Original concept by PopCap Developed & Published by Astraware
Insaniquarium for Palm OS was reviewed on this site earlier this year. More recently, Astraware released new versions for Pocket PC and Palm Hi-Res devices. I had a chance to try the program out on a Dell Axim.
Many of you may be familiar with this game, but for those who are not, here are the basics: You are the owner of a nicely landscaped aquarium. You need to buy fish to stock the tank, and grow the population in order to earn money. As the fish grow, they drop coins that increase in value. You need to feed the fish or they will die, and your population is periodically threatened by alien monsters who must be destroyed before they eat your pets.
There are two tanks in the game, with different collections of fish and different aliens. You start off with guppies, using your existing budget to buy the first fish. The guppies start by dropping $10 silver coins, which you need to tap in order to collect. As the guppies grow, they drop gold coins worth $30, and eventually they will turn blue and drop $200 diamonds. The extra funds will enable you to buy carnivores, who eat the guppies, but drop diamonds. You can also buy more potent food, and some weapons to fight aliens.
There are three game modes: Quest, Time Trial and Challenge. In Quest mode, you follow five quests in two tanks in sequence. The objective is to assemble an egg, which is made up of three pieces that you purchase when your funds reach the appropriate level. When you complete the egg, you move to the next level, and you get to choose a “pet”. Pets are specialized sea creatures that help you manage the tank. For example, there is Zorf the sea horse, who helps feed the fish, enabling you to concentrate on other tasks. Stinky the snail helps scoop up coins, although you need to help him out some times (he isn’t quick in moving from one side of the tank to the other). You are allowed to use three pets on each level. Quest mode is a good way to learn the basics of the game. When you first start in Quest mode, you receive context-relevant instructions at every stage of the game. They even gave me one more fish after I intentionally allowed them all to die.
In Time Trial, the goal is to get as much money as possible in 10 minutes. You can choose either tank, and use any pets that you have won by that point. What counts is how much money you have left at the end of the game.
In Challenge mode, you try to earn as much money as you can before everything is eaten. Each time the aliens attack, it becomes more expensive to replace lost fish, the fish get hungrier, and the aliens get meaner. Things can get overwhelming pretty fast.
This game has been very successful on the web, and they have done a good job adapting it for Palms and Pocket PCs. The fish have personalities, and there is enough challenge to keep most of us into the game for a long time. Anyone who has owned a real aquarium (I have killed my share of real fish over the years) knows the dangers of adding too many fish too quickly or overfeeding them. This game accurately reproduces the experience of keeping a tank, but adds humorous and unique elements to the mix.
Some aspects of the fish’s behavior can be maddening. Some fish just ignore the food pellets, and you have to watch your hard earned dollars drop to the tank floor. The aliens can be difficult to defeat, especially when two of them gang up on your finned friends.
The instructions are great…easy to read, yet comprehensive.
Sound effects are fun. Each action has it’s own defining sound; you will feel really guilty when you hear the cry of a dying fish. Random underwater effects such as bubbles pop up here and there.
Comments on New Version
I did not play the original game, so it’s hard for me to compare it with this version. The main difference is that it uses a landscape orientation, which certainly makes the game resemble a real fish tank. It also allows for a wide swimming area, as well as room on the screen for the various control buttons. The quality of the graphics is high, and the movement of the creatures is very realistic.
Easy to learn
Pleasing graphics and sound
None of substance
I really love playing this game. Some action games (such as sports or driving simulations) for the Pocket PC are too difficult to control. With Insaniquarium, you just need to tap with your stylus to select options, feed the fish and attack the aliens. You don’t have to think too much to play, but there is some strategy in how you spend your money and when you drop the food. One bit of advice: if you are playing this game in public, use headphones. The game just isn’t the same without the sound effects, but you will attract attention if the speaker is on.
Insaniquarium is available at our Handango software store for $14.95. They also offer a free trial version.
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