Gamers in search of a more challenging digital diversion than mere gem-swapping or hidden object hunting should enjoy FishCo, a fun business simulation that tests your skills as an aquarium owner.
There’s nothing fishy about the game-play, here. You and your business partner, Tracy, must breed, raise and sell freshwater fish and meet many other objectives. In the Action mode, players must accomplish daily goals within a predetermined time limit. One of the 40 levels might ask you to sell 6 Tetras, 4 Sailfins, 3 Cichlids and earn $160 – all within four minutes. Typically, the process would involve buying some eggs, watching the fish hatch and then feeding them the appropriate food (flakes, pellets, worms, etc.) when a small thought bubble tells you they’re hungry. When the tank gets dirty you clean the area. If a fish dies you need to flush it down the toilet. You get the idea.
When your fish grow, and thus increase in value, you sell them to customers (some, as you’ll learn, sell faster than others). You can buy plants and other goodies for the tank to increase the fish’s happiness, as well as change the water or upgrade your filter or light.
As long as you meet the listed requirements, you’ll see some fireworks (think PopCap’s Peggle) and then move onto the next day. Or you can try to play the same level again and reach the Expert score by doing it all faster. Eventually you’ll gain access to five fish tanks in total, learn about 20 unique freshwater fish (click the Almanac for additional info for each!) and while less interesting, place a dozen different plants somewhere in the tank, too.
If you’re growing frustrated with the countdown timer (and your partner will warn you when there’s two minutes left) you can opt for the Relax mode from the main menu, which dispenses with the timer altogether. And hey, you might need some help to reduce the stress of owning an aquarium when you realize your Cichlids are eating all your Tetras and two male Bettas won’t stop fighting if in the same tank!
An unlockable Sandbox mode lets you customize your tank with your earned goodies, such as plants, lights, filters and so forth. The game’s graphics are ok, but nowhere near as good as those aquarium screensavers where the tank, plants and fish look so incredibly real. (Yes, I know screensavers are bad because they consumer energy, not to mention screens don’t need “saving” anymore, but check out the screenshots at ClubAquatica.com.)
Also, FishCo is one of those games that might not appeal to you immediately but gets better as you progress through the levels and take on tougher challenges and unlock more items to play with. On that note, once you complete the main Action mode, there isn’t much of a reason to play it all over again; how cool would it be if the developers as Fugazo released a free level or two every week for registered gamers?
It would also be remiss not to mention some might not be interested in this game-play concept at all – either because they don’t “get” the appeal of business simulations (my wife is one of those) or perhaps the fish theme is unappealing to others. I’m sure Fugazo recognizes this type of game doesn’t have the mainstream interest of, say, a more personality-driven restaurant game like Diner Dash, but FishCo is definitely worth the free trial for those looking for something a little deeper than most casual games.