Arts video game review

Becoming the tycoon of aquariums

‘Megaquarium’ combines strategy with business management

8654 megaquarium
An aquarium visitor watches a shark tank.
Courtesy of Twice Circled

Developed by Twice Circled
Available on PC

Inspired by classic theme park management games, Megaquarium is a game all about building and managing the biggest and best aquariums around. Starting off as a mere enthusiast, you’re assigned the job of bringing an old, abandoned aquarium back to life. Once you establish your status as a skilled aquarium manager, you are offered more distinguished tasks such as building an aquarium for a well-known architect.

Presented in a relaxing atmosphere, the game’s tutorial guides you through the many, many mechanics that you’ll encounter at your own pace. You learn how to handle each management aspect by completing objectives so that you’re not overwhelmed by all the demands at once. You learn how to build first. Then, once you’re comfortable with that, you’re taught how to procure fish, how to build tanks that will meet their living needs, and how to keep them alive. And it continues on, and on until you have learned everything you need to know in order to build, maintain, and expand your aquarium.

Aside from the easily navigable interface, the controls take some getting used to but are also not particularly hard to learn. The only control I had a particularly hard time with was the use of the “Home” key to return to the entrance of the aquarium. Generally, the “Home” key is almost never used in day-to-day life, much less in the context of video games. It probably took me too long to figure out how to complete the objective of snapping back to the aquarium entrance because of this obscure control. I wished there had been a way to change the key configuration for the game just so players could have a more comfortable experience learning the game’s many controls and features.

Aesthetically, Megaquarium is simple. The graphics are nothing compared to current big game titles like Assassin’s Creed and the recently released Marvel’s Spider-Man, but they’re appropriate for the basic premise of Megaquarium. It’s also satisfying to watch empty tanks fill with the colorful swaths of fish, coral, and other marine life available for discovery in the game, and it’s fulfilling to watch your assigned aquarium expand from a singular modest space to a sprawling, multi-chambered aquatic spectacle.

The soundtrack divulges the whimsical, light-hearted mood of the game. Repeatedly playing in the background as you build and manage your aquariums, it’s similar to the music you’d hear at an amusement park: familiar, cheerful, and constantly looping. You could even imagine it as the background music your aquarium visitors, while marveling at the tanks filled with aquatic life, hear as they go about their day.

Recommended for killing time in a low-stress environment, Megaquarium is a game I’ll likely return to time and time again to do just that.