Back in the heyday of the WiiWare service, an application titled My Aquarium was made available to all Wii owners through the digital distribution platform. It was so well received — as is evidenced by our review — that a second version was soon developed, appropriately and unsurprisingly titled My Aquarium 2. Now, some four years later, the demand for an aquarium simulator is apparently high once again, resulting in a brand new app making its way to the DSiWare shop — My Aquarium: Seven Oceans.
It needs to be said that My Aquarium is not a video game. It shares elements with video games, such as interactivity and being housed on a Nintendo console, but to refer to this as a "game" would be giving it too much credit. At most, My Aquarium is a fish tank simulator with game-like elements attached. Just like you would with a real fish tank, when not cleaning the bowl or feeding its inhabitants, all you can really do with My Aquarium is look at it and ask yourself why you spent your hard-earned money on it.
The easiest way to describe My Aquarium is to say that it's a fish tank that isn't accompanied by the regret and sorrow that comes with losing your pet to neglect. The app uses your DSi's internal clock, meaning that your fish get hungry and your tank gets dirty in real time, necessitating you to be a vigilant pet owner. Just like with a real fish tank, you can’t just set it and forget it. Feeding fish and cleaning the tank are simple enough tasks, all performed with a tap or swipe of the DSi's touchscreen; sustaining your tank does not require the same amount of effort that maintaining a tank would in real life, and we're happy to say that this one also comes without the smell.
You have five different tanks at your disposal, all of which can be filled with up to 10 different fish that require a variety of food, tank settings, and environments in which to thrive. You can customize your tanks’ layouts with different ornaments to make your fish feel more comfortable and to give yourself something else to look at, or you can choose to skip this step completely because, well, why not? As your collection of fish grows, more information will be added to your Species Database, letting you know what conditions each breed requires to live and what foods they will eat. There is no currency system in place, so filling your tank with as many fake rocks and clownfish that will inevitably die comes with absolutely no penalty.
The only remotely interactive — unless you include staring — aspect of My Aquarium is the process of adding new water-dwelling creatures to your collection. Rather than simply gifting new fish to you as a reward for maintaining a clean tank and not killing its inhabitants, Seven Oceans incorporates a fishing minigame. It's this point at which it becomes apparent that the title makes no sense at all. You have the option of selecting one of five different fishing locations from a map, each with their own unique creatures living in the deep. There are not seven locations, as the title would imply, and the five locations don’t actually represent the world’s oceans, just places where there happens to be water.
The actual gameplay here involves little more than tapping your console's touchscreen to drop your line and then drawing circles on it to reel your prey back in. The minigame only last about 10 seconds before it's over, at which point you must choose to either place your fish in a tank or set it free. Catching fish does well in keeping with the theme of being relaxing and requiring minimal effort, but that also means that it's not very satisfying or even fun. The fishing is just there, not doing much at all to enhance the overall experience.
As an application that is based almost entirely around being stared at, it's a real shame that My Aquarium: Seven Oceans doesn't look better. The character models of each separate fish are detailed and look nice when viewed individually, but the tank itself looks pixelated and grainy. Fish appear so small on the DSi's screen that it's often difficult to tell which type of creature you're staring at; sometimes it's impossible to even differentiate your sea creatures from the decorative pieces adorning your tank. The soundtrack is also minimal, but this effectively fits the relaxation theme that the rest of the program attempts to create.
My Aquarium: Seven Oceans exists solely to be stared at as a form of meditative relaxation. It’s not particularly fun or pretty, but if you’re looking for a DSiWare application that fits a very specific role of emulating a fish tank, then you’ve found it. That being said, it’s also quite possible that you already scratched this itch two months ago when Collavier Corporation released Deep Sea Creatures – a DSiWare title that does almost the exact same thing but instead features a pretty awesome submarine.