Originally released on PC last year, Twice Circled’s popular aquarium tycoon sim MEGAQUARIUM is now available on consoles. It has made the tricky transition shockingly well for a simulation title, but that can be attributed to it being on the fairly simple side compared to games like Planet Coaster and other genre mainstays. While it lacks the Steam Workshop support that has given it a second life on PC, and has pleased those wishing for more customization, the more simple atmosphere of this sim helps it find a home on consoles.
While Megaquarium is a simple tycoon game, it isn’t a simple game. There’s plenty of tricks to learn about how an aquarium operates, development pathways that will have to be unlocked, and fish types to learn about. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming if you jump into its sandbox without going through its somewhat lengthy campaign mode that acts as a fantastic tutorial. The mode follows the players as an upstart aquarist and as they work their way up through the field they get to work at more prestigious aquariums that people will expect far more out of than the small local ones that players start out in.
While the chapters present an increasing challenge for players, newcomers will be glad to know that the initial stage serves as a perfect tutorial for a beginner. It’s there that you will set up your very first fish tank, get it heated to the appropriate degree, and then hire your first worker that will feed the fish and repair any machines that go wrong during their shift. It’s all very low-budget at first, with the tank’s equipment being out on the floor itself rather than hidden behind walls, but it serves its job of teaching players the basics.
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As players progress, they’ll start learning about the different relationships that the various aquatic wildlife have with one another. For example, some fish dislike being in an area with another of its species, while certain carnivores can’t be housed with smaller fish or they will wind up eating the poor things. Making sure your fish are all healthy and happy is key as customers will note any stressed out animals and your aquarium will lose some of its prestige that helps draw people in.
Eventually, players will be building all different types of tanks ranging from chilled ones that house cold-water fish to ones that need lighting attached in order for corals to thrive. A lot of the fun in Megaquarium comes from planning, as building a tank first and then trying to figure out what should go in it isn’t an ideal way to go about things. Instead, you want to tailor the case to the fish you plan on putting in it, and then go from there as you can decorate the case with items, plants, and shelter for the animals. Once you’re juggling the personalities of dozens of fish and their individual diets, it starts to truly open up.
Since you’re just the owner and designer, you’ll have to hire plenty of workers to actually feed the fish. These workers level up over time, and the player can create designated zones for them to work on and give them individual tasks. It’s a lot of work to set up, but the benefits are an aquarium that operates like a well-oiled machine. What Megaquarium lacks is customizability, as there are a few different decorative paint styles but you can’t create the aquarium of your dreams from a style perspective. The game is also missing plenty of cute creatures like dolphins, otters, and other non-fish beings that roam the sea. You’ll get some larger sharks and octopuses, but the animal mix is a bit underwhelming.
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Beyond its great tutorial and campaign mode, Megaquarium offers up several different difficulties that help more players enjoy it than just die-hard simulation players. The easy mode will lower the costs of items and their development, but players still have to pay attention to how all the animals interact with one another. It manages to stay pure to what the game is at its heart while still making it less punishing. There’s also an option to have unlimited money so you can focus purely on building the best aquarium possible rather than being financially stable if you wish. No matter what has attracted you to the aquarium sim, you should find a combination of options that suit your needs and desires.
From a control standpoint, Megaquarium has made the jump from PC to consoles rather well. Since you need to click each individual tile one at a time, painting walls is one of the few times where a mouse would be better as well as setting up employee behaviors as it can be quite slow and monotonous to go through those menus. There’s also a very strange audio issue I ran into that would occasionally pop up out of nowhere where a very loud static-filled noise would occur. It’s so annoying that I wound up playing the game with my television muted, as it kept happening despite me lowering the in-game volume. Hopefully that gets patched soon, but it’s not like the audio design is all that spectacular enough to make players feel like they are missing out on something special.
Beyond that, there are also a lot of small things that keep Megaquarium from reaching its full potential. From cute, but overly simplistic visuals to fish behavior being off and getting caught on the decorative items, it feels like what it really is: a simplified tycoon sim with a lot of heart. It can’t rival the best in the genre, but players can make a pretty awesome aquarium within its constraints, so it ultimately delivers what was promised even if it doesn’t exceed those promises.
GameRevolution reviewed Megaquarium on PS4 with a copy provided by the publisher.