In the early '90s, when 16-bit color was something worth ogling, novelty screensavers were all the rage. People were even willing to pay for them, as well as install them onto their screens using any and all available media discs. Internet freeware has done much to marginalize commercial screensaver apps, at least on the PC. Aquarium Pets is essentially an interactive screensaver for your mobile phone, albeit a very intriguing and complex one.
While the game is broken into missions, many of these can be completed with no input whatsoever. If you're a fan of von Leibniz, however, and want to create for your fish the best of all possible worlds, you'll have to manage their population, foster genetic diversity, and keep the tank population at an acceptable level. Regardless (and sometimes in spite of) your gaming preferences, watching your fish fill and subdue their aquatic surroundings will bring you a feeling of parental accomplishment.
Each fish is classified by its observable phenotypes, of which there are four kinds: color, head, body, and tail. Through crossbreeding, it's possible to create literally millions of unique fish, each of which you'll likely never see a second time. The most genetically diverse of these will fetch you a tidy profit at the pet store, where you'll want to sell your fish to prevent overcrowding. You can, of course, also buy fish to supplement your stock.
The only way to affect your fish's movement is to tap on one of nine locations on the tank, thereby scattering the fish occupying that quadrant to adjacent ones. In this way, you can help your fish eat, mate, and steer clear of predatory creatures, like "Bruiser," a carnivorous tropical fish you take care of for a friend. He actually killed several of our fish as they were mating, which is not a classy move.
None of this gameplay is tremendously demanding, and that's kind of the point. Aquarium Pets lets you take your hands off the reins periodically so you can watch your brood proliferate and prosper. A full tank of fish will fill the screen, each one weaving through the others as if in some animated M.C. Escher tessellation.
You're not going to hear much sound outside of the congratulatory jingle between levels, which isn't so much to Aquarium Pets' detriment. The game is designed to sometimes serve as a screensaver for your LG VX7000, and these--ideally--do not make much noise.
Aquarium Pets is a great casual game, and it's one that's likely to be played a lot. Whether you're planning to furiously tap at the keys, endeavoring to breed a race of "superfish," or just letting your horde die naturally, you'll be likely to have a positive experience with this game. Tapping a tank won't hold your interest forever, but watching Gregor Mendel's famous genetic experiment applied to fish just may.