I’ve owned aquariums a few times in my life; despite the maintenance and upkeep, it’s generally very rewarding, relaxing and even therapeutic to take care of fish in a well kept, thoughtfully designed environment. There’s a wonderful ambience added to a room with an aquarium, no matter its size. It can, however, be a costly and time-consuming pursuit – not to mention the fact that you’re still caring for living creatures, which is a big responsibility.
So it’s strange that there’s so little in the way of simulated aquariums on the market for computers or consoles; generally, they take the form faux-strategy games laden with in-app purchases or even straightforward arcade-style titles (PopCap’s classic PC browser title Insaniquarium, first released 20 years ago, immediately springs to mind).
However, Polish indie studio Blinkclick Games have spotted this obvious gap in the market – and have begun work on an ambitious, comprehensive aquarium simulator title named Fishkeeper, the Kickstarter campaign for which launched a few days ago. Taking inspiration from titles such as Planet Zoo and Jurassic World Evolution, the game is a blend of genres such as strategy, tycoon, life simulator and even sandbox. The game’s design ethos is based around three pillars: simulation, fun and creativity.
There’s been a real attempt to create convincingly authentic aquatic life with which to populate your aquarium in-game; fish must be kept in the right water conditions and co-existence with other species isn’t always going to be possible (something I found out to stress-inducing effect in my real world fishkeeping endeavours). Each fish needs a specific amount of space, their own diet and the company of other fish. Reproducing is a challenge – as is keeping the little newborns safe (again, something else I have first-hand, somewhat stressful experience with) – but the level of detail that Blinkclick have gone into with this is pretty impressive, with genetic characteristics being passed on from parent to offspring.
Of course, there’s also the economic aspects of the game to consider: money can be earned from selling fish, coral and plants – and your uniquely bred fish can even be entered into competitions or sold to other players online.
The environment you create can be explored up close through use of a Bathyscaphe, giving you the opportunity to pilot a little vessel through your miniature underwater paradise. This will also allow you to more closely bond with your fish – racing or playing hide and seek with them, for example (and there’s even an arcade-style racing mode included, in which your custom made Bathyscaphe’s abilities can be tested).
There’s a huge level of customisation at many levels of the game, which allows you to tinker with just about everything – right down to where your aquariums are positioned within the in-game house. It’s a detailed and immersive game, which seems to nail the compelling real-world pursuit in so many ways. It has a beautifully chilled out soundtrack too – but don’t just take my word for it, check it out below:
Should Fishkeeper reach its ambitious funding target by the 7th of May, release is planned for next year, on Windows, Mac and Linux (with console versions a possibility further down the line too). Here’s hoping it can get across the finish line and secure the funding it needs; it looks like a wonderfully chilled out and comprehensive alternative to the expense and challenge of maintaining a real-world aquarium.
You can check out and back Fishkeeper here.
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