lovely feature that lets you walk around your aquarium in first person view, so you can gaze at your Soggy Simons in person.
The original Megaquarium featured only marine fish in tropical and coldwater varieties. But developers Twice Circled have recently released the Freshwater Frenzy DLC, which adds the Warrior Monk class to the game, and… no, of course it doesn’t. It just adds freshwater tropical fish. But there’s loads of new varieties of said fish, plus a ton of new features which make your placement and stocking decisions more interesting, and being a lifelong freshwater devotee myself, I bloody loved it. However ambivalent you might be towards fish yourself, I’m prepared to recommend Megaquarium to you with some confidence, even if only as a relaxation tool.