Pop quiz: Name two major social gaming genres on Facebook. That’s right, virtual farming and virtual aquariums. They are everywhere, because, well, people enjoy them, but what about combining them? That’s just what the folks over at Meteor Games have done with an alpha version app we happened upon called Little Rock Pool. It takes all the elements that come with virtual aquariums, but as the name says, it’s not a fish tank, it’s a rock pool.
As a pool, this miniature virtual world takes place in the “wild” so-to-speak. There’s no algae to clean and no glass to tap, but there are fish. As was noted before, the game is just an alpha version, so there is a lot that has to be figured out via trial and error, but the basics of the game should be fairly familiar. Players buy fish, they grow to maturity and you sell them. However, based on what the game allows you to do with the initial fish it starts you with, they merely sparkle and clicking on them earns you some coin.
The fish are never removed, but there is a limited number of fish that can be at the pool at any time. For example, at level three there can only be six. Basically, think of them like trees in FarmVille; only they swim around and are more interesting to look at.
That said, the other element of the game could be best described as “underwater farming.” Aside from the fish, players are also able to buy crops such as Red Grass, Bananemones, or Sea Biscuits. This works just like planting seeds in a farming game, only you do not have to plow land, water (obviously), fertilize, and they don’t die. However, these too are limited based on level, so at level three, only four are allowed. Luckily, the rate at which plants are harvestable range from only a few minutes to a few hours, so that limit is rarely an issue.
Beyond fish and plants, Little Rock Pool also has the caretaking and decorative elements seen in aquarium games. As expected, fish need to be fed or they will die (though they can be revived) — if they haven’t eaten for an extended period of time, they have to “recover from starvation” before they start growing again (though a simple refresh on Internet Explorer made that go away). Furthermore, the pool can be decorated with objects such as rocks, coral, sea leaves, and other underwater goodies that do not affect the fish or plant limitations and allow for a little personalization.
Socially, the game comes with most of the standards, such as sending gifts to your friends and leaderboards. While seen all the time, these features still lose none of their effectiveness when it comes to sharing and competition. In addition to these, having friends become in-game neighbors also allows you to help each other out by collecting trash goods, unlock larger Rock Pools, and in a more underhanded mechanic, steal up to three items a day from each other, coaxing users to keep a close eye on their aquatic homestead. This last feature is huge with many users in Asia but we haven’t seen it become as big in other parts of the world.
Frankly, our look today is more of a preview than a review, so there isn’t too much that can be reasonably complained about. As it stands, the game is a very well done combination of two genres that have both proven most successful. Currently, the only real issue is that things don’t always save properly when you refresh the game, and it doesn’t look like plants and fish grow while the app is actually running. Of course, these are just alpha bugs, so they need to be taken with a grain of salt. Beyond this, nothing really uses the game’s virtual currency yet, Meteor Credits, save for one Jellyfish, and the overall selection of purchasable items feels a bit small. However, the currency does appear to be shared across both Little Rock Pool and Meteor Game’s other title, the tropical farming app, Island Paradise.
Nonetheless, Little Rock Pool does look like it is going to be pretty good once it’s finalized: The graphics and game play look nice, the concept is fun, and it combines strong elements of popular genres. What’s not to like? Also, despite it being so under the radar, the title accumulated a little over 400,000 monthly active users in about a week, and with a steady flow of cross-promoted users coming from, Island Paradise (roughly 6.8 million MAUs), it is possible that this app may do even better.