Menu Close

Aquarist (PS4) Review

My guilty gaming pleasures tend to fall into three categories — cozy simulators that you can just turn your brain off and play, absurdly complex sims that test your will to live, and schlop thrown together to make a game that tricks people into thinking it’s a halfway decent game worth a couple bucks. To me, this is what the console version of Aquarist is. 

Aquarist, in its simplest form, is a simulator all about caring for sea creatures in an aquarium. You have to keep up with their hunger, the temperature of the container they’re in, the PH balance, etc. All the things that fish owners need to be aware of before going off to buy their first scaly friend. It’s a concept that I didn’t realize piqued my interest until this game popped up. 

The concept intrigued me and here I am reviewing the first game in a fair while for PSX Extreme. This game caught me off-guard, I knew the developer was known for — I’ll be polite — subpar games that seethe just shy of total asset flip cash-grabs. But, they wouldn’t send codes to an outlet with a game that is borderline unplayable, right? Surely not…

Of Course It’s Made In Unity

Texture-wise, nothing feels right, the character models look like beta builds and often clash with each other, the “child” character seen in the second level in the Campaign looks like a sized-down, poorly dressed “Hey there fellow kids” parent, and the overall layout of the game makes it hard to tell what you can and cannot step over.

Glub Glub

The gameplay combines the royalty feel cozy game soundtrack and feeling alongside the more hardcore simulator complexity, but it’s packaged so poorly that I couldn’t really catch myself sitting back and enjoying the sight of the fish swimming about the fish tank. The monotony, which I sometimes enjoy in these games, failed because of bad controller layout and sensitive default controls. 

Even when I changed things up, it still felt way too sensitive. It doesn’t help that it’s clear the developer didn’t take any time to modify the game to be more console friendly — you purchase stuff with a sluggish cursor that takes forever to move around as it has no snap to buttons, has to be very precise, and just brushing the touchpad throws the cursor to the corner of the screen, forcing you to move the cursor all over again. It also just stays on-screen sometimes even when you’re not on a buying menu. It’s weird.

It pains me to know this game is as subpar as it is because it has the ideas of a great game — it’s simple and it can be endless.

This Game Is About Fish Not Bugs

Bugs were all over my playthrough of what I could take of this game, these glitches ranged from small graphical imperfections to stuff that actually stopped from completing the game. 

Chief among the bugs was one that flat-out halted me from progressing at the start of the fourth level in the campaign. I picked a required item and it just disappeared. I went to where I had to thinking it was still in my inventory, but the required prompt just didn’t appear. I tried reloading the game at least five times and even tried a new playthrough, but nothing worked. 

The real moment I realized just how bad this game actually is on consoles was as early as level one. When cleaning your father’s fish tank, it gives a ton of tasks to complete, with some of them overlapping the menus to turn on the thermometer, filters, and all that. I had to basically complete tasks like dropping the fish in before even turning on the thermometer because the task menu overlapped that much.. I’m sure it’s better on PC in the most general sense, at least on that platform, its cursor might feel more at home. On PlayStation, though, it just doesn’t.

To top that off, in its second mode — Designer — the Main Menu button just flat out did not work nine times out of 10 This is the first game I’ve played that forced me to go onto the PlayStation dashboard and manually close the game. This isn’t a matter of a small issue, this was something that felt like they just didn’t test the game whatsoever.

Additionally, when I tried to turn on the filter in the tank, as I was trying to start things off with happy little fishes, Decoration mode just wouldn’t let that happen, no matter how hard I pressed the right button, it just kept doing nothing.

Bad Fish, Good Fish

The true beacon of hope for this game is Decoration mode, while it’s just as janky as the Campaign, it’s at least off-set by the “do this, do that” monotony of the story. I did have some fun designing the fish tank (especially after turning off the “Realistic” option). I went with a saltwater-based tank with an octopus, some jellyfish, and random fish that I thought looked cool.

It was nice to just sit back and drop some seaweed onto the bottom of the tank, resize rocks, and look over the roster of oceanic creatures at my disposal to drop in a fish tank to watch for my amusement.

Fishy Conclusion

If this were an early access game, I’d probably give it some leeway, but Aquarist isn’t in early access — it’s a full release on PlayStation that overcharges for the buggy mess that it is. It has the potential of being a fun guilty pleasure game, but it’s bogged down by the crazy bad bugs and game halting glitches. Even if it manages to fix the big stuff, it still leaves the unoptimized control scheme, sluggish cursor, and clashing graphics. This is the definition of sleeping with the fishes, something no one wants to do.

Ultimate Games
FreeMind Games
Release Date:
April 25, 2024
Final Rating:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x