Aquazone Seven Seas Deluxe, by Allume
Posted: 16-Mar-2007

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Allume Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Mario Hendricks Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
Aquazone Seven Seas Deluxe is an interactive virtual aquarium and screen saver utility for the Macintosh. The software features a variety of aquarium tanks and highly-realistic fish, and allows the user to interact with the aquarium. When run interactively, the software allows the user to feed the fish and watch them eat, to tap on the glass and watch as they react, or follow a favorite fish with a close-up "fish-cam".

Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.3 or newer
  • PowerPC G4 or better
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • 100 MB of available hard disk space


Price
Aquazone Seven Seas Deluxe retails for $24.99. The Bass Expansion set goes for $19.99, and the "Fun Stuff" pack goes for $9.99.

Setup
Installation of the software on the Mac is very straightforward. The software is distributed as a disk image; you open the disk image, double click on the installer, and a couple of minutes and a few clicks later, the software is installed on your computer. The Installer adds the Aquazone application to the Applications folder and adds the "Aquazone VE" screen saver to the list of screen savers available in the Mac's Screen Saver preference pane.

By default, the virtual aquarium is configured with a fish tank that includes 2 Anemonefish and 2 clown fish. However, the software excels in its ability to allow you to select your own combination of fish and tank elements. The fish and tank settings are selected using the Aquazone application (separate from the Screensaver Preferences Panel). The screen saver uses the settings made in the application. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to open the application from the Mac's Screen Saver preference pane, you need to manually find the application and run it.

In Use
The Aquazone Tools dialog box allow wide range of options for your virtual aquarium. You can select from among 21 different types of aquariums and populate your aquariums with a mix of 23 different types of fish, jelly fish, sharks and other sea creatures. If you want to add additional species of fish, you can purchase even more fish on the Allume web site.


Aquazone Settings Application


There is a nice selection of fish to choose from in the Seven Seas Deluxe package.



Fish that come with Sevens Seas Deluxe

You can expand upon the available aquarium creatures by purchasing expansion packs. For this review, we checked out the Bass Edition, which adds Black Bass, Bluegill, Rainbow Trout, Snakehead and Baitfish to your virtual lake. We also checked out the "Fun Stuff" expansion, which includes a Mini Submarine, Deep Sea Diver, UFO, Astronaut, Spinning Star, and five additional tanks. The web site for the expansion packs was a little confusing, since a number of the listed expansion sets were already included with Seven Seas Deluxe (such as the Gold Fish, Jellyfish, and Turtles). An unsuspecting user may end up purchasing an expansion that was already received with Seven Seas Deluxe.


Fresh Water Aquarium with an added Submarine

To setup your personal aquarium, you start by selecting the type of aquarium from the list at the top of the window. When you select a item from the list, a snapshot of the aquarium appears to the right of the list. You then select a fish species to populate the aquarium and select the number of that species to add to your aquarium. Some fish are too large for certain aquariums, the software will alert you if you attempt to add a fish that is too large. Likewise, only salt water fish are allowed in salt water aquariums "S", and fresh water fish allowed in fresh water aquariums "F". In fresh water, you have access to the Angel Fish, Bass, NeonTetra, Bluegill, and other fresh water fish. In salt water, you have access to the Surgeonfish, Jellyfish, Sunfish, Sea Turtles, Sharks, and other salt water fish. Some fish, as well as the "Fun Stuff" objects, can be included in either tank.

By default, the virtual aquarium mimics the sounds of a real-life aquarium with a continuous bubbling sound. However, the Aquazone preferences provides an option to alter and/or mute the sound. I found that the sound became distracting after a while, so I was glad to see the mute option. Customized lighting effects are available for emulating night and day, including shadows from the water's surface. You can even change the background picture to any image from your hard disk.


Customizing the Aquazone Background Image

As a screen saver, Aquazone runs automatically after your computer is idle for the number of minutes specified in the Mac's Screen Saver preferences pane. The Aquazone application does not need to be running for the screen saver to function. In screen saver mode, the aquarium is displayed with animated fish, and sound if not muted, but does not allow you to interact with the fish. Moving the mouse or pressing a key on the keyboard will interrupt the screen saver and return the screen to its previous state.


Choosing the Aquazone Screen Saver

Running the Aquazone application allows you to not only enjoy your virtual aquarium, but it also allows you to interact with the fish. The application is fairly simple: it displays the aquarium with the active settings, it allows the user to open the Tools dialog box to change settings, and it allows you to resize the aquarium window (resizing only affects the aquarium in the application, not in the screensaver).

Right clicking within the aquarium window displays five circular icons that allow interactions with the aquarium. Right clicking a second time removes the icons. Dragging the arrow to the left of the icons move them around the screen.


Onscreen Option Buttons

The first icon represents a can of fish food. Click on this icon and then click the mouse, and a piece of fish food falls gently into the tank. Depending on the mood of the fish, they will eventually find the food and eat it.

The second icon allows you to toggle between running in full screen mode and running within a window. Alternately, you can press the tab key to switch between modes.

The third icon opens the Tools dialog box to allow you to change the aquarium settings (to add or remove fish or adjust sound or lighting effects, for example).

The fourth icon is a magnifying glass. After selecting this icon, click on the fish of your choice and the screen zooms in on the fish and automatically follows the fish as it swims around the tank (a virtual "Fish Cam"). Click again and the view returns to the standard zoom.

The fifth icon quits the Aquazone application. You can also quit by pressing the Escape key.

Hot keys are also available to turn the aquarium lights on or off, feed the fish, or display graphics and frame-rate information. Unfortunately, the function of each of the icons is not always obvious, and no textual hints as to the function of the icons appear when you hover your mouse over the icon. However, there's only a few buttons, and clicking on them provides an instant reminder of what they do.

Aquazone renders the virtual aquarium beautifully and in brilliant colors. The tank environments appeared slightly fuzzy on larger monitors (I tested this on a 20 inch Apple Cinema Display), but the fish are rendered in outstanding detail. Their behavior feels natural, and sometimes unexpected. For instance, if you mix some of the smaller fish with fish that eat smaller fish, you'll soon find that your aquarium has less fish in it over time. These bigger fish will swallow up the smaller ones, often when you don't expect it. This makes for an interesting and natural environment.


Beautifully Rendered Fish with Rich Details

The number of fish that can live in your virtual aquarium is limited only by your Mac's processing power (and graphics card). On my Mac Mini (G4) I was able to easily host a school of 16 sardines and 6 other fish; which was more than enough fish for me. While this might be a real limitation on older Macs, it wasn't a concern for me.

I encountered only one oddity with Aquazone: when I launched the application, it briefly displayed a black screen with a series of vertical bars that showed portions of my aquarium for several second before finally displaying the full aquarium. On my iMac (17" G4), the application was slow to switch to full screen mode, but after switching it performed normally. There is usually a long lag during the time Aquazone is loading the aquarium (both as a screen saver and within the application), but the tanks run pretty smoothly once loaded.

Summary
Aquazone Seven Seas Deluxe is a virtual aquarium that provides a visually appealing screen saver and the fun of an interactive fish tank. The interactive application provided loads of fun for my 3-year old son, who enjoyed feeding the fish and watching them respond as he "tapped" on the glass. I enjoyed the brilliant colors of the fish as they swam around on my monitor. It includes a nice variety of both fresh water and salt water fish and tanks, and expansion packs are available to add even more variety. There is room for improvements, such as text hints for the action buttons, and a direct link from the screen saver panel to the application, and those with slower machines need to be aware that this is a graphics intensive program. Overall, Seven Seas Deluxe is a really nice addition to the Mac, finally providing Mac users with a realistic virtual fish aquarium that has long been missing from the Mac. If you like the idea of your Mac reverting to a virtual live fish aquarium when it's not in use, you'll really like Seven Seas Deluxe.

Pros

  • Beautifully rendered fish and tank elements
  • Supports large numbers of fish
  • Simple installation
  • Fish cam
  • Simulated fish behavior


Cons

  • Not direct access to modify settings from the Mac's Screen Saver Preference Pane
  • Loading aquarium is slow
  • No text hints for action icons
  • Graphics processing intensive


Overall Rating

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice