Sunday, July 8, 2007

'Fish Tycoon': A Virtual Aquarium

Taking a break from intensive games like Harvest Moon and 'Lost in Blue 2', I decided to try another game from 'Last Day of Work'.

In fact, 'Fish Tycoon' is both simple and sublime. It really operates as a virtual aquarium but there are sufficient challenges even for some one who loves games. At the same time, it can be 'played' in a rather desultory fashion by an individual who simply wishes to have a virtual aquarium as a screensaver on his/her desktop.

With 400 different types of fish, the game can bring new surpises to a player constantly. There is some skill involved, however. As in reality, fish can be hardy, slightly fragile or extremely fragile. Without improving the fish tank and acquiring some education through research, one never will be able to have any of the rare fish. Cross-breeding is an integral part of gameplay, but the results may not be viable unless one has the right level of 'research'.

The key to this game is the 'Game Speed' setting. If a player wishes to be fully engaged in the game, the speed can be set to 'Speed 2x' or 'Double Speed', allowing births and growth to progress at a very fast rate. If one wishes to concentrate on other tasks and cannot be involved in the game on a constant basis, it is best to set the speed to '1/2 Speed'. This allows the game to progress very slowly, to prevent catastrophes from occurring while the player is otherwise engaged in his/her own life.

At the start of the game, one has a single tank, a few half-grown fish and $300. Isola dollars, the currency of the island where most of the games made by 'Last Day of Work' take place.

Fish become adults after 20 hours. Their species and type as well as value are determined only when they are fully grown. They then can be bred or sold at the Supply Shop. By selling fish, one earns money to purchase upgrades.

Upgrades allow one to breed more fragile hybrids by improving the tank environment and the quality of food. There are upgrades that increase sales as well. Rather like 'The Sims', one must purchase the ability to do research in the fields of food, environment and marketing. The upgrade, once purchased, then must be 'learned' over the course of time.

The game operates in real time, whether or not one actively plays it. Even when the computer is off, the aquarium will continue to operate. In this sense, it really is a virtual aquarium. One can change the Game Speed to pause the game or cause it to run in Half-Time, slowing the process when one cannot be involved actively in the welfare of the fish. In the same way, one can increase the speed to Double Time when one wishes to move time forward more quickly. Even so, it does offer a fairly realistic experience of breeding and cross-breeding fish.

Sometimes the simplest concepts are the most appealing. It is exciting to find a new hybrid in the tank or to nurture a fragile fish to adulthood. The only question that remains is what sort of 'lasting appeal' this game will have.

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