Monday, December 05, 2005

Fish Tycoon Review

Fish Tycoon, developed and published by LDW Software.
The Good: Original semi-realistic real-time gameplay
The Not So Good: Outdated fish graphics, rather boring, too much like owning a real fish
What say you? Tamagotchi, with fish: 5/8

I was just a matter of time: the tycoon games have taken over. Beginning with the earliest tycoon titles, where you run a business of some kind, this over-proliferated genre has now covered pretty much every subject manner known to man: theme parks, marine theme parks, people, railroads, airports, zoos, construction, real estate, schools, cars, casinos, coffee, cruise chips, fast food, golf, hell, lemonade stands, dude ranches, malls, oil, pizza, prison, skateboarding, tabloids, trailer parks, and ski resorts. The sad thing is I did not make any of those up; just go to Game Rankings and search for “tycoon” yourself. And now: fish. Yes, LDW Software has captured all the heart-pounding excitement of owning a fish and turned it into a computer game. Will this game have any redeeming values that float it above the dead carcasses of the other tycoon games? Will I hold back on my sardonic comments about fish? (eh, probably not)

Fish Tycoon has some good background graphics for the tank, but the fish are way too pixilated. The low-resolution inhabitants of your tank do not look very good, with sharp, blocky edges and few details. Also, they have almost no animation, basically a looking left and a mirrored looking right. Problem is, the fish can get sick and the medicine for a particular disease is based on visual evidence, which is hard to gather because the fish look so bad. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if a fish is sick or it just looks that way. There could have been a lot more done here; I could imagine a full 3-D tank where you could zoom in really close and see extreme details, but this is not the case in Fish Tycoon. As for the sound, it’s essentially the same sounds you’d hear by having a real tank, probably because they were directly recorded. There isn’t any in-game music to speak of, so you’re left with the sounds of bubbles. I just left my headphones off and didn’t notice any real difference.

The most original part of Fish Tycoon is that the game runs in real time, even if you’re not playing it. This is both a good and bad thing: good because it’s realistic, but bad because it makes playing the game extremely boring. Essentially, the game entails feeding your fish, breeding fish, adding things to your tank, selling fish so you can buy more stuff for your tank, and exiting. This whole process takes about 5 minutes, and nothing will happen for another day or two. Obviously, gamers used to constant action will be greatly disappointed here. This is not a game that you will play constantly, because you can’t: time cannot be sped up, and chemicals that speed up the growth of fish are very expensive. So, what can do you? First, there is a multitude of supplies you can buy, such as medicine, vitamins, chemicals, eggs, decorations, and other additions to your tank environment. You are supposed to breed fish by dragging them on top of each other (Biology class was way off apparently), which make new babies that may become a new species. The overall goal of the game is to breed the seven “magic” species through trial and error. Once fish grow into adults, you can sell them in order to make money so you can buy more supplies. That’s essentially it.

Fish Tycoon has all the heart-pounding excitement of having a real fish. Sometimes, games need to break from reality in order to make a game fun, and Fish Tycoon does not do this. Everything runs in real time, so raising a fish takes the appropriate amount of time. This makes a good pet, but a mind-numbing game. The game had potential to be semi-interesting, if it included 3-D graphics and faster paced gameplay, but Fish Tycoon falls a little short of these goals.