Megaquarium Review: An Underwater Treasure

It was a fish, just one bright blue fish. But before I knew it, I was enthusiastically considering the repercussions of placing a family of Azure Demoiselles in with the striped moray eels, instead of the half and half chromis. This is the addicting potential of Megaquarium.

What is Megaquarium?

Megaquarium is, as the name implies, an aquarium tycoon game. The player can buy, sell, build, and scrap until they’ve developed a fascinating and financially stable business. They do this by building large tanks, housing exotic fish, and selling comforts and concessions to the attendees. All the while, they have to manage employees, income, equipment and the increasingly picky nature of the fish.

An expansive catalog of marine life is available to the player. Many of them don’t get along with each other, either. Some will eat smaller fish, while others will hate bright lights. But if you want to establish your site as a worthwhile experience, you need to have a wide variety of fish on display.

Megaquarium Review – Gameplay Screenshot

After that, you’re left with the second most important creature at your facility: the staff. Each staff member you hire has their own unique stats and proficiencies. Placing them efficiently and reinforcing their strength will improve the overall quality of the building.

When not tending to the fish’s every need, you’re making sure the visitors are happy. People get tired, or perhaps hungry. They also litter (shameless, really). You can make them happy, while also raising your overall income, by placing vending machines, trash bins, and the like around the aquarium. Or you could do as I did, and use the “move” tool to drop people who complain into a room with no exit until they learn to behave.

First Impressions

Megaquarium might have the best first impression of a tycoon game I’ve ever seen. Having an expansive degree of content is important to a game like this. If you don’t provide enough variety to the player, they’ll grow bored quickly. But if you’re not careful, you’ll overwhelm the player with new concepts and options, which can be equally off-putting.

Megaquarium Review
Megaquarium Review – Gameplay Screenshot

Megaquarium managed to avoid both of these issues. Each campaign level introduces the player to something new just long enough for them to get comfortable with it. After that, they give you more toys to play with and another list of goals. Neither boredom nor a flustered rush overcame me at any point. I only retained an excitement to see what I’d discover next.

I also want to make special note of the music. The house/electronic style tracks were straight poppin’. More than once during the first level, I felt the need to pause, turn to my partner, and let them know just how much these jams were true fire.

The Good

The longer I played Megaquarium, the more it impressed me. The controls and interface felt great, the gameplay was fluid and problem free, and the overall creative design fit perfectly with the theme. Picking out “the good” is actually a bit of a challenge, since it all blends together so well.

Megaquarium Review
Megaquarium Review – Gameplay Screenshot

The game’s menus were well organized. It was easy to quickly pull up what I needed when I needed it. The controls were on par with them, as well. Rarely, if ever, would I fumble over my own fingers trying to pick and place the right animal or object. When you want more detail on anything, you click on it. A pop-up window will then display the relevant information. These windows are self-organizing already, but you can move them around as you see fit. I was in control of my own screen.

The various mechanics the game provides are wonderfully balanced. If I was ever met with a problem, It was no question of what would be needed to fix it, but a matter of how. Do I extend the size of the building to make room for larger equipment, or do I use a remote pump to provide the needed filtration from afar? One employee isn’t able to feed all of their assigned tanks in time. Do you hire another employee to ease the workload, or shift around responsibilities for a more fair balance between existing workers? It was as stimulating to expand my aquarium as it was to simply maintain and refine what I already have.

Megaquarium Review
Megaquarium Review – Gameplay Screenshot

You couldn’t ask for a more ideal artistic design for Megaquarium, either. As previously established, the music was bumpin’ something fierce. The synthetic instruments and open flow of the tunes felt extremely appropriate for a game focused on marine life. The visual art style found an absolutely lovely middle ground between minimal polygons and detail. The fish were spot on to their real-life example, and the various decorations complemented them splendidly. All the while, things like mop buckets, walls, and benches kept casual, opting for (normally) simple shapes and color tones. Nothing was more detailed than it had to be. It kept even the busiest sections of my aquarium from looking “loud” or messy.

The game offers a Sandbox Mode, which gives the players instant access to everything the game has to offer. While I had such a fantastic time working my way up the saltwater ladder, it was good to know that there’s an option for embracing even the most potent of my ambitions, should I desire so.

The Bad

There are a few minor inconveniences about the game. And that’s putting it firmly. The game’s initial load screen and the occasional missed instruction are the only things keeping Megaquarium from being a chart-topper.

When you first boot up the game, you’re met with a load screen. Literally every video game has this; it can’t be helped. Though unlike other games, the loading process for Megaquarium will demand your computers complete attention. This would cause anything else I had running (YouTube, music, my recording software) to stutter and lag. This is hardly an issue, really. But it caught my eye, all the same.

Megaquarium Review
Megaquarium Review – Gameplay Screenshot

Every digital blue moon, I found myself mildly uncertain of how to do something. The two examples were how to delete items inside a tank, and how to select two tanks for the large pump. Both of these were done through the pop-up menu that appears when you click on the relevant object. I still don’t know how to delete an already existing employee zone, for that matter. None of these really bothered me. It was a hiccup to my gameplay experience, at worst.

Megaquarium Review Final Verdict

Megaquarium is an underwater treasure. Frankly, I’m hooked. If you’re a fan of tycoon management games, then I definitely recommend giving it a chance. Before you know it, you’ll be 10 hours in, declaring yourself overload of aquatic life.

Megaquarium was developed and published by TwiceCircled LLC for PC, Mac and Linux. It is available on Steam for $25. A copy of the game was provided to PwrDown for the purpose of this review.

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