The struggle is eel
Megaquarium offers truly delightful aquarium management.
I’m restarting my campaign level in Megaquarium. I forgot to hire staff to feed the fish and oh god there were so many fishy autopsies. Amongst those floating belly-up are three schooling bannerfish. You need at least six in a tank to satisfy their shoaling requirement. Ordinarily, I’d buy three more and pretend none of this ever happened, but this particular level restricts the availability of some fish. I can only pick up new bannerfish if the right seller pops up.
If that doesn’t happen soon the rest will sicken and die. I restart and hire a team of experts to feed, clean and fix. This time the problem is my striped boxfish. Or rather, the big fish who love to snack on striped boxfish. The first is gobbled up by a green moray eel. I forgive the eel but move the boxfish to a tank of humpback snappers. All is well until the snappers grow big enough to eat their tankmates.
Megaquarium is a game of wonderful tinkering. Hours passed as I expanded my floorplan, placed tanks, fiddled with pumps and filters, and tried to keep fish and visitors happy. I’ve spent the majority of my time so far in campaign mode, but there’s also a sandbox mode where you can set variables like starting rank and fish availability.
The campaign missions teach you how to build, and also how to use the various game currencies. There’s
regular cash which you earn from entrance fees, sales of food and drink, and gift shop bits. But you also accrue Ecology Points and Science Points as the guests enjoy exhibits. These are used to research new species and new tech, respectively. Meanwhile, Prestige acts as an overall measure of how attractive your aquarium is. Gather enough and you’ll rank up, unlocking more bits for your aquarium.
Each creature has specific needs so there’s a logic puzzle element to tank construction – bullies harass wimpy fish, some fish shoal, others want to swim solo, and scavengers need another creature in the tank to be fed in order to indirectly sneak their nutrition.
A few systems are hard to pick up – I went ages before noticing how to connect multiple tanks to a single pump. That’s important because pumps let you place unsightly tank equipment out of sight of guests. Making one pump serve multiple tanks means equipment takes up less space and needs less maintenance.
I’ve not managed to unpick the finer points of water quality, either. Filters contribute to ‘basic water quality’, and nitrate reactors, which you get later in the game, help with ‘higher water quality’ but I’m not sure how to manipulate them precisely in relation to one another.
I would also love some menu options to sort fish by different categories, and a few quality-of-life tweaks wouldn’t go amiss. Not needing to delete a segment of wall manually when I want to place a door to a staff-only area is a big one. Two Point Hospital- style heatmaps would be useful in placing toilets and refreshment stands efficiently, too.
Prestige acts as an overall measure of how attractive your aquarium is
The different difficulty tiers seem to revolve around money – on harder settings staff cost more to hire and fish and tech are pricier. At that point knowing exactly how water quality works would be more important, but on normal mode there was more than enough wiggle room to experiment.
So some of its systems are a little obtuse but that never got in the way of me properly losing myself in Megaquarium’s little world. Building is easy to get to grips with, letting you shape your venue, but ultimately not distracting from the main draw: curating and caring for the fish.
The cherry on the fish management cake is that when you zoom in on a level far enough the camera view switches from top-down to actually being in the aquarium. Not only can I create the space, I can visit it, admiring my aquarium and delighting in my collection of eels.