If there’s any game that will have you hearing "Under the Sea" in your head, it’s Aquapolis. The charming time management building game takes Build-a-Lot to the real estate world under the sea. Though a pearl of a game, Aquapolis has a few stingers that dampen the underwater adventures.
The story is slim pickin’s, but this type of building game doesn’t need a story. Aquapolis throws you in a shipwreck. No, really, Shipwreck is the name of the first city you’ll see. The game kicks off with your coming highly recommended as you start working in Steward Don Garro. Mr. Garro shows you the ropes throughout the three levels in the Shipyard.
He explains the things you own are in color and you earn income from renting and selling properties. Sharks do your bidding instead of spending full time floatin’. Your working sharks need to zone the lots as residential, garden commercial or industrial before they can build. Cash comes in the form of clams and building supplies in coral. Aquapolis has 8 cities with 35 levels in total.
Aquapolis slowly introduces new buildings throughout the game. You’ll unlock new treasure maps – the blue prints – so you can build new homes and buildings plus add filters and fences to help keep it clean under the sea. Build a coral shop and school to lower the cost of coral and hiring more workers. The Coral Shop comes with an upgrade that allows your gardens to produce coral to save you some clams. Sharks can work faster when you buying the "Frenzy" factor after building the school.
Each level has goals you must meet to move on to the next level and you can take your time unless you want the gold. Goals range from amount of cleanliness and clams earned to coral produced and no empty lots. The game offers plenty variety allowing you to beat most levels in different ways, which ups the replayability factor. The first go-around you may only earn gold for half of the levels. Instead of trying to beat the level, play all the way through to gain experience and then return to any previously completed non-gold level to see if you can beat it.
The city bestows you with a key for reaching expert for all the levels, which unlocks a bonus level for a total of eight bonus levels. The goals in the bonus level aim high requiring you, for example, to collect 300,000 clams. While this could qualify as a second mode, the game has the right features to create another mode outside of "story" mode, if you even call it a story.
The game has irritating bugs and quirks like the misleading timer countdown for expert mode. If it shows 8:00 (eight minutes), it’s really seven minutes before you lose the gold. We also found typos such as "developement," "grandist," "icome" and "thier." At the start of a level, the city’s steward (comparable to mayor) tells you what to do. In some instances, the steward’s conversation is cut off.
A pounding hammer lets you know the house needs repair. After repairing the house, the hammer keeps on pounding the house like the Energizer bunny. Other times, the warning disappears before you address the problem like when you need to clean up the park; the sweeper shows up briefly and disappears.
A blue shark will swim across the screen giving you the opportunity to pick up another worker without paying a dime. Another example of a bug in the game comes when the game introduces the shark, the goal requires you to pick up two of them. If you don’t make it to expert and replay the level, the two-shark goal shows as met when it should not.
Some goals won’t make sense when you haven’t quite grasped all the features and upgrades. Nonetheless, once you wrap your fins around Aquapolis, it turns into brass "crustacean band" with "the trout rockin’ out" under the sea where life is the bubbles, sometimes. The game’s got spirit, so try and see if it’s a fit.