Anyone that knows me personally knows that I have an affinity to gravitate towards zoos and aquariums whenever I visit a new country, state, city, etc. I’m naturally drawn to any type of wildlife that I can’t observe by sitting in my backyard. It is not the same as viewing these creatures in their natural habitat, but it is the next best thing. Released by Auroch Digital on consoles (Twice Circled on PC, who tasked players with building their pharmaceutical empire in 2015 with Big Pharma), Megaquarium lets players design and manage their ideal aquatic theme park.
Megaquarium already released on PC in 2018; however, it is just now coming to home consoles; PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. In the sandbox mode, you can fully customize the experience by removing any monetary requirements, have every fish unlocked from the start, and more. You can even turn on side objectives, and alter the frequency for merchants. The campaign tasks you with following necessary objectives across various locations. Most of the time, you’ll be building out the ideal space for one or more specific creatures, and the rest of the time, you’ll have goals based on being profitable without specific requirements. The campaign is highly recommended if you haven’t played the game before, as the first aquarium you build takes you through all the essential tutorial information.
Building aquariums in Megaquarium is fully customizable, from freestanding expandable ones, to those that can be set within walls. Decorations, heating/filtration equipment, and of course, the local wildlife can be added based on your preferences. The first few that you design will be small, maybe featuring a handful of one type of fish, a couple of rocks, and perhaps a plant. Without a heating element, the tropical fish will not survive in the small glass box of frigid waters. Similarly, proper filtration is needed to ensure contaminants are filtered out. Staff must be hired to keep the location operating, from providing equipment performs at a satisfactory level, cleaning the floors, and feeding and caring for your new swimming buddies. The longer your staff stay employed, the more efficient they become at their job, gaining specializations that can really come in handy. Before long, you’ll be expanding your building, adding benches for guests to sit (who doesn't want a massage chair), vending machines, gift shops, and restrooms.
Without a doubt, these types of management sims typically don't get released on consoles due to having to development a new control method using a controller. Now, I’m not saying that there haven’t been games in the past that have pulled it off. Games such as Frostpunk (a strategy game) and Jurassic Park Evolution (a theme park game) prove my point. Heck, I even enjoyed playing Command & Conquer and even Theme Hospital back in the day on a Nintendo 64 and PlayStation controller respectfully. The use of the directional pad (d-pad) to navigate through the menus and keeping the analog sticks for camera control is easy enough to understand and operate. Not only that, but simply hovering over an object, opens contextual options to pick things up, rotate, or even delete. Grabbing an entire exhibit moves everything attached to it, both inside and outside of the tank. There’s a handy undo option if you delete the wrong item, and yes, it happens to the best of us.
Megaquarium is a robust management simulation game, and the only one allowing you to build your own aquarium. While PC players have been perfecting their exhibits for quite some time, the transition to consoles has been quite smooth. I thoroughly enjoy how the game operates using a controller, although without going through the tutorial, you may be a bit lost. Many advanced elements slowly creep into the experience, such as ensuring your bigger fish don’t eat the smaller ones, properly decorating aquariums to keep skittish fish calm, balancing the amount of a single species to keep them happy.Note: Megaquarium was reviewed on Xbox One. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.