The strug­gle is eel

Me­gaquar­ium of­fers truly de­light­ful aquar­ium man­age­ment.

PC GAMER (UK) - - REVIEW - By Philippa Warr

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

Deep wa­ter

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.

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