Well I’m in that post-school, pre-summer job phase of life right now, by which I mean my cash flow is almost zero (there is, of course, always the five bucks I garner here and there for offering sexual favors to passing sailors). That being said, I haven’t purchased any new games recently, and it thus seemed time for another foray into the fantastic field of Flash-game fun (By the way, that just cost me two skill points in alliteration creation… and one in rhyming). Again trying to establish some continuity to my reviews, I decided to head over and try some of Popcap’s esteemed games. Thus, my reviews are limited to the one hour trial demo popcap.com offers, and I will offer along with the review my opinion on whether or not the games are worth shelling out the 20 bucks needed for the full version. And now, on with the show.
Despite the corny name (Popcap developers should obviously leave the wordplay to me), Insaniquarium is a solid game. Insaniquarium is a sim game that revolves around, you guessed it, an aquarium. Each level starts you off with two guppies in your aquarium, and your only option is to drop one food pellet at a time into the aquarium to feed them. As they grow, your guppies will begin dropping money, which can be used to purchase food quality and quantity upgrades, as well as more fish.
The goal of each level is to earn enough money to purchase three pieces of an egg. This egg then hatches into a pet that will be in your next aquarium (limit of three pets at a time). Each pet has a unique ability that helps you in the level. The heart of the game lies in the various mechanisms that will help or obstruct your moneymaking–they are both inventive and addictive. Besides the basic guppy, the game offers a variety of other fish that produce much more money but require more precise handling.
One example is a meat eating fish that needs a constant stream of baby guppies in order to satiate its ravenous appetite; another fish requires a special star food that guppies, once augmented by a potion, will drop. Also adding to the insanity are the alien invaders that you will have to dispatch with your (upgradeable) laser gun. Graphics are on par with any of the high end flashgames that typically cost money. Unfortunately, the sound in the game is sadly lacking, relying mostly on air bubbles and jingling noises.
Ultimately, the game is very fun for a few hours, but I can’t recommend buying it for a couple of reasons. First, though the gameplay is addictive, the lack of a scoring system in the regular mode leaves little replay value. Even though they throw in a time attack and challenge mode (where you fend off a constant supply of aliens), this is not enough to warrant purchasing the game. Second, there is a slightly rougher web version of the game that is free to play and has enough content to exhaust the average player’s interest in Insaniquarium.
Feeding Frenzy 1 and 2:
Based on the apparent success of Insaniquarium, the guys over at Popcap apparently sat down and thought to themselves “what, if anything, could be better than a game where you raise fish?”
The obvious answer, of course, is a game where you are a fish and your only goal is to devour a surrounding ocean of other cute, cuddly, edible fish. Each level is populated by types of fish, one small, one medium, one large. You use the mouse to navigate the waters, initially only able to eat the smallest of the fish. As you eat them, you will grow, eventually being able to eat the medium, and ultimately the large, fish in the stage. Once you fill up the growth bar in the upper left corner, the stage ends. As you continue in the game, you will change fish, slowly moving up the food chain.
The game offers other obstacles, like stunning jellyfish and mines, and a variety of powerups (shields to protect you from predators, or a speed boost that helps you catch fish). It is in this respect that the second game is clearly superior to the first. Other than that, both feeding frenzies offer comparable graphics to Insaniquarium and other Popcap games, and both feature a much nicer, mellow soundtrack. These games also feature a scoring system that encourages you to eat fish as quickly as possible, earning you different levels of “feeding frenzies” that multiply the points you get for each fish. The scoring system adds significant incentive to replay the levels, greatly adding to the game’s replay.
In terms of purchasing the game, I recommend first demoing Feeding Frenzy 2, then the original Feeding Frenzy. I did this, and because I was used to the game mechanics, I was actually able to play through the entire story mode of Feeding Frenzy 1 in the 60 minutes. Obviously, for this reason alone I recommend against buying the original. The sequel is worth picking up if you like the fast paced action it offers and have enough excess cash. It needn’t be said that you aren’t going to get the same bang for your buck you’d get from spending the money on a game for the DS or PSP, but if you don’t have those consoles, or you need something to distract you on a day to day basis, Feeding Frenzy 2 would be a good investment.