The theme park management genre has been around for a while now. We’ve had numerous games where you are put in charge of building rollercoasters and other rides. In recent times, we have seen an increase in games where you are put in charge of a type of nature exhibit or zoo. The Xbox One launched with Zoo Tycoon. Last year we had Jurassic World Evolution come to Xbox. As you can imagine, that game put you in charge of a dinosaur park and all the dangers and trouble that are associated with it. Well, indie developer, Twice Circled has just released Megaquarium onto Xbox One. This new management game sees you in charge of an aquarium. So, does this new game sink or swim?
From the start, it’s very clear that this is a PC game that has been ported to Xbox One. There are lots of menus and text. What’s more, the text may be sized appropriately to be able to read on a monitor that’s a few centimetres in front of your nose. However, when it comes to trying to read it when sat on the sofa, even with my 55-inch TV, it’s a bit of a struggle. You also basically use the controller as a mouse. You control a cursor on the play area to select, create, and move objects. There is some good use of the d-pad to navigate the various menus around the screen. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel like much thought has been put into how you should control it on a gamepad.
When it comes to the actual gameplay it’s pretty much business as usual for a management sim. There are exhibits to build and populate. You will need to support these with the necessary infrastructure. In this case, that’s water filters, heaters, pumps, feeding stations, etc. Staff will need to be hired and while you can’t take direct control of them you can delegate them to a particular zone that you designate. Once your aquarium opens, you will get a steady stream of visitors. They will pass judgement on your exhibits and either grant you prestige or take it away. You will also earn ecology and science points. These are used to either discover new species of fish or research new equipment. It’s all pretty basic but works reasonably well.
There are two modes that you can play. Campaign and sandbox mode. Sandbox mode just allows you to create whatever you would like within an open space. The campaign mode is the best way to learn the game and gives you different scenarios and missions for you to complete. The first stage of the campaign tasks you with creating an aquarium. The second sees you taking over an existing dilapidated aquarium. Unfortunately, I can’t get past the second scenario because the game glitches and doesn’t recognise that I have completed one of the missions. I have tried three times and on each occasion, the game doesn’t recognise that I have fulfilled the objective.
Visually, this is a very basic game. Even with the cartoonish art style, it doesn’t really impress. The biggest issue is that unless you switch your view to inside the tanks, you never really see any of the fish. It’s fine seeing the visitors and staff walking around your exhibits but the fish should be the stars of the show. That said, I never experienced any screen-tearing or other visual glitches. The sound is passable. There’s not much really going on and the music is incredibly repetitive. Fortunately, it’s also pretty inoffensive.
I was really hoping to love Megaquarium. Instead, I just find it a bit disappointing. I understand that this is a cheap and cheerful indie game. However, it’s just a little too plain. The worst thing though is the way the game glitches and doesn’t allow progression past the second campaign level. If the developer fixes this, then management sim fans may enjoy the game. For everyone else, I’m sorry to say that I recommend that you give this one a miss.