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The Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Xicat
Developer: Creature Labs
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

The Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys is not intended to be a 3D graphical thrill-ride. As such, it makes use of prerendered backgrounds--the tank in which your Sea-Monkeys live--and prerendered sprites for the monkeys, fish, and the like. The look is quite befitting the 'virtual pet' theme, and the lack of polygons means that more visual detail can be put in the game and still have the system requirements fairly low. Since this is a title geared towards the young ones, this is a good idea. Development houses have been known to make graphics interminably cheesy to cut costs in games, but this isn't a case of that; Creature Labs has done a good job of rendering the Sea-Monkeys in their virtual tank. The young ones may be hard to differentiate because of their diminutive size, but that's mostly intentional.

The game's music, on the other hand, is probably best turned off. It's fairly jarring the first time through, and since this is one of those games that it is intended to be kept running for hours as you tend to the virtual lifeforms, you'll find it getting more jarring as the game progresses. The sound effects, on the other hand, are simple but effective, with giggles and goofy chortles and even singing. Er. It's nothing spectacular, but it'll entertain the kiddies nonetheless.


Almost every kids' game that I've ever played suffers from the same delusion: because the target audience is young, you can give them crap and they won't mind. Thankfully, The Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys has come along and shown that you don't have to make a game stupid to gear it to kids. Yes, this is more of a virtual experiment than it is a game, but there are challenges nonetheless, and they're the sort that kids will undoubtedly get a kick out of dealing with, especially young girls.

The concept of The Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys should be pretty much self-evident from the title. Instead of the brine shrimp that we have in the non-virtual world, the game sports computer versions of the family we've always seen on the advertisements and the cartoon. They're, admittedly, much cuter than brine shrimp, and they can certainly do more things. The 'game,' as it is, centers around you keeping them alive and happy, by a variety of methods.

For example, when you first empty the 'Instant Life' packet into the water, you'll find the tiny little Sea-Monkeys tooling around almost instantly. There are a number of clam shells around the part of the tank that you start in, and they get pearls inside of them. Sending the monkeys over to the pearls nets you points, which you can use to buy things to populate the tank with.

The things that you can buy are varied. You can get seaweed to oxygenate the water; you can get fish to tool around, look pretty, and even interact with each other; you can buy aerators, food, and even houses that the Sea-Monkeys can live in and, er, have babies in as well.

While the game starts you off in a small section of the tank, it will soon open up into a much larger arena. The Sea-Monkeys happily amble around in the tank, picking up pearls--using snails to attract them is key to getting the pearls--and just messing around. You can buy all sorts of crazy stuff, like karaoke machines and a ball to play water polo with, and the Sea-Monkeys interact with them.

Of course, each Sea-Monkey is different. They may like different things, different areas and so on. They also have a large number of attributes to deal with, from their health to the amount of pollutants in their system, their oxygen levels, and whether or not they are sick. They can get cold, hot, hungry, ill, and even die of old age. They can even mate, if there is somewhere private that they can go to . . . eh. It's a vastly simplified version of real life, but it's well-done nonetheless. This should come as no surprise--Creature Labs is the company who made the Creatures games.

If the game suffers, it's because of the necessary waiting time. Getting them to get the pearls, micromanaging them, waiting for them to grow up, waiting to get enough pearls to buy the interesting stuff--it can be somewhat frustrating. But kids will undoubtedly have fun just looking around, and if all of the Monkeys die off in the tank you can always get more, or start a new tank.


The difficulty level of the game isn't really measurable, as there are no real goals to the game. You can sit there and micromanage your Sea-Monkeys constantly, making sure that they're in perfect condition, buying them every nifty gadget possible to keep things going right, and so on. Or you can let the ecosystem mostly take care of itself, only intervening when absolutely necessary. It's up to you as to which strategy you take, so the game can be as 'easy' or as 'difficult' as you so desire.

Game Mechanics:

Sea-Monkeys is strictly controlled by the mouse. You can purchase various objects to put into the environment, tickle or slap the Sea-Monkeys, and even pick them up and examine them closely. The controls are intuitive, and anyone should be able to pick them up. The dynamics of the game may not be quite so easy to gather--getting it started is easy, but understanding all of the buttons and the like is something else. The instruction book is downloadable from Xicat's webpage, but I'm rather lost as to why it's not in the box or at least on the CD, as some of the controls (especially the disease ones) are rather confusing without it. Load times are minimal at worst, and nonexistent usually, and the addition of a screensaver that has its own virtual Sea-Monkeys is nice.

It may be a touch too user-unfriendly for kids--a printed manual would have helped, along with a real tutorial to get people started--but The Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys is a game for the younger ageset done right. There's a lot to do, a lot to see, and it's fun just watching the little guys and girls tooling around in the water having a good time. It may even be a good segue into discussing the particulars of life, death and rebirth in the real world, which is always a nice thing to have. It won't blow any minds, but The Amazing Virtual Sea-Monkeys is an entertaining little piece of software, reasonably-priced, and one of the few games that I can say does the younger age bracket right.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

Win9x/Me/XP/2K, P 233, 32MB RAM, 150MB HD space, 2x CD-ROM

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Rune: Halls of Valhalla Windows Serious Sam

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated