Our oceans are a remarkable wonder, filled with life and splendor; much still unknown to humans. The Barrier Reef, among others, is some of nature’s most beautiful offerings to our planet Earth, and yet we are destroying these landmark regions that our underwater friends inhabit with each passing day. Koral for the Nintendo Switch gives us an opportunity to explore, learn, and maybe even change our path so we can preserve these beautiful wonders for generations to come.
At its core, Koral is a tranquil journey through the seas where you control a small current of water. This game is similar in play to games like Flower on the PlayStation family of systems where you controlled wind. This type of engagement creates a more pleasant and serene ‘walking simulator’ (as the term has been coined) so you can take a tour of the underwater kingdom. Your journey as the current is to revitalize underwater areas that have turned to shadow.
Your main gameplay objective is to move your stream of water to collect these underwater fissure points. Grabbing these and dropping them into certain plant structures will unlock new gated areas, as well as replenish the sea unveiling all of its color and magnificence. The game does make some lightweight puzzle challenges out of this collection mechanic, but there’s nothing too complex here that should stop any player for any length of time. Levels are constructed as side-scrolling affairs, but there’s a remarkable amount of parallax elements used to obscure and hide things like entryways, which sort of flows into the puzzle aspect of the game. It’s some of the cleverest use of this graphical feature I’ve seen in a game and kept the puzzle solving grounded and fun to unravel.
Movement of your current is fluid (pun intended) and easily accessible. In fact, the whole game is played with just one Joy-Con controller making it a truly accessible game. You’ll navigate through schools of fish, kelp beds, sea turtles, and much more in a visually stunning representation of various ocean aspects. There’s also special attention to making all of the corals gloriously vibrant, with neon colors saturating the screen, giving even more contrast against the deep blue ocean.
Koral tells a hard story, but a truthful one. Our oceans are in immediate danger thanks to several issues, including climate change and destructive fishing practices. Your journey through the sea will take you across ten chapters, and I emphasize the word chapters here, since although they are still ‘levels’ that you must progress through and reach an end, there’s an entirely more grounded and humbling journey that you will experience along the way to completing your goals. Within each chapter, you’ll encounter spots that have a sparkle to them, which when your current passes over, will display a new story element. Koral finds a balance in representing these truths with an artistic format from within the level itself.
One of the most inspiring and impactful moments for me was early on in the game being submersed in stunning corals, fish schools, and whales mulling about, but then I came to an area that boats were dynamite fishing, completely eradicating the sea floor of all life. It was this transition point from flowing through the beauty of a coral reef into the rocky, upheaved sea floor devoid of anything. Accompanying that scene of destruction was text explaining that an estimated 55% of our world’s reefs are threatened by destructive fishing tactics – something I had no idea existed and this type of wake up call set the tone for the rest of the game.
Will this game change the face of our current dire ecological problems? Of course not, but if it raises even the smallest amount of awareness to anyone who plays the game, then there’s hope that maybe something could change. Koral does a fine job of creating a 2D exploratory experience that is accompanied with stunning visuals, and a simplistic ‘walking sim’ gameplay element. These games are often not for everyone, and so take care to understand what you’re getting into beforehand. You won’t be battling sea creatures or unlocking Atlantis via extraordinarily hard puzzle mechanics, but you’ll learn some facts about the current state of our oceans and enjoy flowing around the beautiful environments.
- Graphics - 7/107/10
- Sound - 7/107/10
- Gameplay - 5/105/10
- Lasting Appeal - 4/104/10
Final Thoughts: WORTH CONSIDERING
Koral brings us on a journey to better understand the destructive nature of certain fishing practices, climate change, and more. The journey is a gorgeous, but humbling one. Highly accessible controls let you control the current of the ocean to solve lightweight puzzles and revitalize the ocean. With 10 chapters to explore, there’s a reasonable amount of content, but it won’t have much in the way of replayability once you’re done, although it’s still a worthwhile journey to embark on.
Alex has been actively gaming since the release of the Nintendo. Turning passion into profession, he’s spent just over a decade in game development, and is currently the Creative Director at a studio.