Laziness is contagious. There is nothing like seeing a guy lounging on a sofa, curled up eating his tortilla chips of choice, to make you think that his way of life is one you should also aspire to. Where are his ties, his responsibilities? If only your life was a simple as only having to get up for more food and figuring out which hole you were going to scratch next. However, your life is not simple. It is busy. It is a cavalcade of duty and discipline and the things you want to enjoy; the things that will make you relax start to become nothing but ideas of taking drugs and possibly death. Everything else is heartache to your need to lick crisp flavoring from your fingertips. Of course there are some people out there who have made it their business to know this. To know that what you really want in your life is cheap alternatives to stressful situations. The man who builds his fire from sticks and stones hands you a DVD to watch it at home. And you watch and become delighted but the problem is that the only thing that’ll end up comforting you in the cold dead light of the virtual fire is the headache from looking at it too long.
If you have seen this ‘Virtual’ decadence then you’ll know there is not much to it. It is that press and play feeling followed by little to no satisfaction. The joy of fire comes from starting it, controlling it, not checking out the bonus features on a Blu-ray. The same goes for Aquariums and indeed My Aquarium on the PSN and My Aquarium 2 available on Wii Ware.
Essentially both the same title but one in HD and the other not, this ‘Lazecore’ ‘gaming’ is the kind of annoyance that makes any man so perplexed he has to use two words in speech marks twice in a row. Developed by Hudson and filed under ‘relaxation’ both the My Aquarium titles aim to make you do as little as possible. Indeed they are not really games at all.
As you are lead to believe, the aim of the title is to replicate the placating experience that comes from watching fish take part in their daily lives, and wonder at their weird shaped poo. Both MA and MA2 start with a blank aquarium and several options on how you are going to design your new fishy habitat. The choice is admirable as well, even on the Wii edition, there are plenty of backgrounds, lighting colours, ornaments and also several different types of gravel such as small grey gravel and big grey gravel. Though creating the environment might bring a little bit of variety there is no shirking the feeling that your tank is missing something and this pomp and ceremony is covering up the real stars of the show, the fish.
If you are digging up the relatively small cost to buy this title then it is for the relaxation and pleasant swish swosh motion of the variety of aqua marine life that you are wanting to experience, and MA and MA2 deliver. There is tons of life to choose from when deciding what is going to grace your tank with life. Whether you want to relax to the beating wings of a Manta Ray or the scuttling of a Crab is up to you. Regular fish of all types also make an appearance and even though on the PS3 the fish look better, on the Wii their animations and design are about the best you could attempt to get at the price, but the Wii does make the view of the tank look odd; at times it is like you’re viewing it from three feet away whereas the T.V is meant to represent the glass walls of the aquarium.
Each fish is animated subtly to show difference in its size, speed and nature, and this makes watching the fish somewhat amusing. Also you can zoom in on your favorite fish and learn a little bit about them, though most of the lessons express what their normal habitat would be and I just started to feel cruel that my crab wasn’t enjoying depths of 1000 meters. This guilt will soon fade with a bang on the glass with a push of R3 or a waggle of the Wii mote and suddenly you realize that between this and feeding them from time to time, it is the only interaction you’ll have. But even feeding them becomes a pursuit to ignore as this supposed vital necessity is not a regular thing you have to keep up as neither MA or it’s sequel on the Wii is a life-force that needs taking care of.
Leave these games for months on end and you won’t be faced with floating cat food or the need to clean the bowl. Instead when you return the fish will still be jollying themselves in their dirty poo-like water.
So other than designing and placing your fish in your aquarium, there is really nothing left to do, other than turn off most of the sound effects and music in both titles. I agree that there is nothing more relaxing than watching the time go by whilst gentling having something twinkle against the ears. However, in both of Hudson’s attempts to pipe in classical music it all just sounds like an irritated ten year old blowing on a clarinet. The images never seem to match the sound and I would have rather had the hum of the tank and some water noises to listen to then the repeating shrill of classic renditions.
There are things to unlock in both titles and the fact that MA unlocks new fish just for playing the game again shows how little faith Hudson have in people actually returning. MA2 on the Wii plays things a little safer with more options unlocked through their Play and Pay system, but you begin to wonder if you really need any more fish.
You can design up to eight different tanks, but even setting up a second one led me to concoct plans that totally missed the audience Hudson were aiming for. I started filling tanks with Piranha’s and one tiny Clown Fish and watched to see how long it would last. Though because hunger and natural instinct seems to play little part in the game design I was waiting a good long while before the big fight really kicked off. On the other hand though, I am now reliably informed that fish on fish eating does take place.
I found it hard to connect with the life inside the bowl, because it didn’t feel like it was dependant on me. I clicked it into life, and that was it, besides that it seemed fine without me. Even my incessant banging on the glass seemed to be ignored after a while and I get the feeling that even this game is purposefully made to be put on in the background and enjoyed as a screensaver.
I admit that I would have enjoyed an aquarium sim rather than this aquarium replica and Hudson on some part have triumphed in terms of making a title that works. It never attempts anything too audacious, it won’t surprise or make you sit up and wonder, however it might just relax you with its simple viewing and assured animation, and for a cheap price you can watch worse things whilst digging around in a cheesy hole of crisps.
MLG Rating: 5/10
Platform: PSN/WiiWare Release Date: 15/09/2010 & 10/09/2010
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a digital copy of My Aquarium and My Aquarium 2 for review purposes by the promoter. The titles were reviewed over the course of four days on a PS3 and Wii respectively. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here