If a game has “Tycoon” in the title, the player should immediately know what to expect: a simulation game in which you must improve/grow something. Fitting in the same category as the Sims and Nintendogs, Fish Tycoon on DS is a game that requires patience above all else.
Even though this is a sim game, there is still a story line to follow. Apparently, there were seven magical fish that lived on an island called Isola in a galaxy far, far away, but now it is up to the player to revive these long lost species by breeding and selling fish until you hit the jackpot. The player will do this by running a fish store – breeding, managing, selling, and taking care of fish.
Fish Tycoon DS is a port from a Palm and PC version of the game. However, while the game was decent for a Palm application, it falls a little short on the DS by not offering enough gameplay and using a complicated menu system. Because performing simple tasks, like selling fish, is overly complicated with lots of dead time in-between, only patient players will truly appreciate this game.
The game starts you out with some fish, a tank, and fish store. After fish become of age, the player can breed them to make new fish. Exclusively using stylus control, the player must touch and drag fish to an isolated tank. Drop another mature fish into this isolation tank and the player will hear a “kissing sound” signifying that one of the fish has become pregnant. However, the process leading up to birth is incredibly boring as the player must simply wait around until the new one is born. The same goes for selling fish. Only after the player drags the fish to the selling tank, sets the selling price, exits the menu and selects the selling tank, releases the fish, then accesses the sales floor can a fish be sold. But it doesn’t stop there. Now, the player must simply wait for customers to stop by and purchase fish. This could take more than a few moments to actually make some cash. And when in this fish store view, the player can only move the camera around and watch horribly animated people walk through the store. See where patience comes in?
Setting the price for fish is also a touchy subject as setting the price to low will only harbor a small amount of income while jacking up prices will result in lower sales. It is important to have a constant flow of income as the player must constantly care for the fish and the tanks. If a fish gets sick, you must purchase medicine to make them better. In order to attract customers, you must load up your tank with visual appeal such as that little diver guy and other underwater propaganda. It is also important to constantly swap out the fish that are for sale as customers will grow tired of purchasing and looking at the same fish.
It is not that Fish Tycoon is a bad game, it is that it just takes a lot of waiting around. Even the developers knew this as they included a way to speed up time in the options menu. The game mentions to the player that it is ok to save and shut off the system as the tank will continue to function without you actually tending to it, just like in Animal Crossing. In all honesty, playing this game for 5-10 minutes a day is all that is necessary to maintain your tank. But this type of application works better on a Palm device as you can manage your tank in between emails…but as a full blown DS game, I am expecting a little bit more.
The graphics are pretty sub par. While fish move realistically, they are too small and lack any significant detail. Clipping is also a graphical problem in this title as fish like to swim through walls and other objects when in tank view. And the low animation rate of the 2D sprites that walk into your store to purchase fish bring this game’s overall presentation down several notches. The graphical flaws alone put this game into the amateur category. But the audio qualities help maintain the idea that the player is running fish store through the use of saxophoney tones complete with bubbling sound effects.
Fish Tycoon is a game that could easily be a great addition to the simulation video game genre, but it is flawed with overly complicated menus and a weak graphical coat of paint. Combine this with the fact that waiting around is a part of the gameplay (literally), and Fish Tycoon will only appeal to a select batch of gamers. If you take the time and learn the menu system and flow of the game, players might get a kick out of booting up the title once a day to check on their tank and virtual store. For everyone else, not so much.