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Insaniquarium Review

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For my next game review, I decided on another PC casual game. It was suggested that I cover a popular game, but the game that I thought of, which is Plants vs Zombies, reminds me of another game that is made by the same developer (George Fan), so I decided to cover this game too. Initially, I wasn’t sure which of the two should I cover first, but then, I decided that, why not review both games at once? So here it is, this game that I will be reviewing is Insaniquarium.

The tagline of this game is “Feed Fish! Fight Aliens!” It sounds like an absurd concept, but if a game is fun, who cares? Super Mario Bros. certainly looks to have an absurd premise, but it’s a game worth playing because it’s fun. Since both games are from the same developer, you might notice some similarities between both games. You should notice the resemblance if you played the Zombiquarium mini-game in Plants vs Zombies. After all, Plants vs Zombies was initially going to be an Insaniquarium sequel, but that changed during development. That’s good, because Grass-types are more awesome than Water-types.

(Title screen. It gives us a glimpse at the game’s food chain.)

Insaniquarium’s basic gameplay involves feeding the guppies in the tank. This is easy to do, since all you have to do is click the left mouse button to release a food pellet for the guppy to eat. It goes without saying that the guppies could starve, and they will die of hunger if left hungry for too long. The game’s over if your tank’s fish are all gone, so pay attention so that they are kept healthy. Each pellet will cost money, so there has to be a way to make more of them. How do you make more money, then? Well, guppies could grow to the next stage, and when they do, they literally drop money! They will drop more money if they grow to the adult stage. This is how you progress with the game. You need to make money from the fish you feed, which fits the criterion of “feeding fish”.

There are purchasable options in the game too. With the money you have, you could buy whatever is available. The thing is, your options will be limited until you accomplish a certain point. For example, in order to buy a food quantity upgrade and food quality upgrade, you need the guppies to grow to medium-sized for those to become available. The final available option is always an egg. The egg requires three purchases of the same price, and once you bought them all, you completed the level. Each egg will contain a Pet, which are essentially helpers to make things easier for you in the tank. Examples include Stinky the Snail, who will collect coins for you (and return as a cameo in Plants vs Zombies), and Niko the Oyster, who will produce a pearl worth a good amount of cash occasionally. You are only limited to three pets on one session (this could be upgraded later), so make your choices clear so that they work well together (or work well with the player).

(Another day at the fish tank, along with some bizarre pets. The top bar shows the items you could buy.
Note that two of the pets (the robot fish and the eel) will only be available in later levels.)

But what about the “fighting aliens” part of the game’s tagline? Yes, the game also has aliens who will destroy your fish, and that provides part of the thrill in caring for the tank. Without them, taking care of fish would be boring. When an alien will show themselves, there will be a warning to tell you that they will appear, so be prepared. As soon as they appear, you need to shoot them with your laser! Don’t worry about the controls here, because your left-click becomes the “shoot” command instead of a “feed” command, so mash that mouse button to dispose of those nasty aliens! Once defeated, they will give out a diamond for your efforts. There are different types of aliens you will meet in the game, and each will have different characteristics. Oh, and did I mention that you could also upgrade your laser power?

(Some of the aliens you will encounter. See that angelfish over there? I guarantee you that you will find it
one of the most useful pets in the game. Too bad it’s only available very late.)

The game is separated by different tanks, each providing a different style of play. Each of them will have a non-guppy fish for sale to provide variety between tanks. The first tank, for example, has not only guppies to feed, but Carnivores, which are fish that eats small guppies and drops diamonds. The price for each Carnivore is relatively high, though. The second tank has Star Potions, which could only be fed to adult guppies, allowing them to drop Stars, providing a way to feed Star-catchers, a type of fish that catches stars at the bottom of the tank and convert them to diamonds (it’s their diet too, so put them without stars for long and they will die of hunger).

There are three other modes aside from the main quest. The first extra mode is Time Trial, in which you are given a time limit to obtain as much cash as you can, but you can only play each tank if you completed five levels of that respective tank in Adventure (the main game). Then, there’s Challenge, which is only available if you completed Adventure for the first time. Challenge is, well, tough. You are supposed to get three Egg Pieces in the game, but the catch is that prices are subjected to inflation, so you need to be efficient in your money-making. Thankfully, the prices will reset for each Egg Piece you bought, providing a period of relief for your efforts, and that the prices will only increase if you are allowed to buy that item (so Egg Pieces will not have price inflation until you can buy them). Prices are not the only thing that gets more challenging; the aliens would become a problem if left too long!

(This is how Challenge looks like. You might notice that the prices of everything had increased.
Not shown here are increasingly tough aliens. In fact, it gets more challenging if you go on!
Luckily, buying an egg piece will reset all other items back to the original (but not the egg).
This mode is not easy at all if you don’t plan.)

The final extra mode is Virtual Tank. This is like a relaxation mode where you could feed your fish without worry of them being dead by hunger. However, the shop in Virtual Tank requires Shells to buy the different types of fishes and name them (each fish has a unique place of origin and hobbies!) and items they provide. Shells are not commonly available at all, but there are ways to earn them. The reward for completing Challenge is Shells, and Time Trial provides you a commission of Shells based on how much money you have at that time. If you are generous, you could give your hard-earned shells to another user in the same game (or if you want to be a thief and steal shells from someone). Just type “give” and viola!

In Adventure, there will be parts of the game where you will play this minigame where you could collect the falling shells by clicking them before they fall. If you click the same type of shell in a row, your earnings will increase. Virtual Tank is not the only place you will spend your Shells on, as Adventure will provide you something in which you could purchase with them (after that Shell minigame). Virtual Tank could also function as a screensaver. However, while in screensaver mode, you can’t interact with anything, since doing so will stop it in an instant. This is where your pets will come in handy. They will help you to maintain your tank, which is a must if you want to horde your shells (fish will drop them instead of cash if able).

In terms of aesthetics, the game does look outdated if you look at it. However, at that time when this game was first released, it was nice to look at. Every object looks like a pseudo-3D model, but the black border surrounding each object makes them look like obvious sprites. Not that that’s a bad thing, considering they look decent. Still, the game’s currently unimpressive technology means that slower computers could still run the game, and possibly its Hardware Acceleration option at full speed (on my computer, switching on the hardware acceleration in this developer’s other game makes it slow). In terms of audio, the game’s sound effects are simple, but they get the job done. The music is also simple, but they also get the job done with how well it fits the aquatic environment of the game, and some might be catchy as well.

(The Virtual Tank is a great time-waster. You could even tap the glass with the right mouse button to scare the fish.
In my opinion, this is much better than Zen Garden from Plants vs. Zombies.)

In terms of replay value, this game has substantial content going for it. Not only do you have Adventure, you have the other two extra modes to keep you occupied. The Virtual Tank could also be a nice little diversion if you are in need of a virtual aquarium, as the prices of each item means you could be spending time to accumulate the needed cash for a potentially awesome fish.

So, after all this while, is this game still worth playing? Well, truth be told, when I played this game again after a long time, I was not as impressed with it compared to when I first played it several years ago. However, it could be attributed to the fact that I completed the game to its fullest at one point, so I don’t feel the need to go back to this game again. As with PC casual games, you should try the trial version of this game before making a purchase, and see if you like it or not (I certainly do when I first played it). If you like Plants vs Zombies, give this game a shot. Maybe it’s good, maybe it feels outdated, but one thing is for certain: this is the game that allowed Plants vs Zombies to exist, considering how both games have certain similarities in gameplay.

Score: 7½ out of 10!

+ Gameplay elements are executed well
+ Great replay value among four modes
+ Good variation in gameplay
+ Every pet is useful in their own way
+ Virtual Tank is a nice time-waster

- Graphics might be outdated
- Certain levels might take too long to complete


Thanks for reading.
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