Koral is an absolutely sumptuous title, and the fact that it was created entirely at sea gives it a quirky, almost mystical draw that many indies lack. It’s design is incredibly well crafted, with an audio track that goes hand-in-hand with its fantastic design, making this one of the prettiest games I’ve played in a while.
But if you’re looking for thoughtful puzzles, look elsewhere. While it’s true, at its heart Koral is a puzzle title, the small tasks you complete on your journey only serve to push you from one area to the next, making this more of a deep sea walking simulator than a game. The player takes the form of the current and moves through underwater ecosystems, relighting coral to bring life back to the sea. While watching the world revive is gorgeous, it very rarely involves anything other than floating through water streams and collecting items to unlock the next path. It’s very simple, but can be frustrating, especially when Koral tries to add some challenge to the collecting mechanic by making you backtrack to recollect sprites to further your adventure.
I’m not really mad that Koral’s main quota isn’t its puzzle element, but because of how simple the puzzles are, I’d rather they be omitted completely. The gameplay elements are frankly, redundant, but it’s message and beauty are sublime. Throughout the ten chapter adventure you’ll experience a myriad of sea creatures, from tiny shoals to giant manta rays and whales. Many of these travel between the background and the front of the screen, making it incredibly immersive. The ecosystems are also super varied, with gorgeous coral reefs and enchanting jellyfish gardens. The low, pulsing beats of the audio track accompany the journey perfectly, making it a genuine visual pleasure.
It won’t take you long to get through Koral, but there’s some replayability to be had. There’s collectables spread throughout the map, many of which you need to hunt out in the luminous coral. Granted, this is purely for the completionists and they don’t do much to vary the gameplay, only issuing a small fact about the sea, but if you want to get lost again and again in Koral’s world, then hunting the secrets of the ocean gives you plenty of reason.
But something that Koral has set out to do outside of being a homage to the ocean is relay an important message about conservation. It’s done incredibly tastefully, and many of the things it highlights will be unknown information to most players. It’s a clever way of highlighting issues that are affecting our oceans, many of which we are responsible for, and even if it doesn’t make any direct difference, if it gets people talking then it’s a huge positive.
Koral is a stunning visual oceanic playground, if little else. It’s gorgeous, mesmerising beauty is compelling and rich, even if its gameplay is almost nonexistent. It’s conservation message is portrayed in a subtle and effective way, and the journey through this underwater is visually captivating, even if its overall, boring.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
User Review( votes)
Judging Koral is no easy feat. It’s an immersive underwater playground and its message is clear, but its gameplay muddies the water.