The creator behind Big Pharma is back, but this time with fish rather than medicine. Megaquarium is a game that tasks the player with planning, building, and managing an aquarium. The game features a nice variety of mechanics and a relaxing soundtrack, but suffers from poor UI design and constant gameplay interruptions.
Nice variety of game mechanics. As I made my way through the game’s campaign mode, I became increasingly impressed with how well Megaquarium managed its complexity. The campaign serves as a tutorial, slowly introducing the player to the wide variety of gameplay mechanics. At the start, the player only has to worry about the basics, such as small tanks, filters, and heaters. However, as one progresses through the campaign, more and more items are unlocked, introducing the player to new mechanics along the way. By the time I was halfway through the campaign, I was managing walkthrough tanks, protein skimmers, fish supplements, gift shops, etc. A large number of these items introduced entirely new mechanics to the game, such as power lights, which allow the player to start managing coral tanks. Despite all of these additions though, the game never got to the point where it felt too complex. Each new mechanic is simple enough on its own, it is just a matter of working it into mechanics that have already been established. For example, I was able to start adding coral to some of my pre-existing fish tanks once I understood how lighting and protein skimming worked. The game really just strikes a nice balance there when it comes to complexity.
Relaxing soundtrack. The soundtrack here in Megaquarium perfectly matches its atmosphere: that of relaxation. The music ranges from slow piano themes, to quiet, yet upbeat tracks that really made me feel like I was in an aquarium. In fact, I would not be surprised to hear this music as background music at an actual aquarium. This is not a stressful game, so having a soundtrack to match the game’s serenity is definitely a plus.
First-person mode. I have always been a fan of tycoon and simulation games that allowed me to join in with the guests in first-person, so I was glad to see that feature here in Megaquarium. It is a rather seamless change too, as all the player has to do is zoom in enough for the camera to touch the floor. At that point, the UI disappears and the player is able to walk around in first-person. There are a few issues with this camera perspective though (such as the mouse cursor being stuck to the middle of the screen), but hopefully those issues will be smoothed out in future updates.
Poor UI design. The game’s one glaring flaw is just how poorly designed its UI is. For starters, the game’s UI is huge and takes up a ton of screen space. It felt like it was designed for mobile devices rather than PC. On top of that, the color choices make some UI elements hard to read. Blue elements on top of a blue background is generally not a good combo. This is especially noticeable with the build menu on the left side of the screen. The game also completely lacks a search feature, so scrolling through items and fish can be a bit of a pain when looking for something specific. Overall though, the game would be much better off with a redesigned UI.
Constant gameplay interruptions. Megaquarium has this really bad habit of interrupting gameplay with pop-ups. For example, whenever a staff member has a level-up available, a pop-up will show up in the middle of the screen asking the player to allocate a point for that staff member. These pop-ups stop whatever the player may be doing at that moment, be it moving an object, using the bulldozer tool, or placing something new. This grew incredibly annoying, especially so later in the game when twenty or so staff are employed. These pop-ups would not be as bad a problem if they did not close whatever the player had open, but as it stands they are just a nuisance to deal with. Perhaps another UI element could be added to show a list of staff level-ups available, allowing the player to allocate points whenever he/she is ready to do so.
Missing quality of life features. For a simulation game like this, Megaquarium is rather lacking in some essential quality of life features. For example, I was incredibly disappointed to see the complete lack of an undo and redo feature, something which I have come to rely on in similar games. The game also does not allow tank sizes to be adjusted, forcing the player to sell and place a tank again if the size needs to be adjusted. The lack of such a feature is definitely odd, as the game allows tanks and other objects to be moved around at no cost. It is rather unfortunate to see such features missing, but hopefully they can be added in later.
Considering all of the low-quality tycoon games now on Steam, Megaquarium is definitely a breath of fresh air. It strikes a nice balance in terms of complexity and has a great soundtrack, but is brought down by its poor UI. Even so, I do recommend the game, as it is definitely one of the better tycoon-style games available on the platform.
You can buy Megaquarium on Steam here.
I was provided a free review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.