I’ve always had a bit of a letch for tycoon games. Transport Tycoon kept me enthralled for hours, Rollercoaster Tycoon made me like vomiting children and now we’ve a couple of tycoon games for the Palm OS, one of which is Fish Tycoon.
As with all tycoon games, the object is to become so loaded you need to hire people to hold your trousers up. But not only do you need to make money – your aim is to discover the 7 magic fish of Isola, thus restoring the island to its former glory and complete your trophy case. Plus they have nice bonuses while they swim around in your tank. What more could you ask for?
The thing I did find unusual about this game is that it is time based – you’re not going to be playing a quick game in the doctors and then ignoring it for months. I ignored it for two days only to find all my fish all gooey and grey, adorned with the tag ‘dead’. Indeed, it’s a little reminiscent of Tamagotchis, those little virtual pets that were just as needy as the real versions. Luckily, there is a pause function, and a few dead fish serve as a great reminder to use it.
You start with a packet of fish eggs and a handy tutorial mode. I did find the tutorial mode just a little vexing, as it tended to tell me about features after I had started using them, rather than giving pointers on what to do next. But it got me up and going and in a reasonably short time I had a tank full of fry. They grew up, got the dreaded ‘Ick’ disease and died as I had spent all my money. Luckily, my second game went somewhat better.
Supplies and research
Breeding is somewhat simplified from real life. Once your fish have grown up, you can drag them on top of each other and tada – they’re pregnant. Even better, cross breeding always works and will often create new, exciting and possibly even magical species. After short while they’ll spit out fry and you can sell them or keep using them as baby factories. The highlight of my current game is breeding myself into a corner, with a small selection of hardy (i.e. I haven’t killed them) fish who keep spitting out goldfish that sell for $22 a pop. This is rather handy given that adding up all the research and supplies will take you to over $7000, and many are sorely needed to make your tank a little more hospitable. You can research improved environments for the fish, better food or buy some lovely (and some unlabelled) medicines that are guaranteed to make your fish last longer than mine. And when you’ve spare cash you can start buying the rarer fish eggs (with the resulting more expensive and more delicate fish) and start adorning your tank with underwater divers and treasure chests – which is, after all, the major reason for owning a fish tank.
Breeding fish: searching for that magical one
While I was somewhat vexed with my suicidal fish, I was pleasantly surprised with the speed of progress – I’ve already discovered one magic fish and a delicate hybrid. They’ve both been flushed by now, but it did make me feel that I was making some progress, however small.
What’s not so good – my major dislike is the sale screen. Fish only sell while you’re in this screen, and you can’t do anything else while there. It would be nice to be able to put fish in my sales tank and just watch them disappear. The only other complaint is that it doesn’t use 320x480 on the T3. When you pause the game it goes into screensaver mode (i.e. the fish escape death for a while) and it would be lovely to see this full screen.
In summary – it’s a lovely game, and a bit different from standard fare. I started out somewhat ambivalent towards it, but now I keep checking every so often to see if my fish are ready for another round of sales. If you’re a lover of fine, fast paced arcade games I’d suggest you avoid it, but for people with an attention span of more than 5 minutes it’s a novel and enjoyable addition to your Palm.