Review based on Steam version
|Publisher: Eat Create Sleep Studios
Developer: Eat Create Sleep Studios
Release Date: January 22nd, 2015
Among Ripples is a basic wildlife simulator. The ecosystem in this small pond once was able to take care of itself, but now isn’t able to. The only way for life to return is with your help. You control the amount of creatures in it, including fish, crawdads, and even an otter. You can’t go overboard initially though, as you are limited in having no more than five newborn species at a time. Once full grown or die off, you can throw more into the mix. You can also control the amount of air in the pond to help increase or decrease the levels of algae and other toxins within the water.
And that becomes the problem right there. It’s a cute idea at first, but the game has a few too many restrictions at play. There’s only five aquatic types you can spawn, and an otter. Other than the air variable and uncontrollable changes in the season that can impact the ecosystem, there’s nothing else to really work with. Unless you enjoy playing god over this small amount of underwater life, the novelty can wear relatively thin with what is present. Thankfully the developers do take what the community has to say into consideration, as shown by the recent update they implemented.
At the time of writing this, there has been an update that allows the game to run in the background, much like the recent successful application Mountain can. However, with how fast the life typically matures, dies, or is eaten, there’s very little reason to leave this program running if you are putting an effort into maintaining the environment while multi-tasking. In fact, in the time it took me to write that sentence, all but one of the fish I had in the pond died. And in writing that sentence, only two of the new ones I just hatched, along with the five clams I spawned, remain alive.
Another thing I noticed is that, while the point of Among Ripples is that the pond’s ecosystem can’t thrive without your help, isn’t necessarily true. After stepping away and letting all life die while preparing and eating dinner, I came back to find that the last remaining fish that survived was now joined by three others. Once in a while, a random fish will disappear entirely towards the bottom of the screen, but eventually, without my interference, another one or two of that species would spawn automatically. The pond hasn’t exactly thrive with new life, but it can still operate on its own, but does make you interested in leaving the application running over night to see what happened while you were asleep.
That said, the last thing going for Among Ripples, other than the nice hand painted visuals, ends up being the soundtrack. The ads (on Steam at least) claim it has an ambient score that changes with the seasons. After an hour of playing around with the pond and just letting it run in the background, the same loop of sombre folk music has not changed, regardless of the season I am currently facing other than getting a little louder, which is just the general progression of the music itself and not based on any other factor. As far as the ambience goes, there’s very little that ends up altered other than some chirping birds in the spring and summer.
In the end, Among Ripples doesn’t quite live up to what it could have been, but for a student project tis literal fish bowl in a pond stands as a good debut for Eat Create Sleep Studios. There are plenty of opportunities to include more species, have region-based creatures, or other detrimental and beneficial factors from the surroundings other than imminent death. Having a more realistic life span for the animals would be a nice touch as well, and not a death rate that is essentially three to four minutes in ninety percent of the spawned creatures. The good news is that the developers are listening to the community, and hopefully there will be more updates in the future, such as the most recent that included the background application function. If more is added down the line, there’s no doubt it’ll be a more engaging simulator. For now, it’s enjoyable for what it is, and a good way to unwind after a stressful day.