reviews\ May 8, 2002 at 8:00 pm

The Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys - PC - Review

I never forgave my sister for accidentally killing my whole (tiny) tank of pet Sea Monkeys when I was 14. Sea Monkeys? You know, the little creatures advertised in the back of comic books that look like royalty from some far away aqua-land? The things that go from powder to living beings before your disbelieving eyes? Well, if you know what I am talking about, and miss those days, there is a safer way to relive that experience. Thanks to XICAT's "Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys". 

This is a bit different from a "Sims" type game, but the premise is the same. Create a world and keep the inhabitants happy and prosperous. In real life, you are provided a small plastic tank that may, or may not, have some decor to place inside. In the PC version, the worlds are quite brilliant visually, which adds to the experience. You start with a virtual tank/world that must be populated. Select your virtual packet of dried "Sea Monkey" eggs (in reality, they are a species of shrimp) and shake them out into the water. Add some nutrients and voila-- LIFE!! 

Your creatures will begin to grow and you must keep them fed, played with and happy. Just like any pet you may have in the real world. Interaction is the key. They can be tickled, given games to play, and other methods to keep them thriving. You have several in your tank, so it becomes a juggling act to provide for their various needs. Knowing when to feed them is crucial. Over-feeding will make your environment unhealthy, which hurts your pets. 

Your supplies are not free, either. You must earn "money" in order to buy them things they need. You are financially rewarded for good work and accomplishments within your water world. 

Aside from the initial fun and nostalgia of the game, I soon found myself aggravated and bored with the my virtual world. There is no manual. You must go online for that, which I never think is a good idea. It assumes everyone has the time and resources to obtain the manual in that manner. It is not convenient. I also had problems with the interaction. I think my Sea Monkeys must have been inbred, as they were quite "slow" and dumb. Again, frustrating and subtracted from the enjoyment of the game. 

Very pretty, and somewhat fun to play, but it was not something that grew on me and kept my attention like other simulation games. In the future, I will stick with the real thing. Now that my sister is not nearby to torment my pets, I will get the real deal and wonder in the miracle of hatching life from dry powder. 

Gameplay: 6
Fun and exciting to start with, but soon became more work than fun. It did not have the addictive qualities I like in a sim-esque game. 

Graphics: 8
Very nice backgrounds and worlds. Great color and depth. Like having a high-dollar aquarium in your monitor.

Sound: 7.5
 The sounds are OK. There is room for a better audio environment to match the splendid visuals.  

Difficulty: Medium
The game would be much easier if the manual was available on the CD. There isn't even a "cheat sheet" or any help on the jewel case insert. A lot of it was just trial and error, which takes away from really playing the game intensely. 

Concept: 7 
It is great to have a childhood favorite available on the PC, but as it's core, it is just a simulation game like many (better) others. 

Overall: 7
The game can be fun if you're willing to devote a lot of time to getting the manual online, and watching a zillion little creatures swim about for hours. There is a feeling of accomplishment each time you are rewarded with "loot" to buy what they need, but otherwise the game is not very fulfilling.


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