|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Big Fish Games / Last Day of Work||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Majesco||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Oct. 16, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
If you consider yourself a fish lover, have a bit of an entrepreneurial streak, and possess a knack for genetic tinkering, then you've likely already found a welcome companion in Last Day of Work's casual PC hit Fish Tycoon. Watching fish bubble around in their tank is interested enough, but breeding and mutating new types of fish is where it's at. In a recent jump to a smaller pond on the DS, the award-winning fish breeding simulator makes a few compromises in its presentation, yet still offers a deep tycoon experience with a few extras thrown into the portable version for good measure.
Players will take on the role of a fish breeder charged with the task of saving the Island of Isola - in a reference to the developer's Virtual Villagers series - by genetically meddling with different combination of fish to breed seven distinct species of magical fish native to the island. Many wonderful fish once swam in the waters of a magical lagoon, and it's up to you to restore balance. In order to do so, it's important to juggle your time between creating new species and successfully running a fish shop to fund scientific research and improvements.
With only a small amount of pocket cash, a handful of common fish, and a bare-bones aquarium to begin with, growing your small start-up operation into a money-making venture is no easy feat. As is often the case in real life, keeping your fish alive and healthy seems to be a challenge in itself. Initially, your aquarium tank will only be able to support an environment suitable for common fish to thrive. Advance your breeding program too quickly and you won't be able to keep up with the research and technology improvements required to support more exotic species, leaving you with a tank full of dying fish. Your fish will also require regular feeding, occasional medicine doses for fungus and other illnesses, and occasional supervision. They start out small and can't be identified or bred until they mature to an age of 20. That's when it starts to get interesting.
Once you have a few fish which have matured beyond adolescence, you can finally get down to business. The breeding process if short and sweet: you stick the fish you want to impregnate in an isolation tank and then drag another fish you want to pair it with into the same tank. A smooching sound will signal the job is done and you can release both fish into the main tank. It takes awhile, but eventually you'll have tiny new baby fish swimming around. Each new fish takes on some traits from both of its parents. You can breed two of the same species of fish to mass produce a particular type for sale, or you can mix and match all manner of different kinds to end up with new hybrids. A combination of both is required since you'll need extra fish to sell and new species to cross breed. You can also drop in some mutation liquid to see what kind of crazy fish you turn up with.
Fish Tycoon runs in real time which means even when you turn off the DS your fish will continue to grow. This can be a double edged sword, however, since they still require food and monitoring. If left for too long unattended, they'll end up in the big fish tank in the sky, which means all of your hard work can easily be flushed down the toilet. Fortunately, the game has four speed settings. Time can be stopped completely to ensure you don't miss anything in-between gaming sessions. It's a must if you plan to take an extended leave of absence from your fish breeding business. For shorter breaks you can slow things down to half-speed, set it back to normal, or ramp it up to double speed if you get sick of waiting around for the fish to grow and spawn baby fish. Regularly adjusting the speed of the game is crucial, both for your success and to keep things moving along. Fish Tycoon is the type of game which plods along at a slow and meticulous pace. That's not a bad thing per-se as it makes it a perfect casual title. You'll want to boot it up every so often to check on your fish between longer sessions focused on managing your business. The problem is time often seems to pass too slowly while you're playing and too quickly when you're not. Don't be surprised to start up your game after you've left it for awhile only to find a bunch of dead, gray floaters.