As someone that hails from the Bahamas, which is known for its diverse aquatic ecosystem, I’ve always been interested in ocean life. While that hasn’t led to me wanting to become a marine biologist or anything like that, I still have an acute appreciation for the ocean and its amazing features of creation. Fittingly enough, this is exactly what Koral is all about: drawing attention to the beauty of the ocean.
Unlocking the beauty below
If you’ve ever seen one of those Disney Nature movies, or just about anything from National Geographic, then you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Koral. You take the form of a “wave” of sorts, as you meander through the depths of various aquatic environments such as caves, coral reefs, and shipwrecks.
Navigating through each level is done completely by means of solving puzzles, which involve manipulating objects in the environment such as coral plants, sea flowers, and ocean currents. The way these are used is pretty creative. For instance, touching a coral plant will open a new path and will also shift the position of huge boulders. Another reoccurring puzzle mechanic is taking little bulbs of light generated from small volcanic shafts and using them to bring life back to dormant sea roses. This, in turn, brings life and color back to the surrounding area and also usually generates a new ocean current that can then be used to get past barriers.
Koral contains a total of 10 different chapters, each being a different environment. In total, it took me about two hours to get from start to finish. So, clearly, this isn’t a very long game at all. But it was a very pleasant experience from start to finish.
The game’s amazing art style is thanks to the power of Unreal Engine 4. The frame rate is smooth, which further adds to its pristine presentation.
The colors and lighting are extremely vivid, with many scenes popping like a neon party. Particle effects are abundant, and well-detailed models of fish and other marine animals like sea turtles, jellyfish, whales, and even sharks regularly lurk around between the background and foreground (though you never interact with them). Added to this is the instrumental piano-based soundtrack that dials in and out depending on the scene.
Sinking under the weight of guilt
All of this mixed together provides an interesting atmosphere: It’s both soothing and alluring, while also being ominous and unnerving all at the same time. Another reason why this is the case is due to the 32 hidden collectibles scattered throughout the levels. These collectibles are all little messages that mostly contain interesting facts about ocean life. However, a few of them also speak of the negative effects that man’s actions have had on the environment, such as over-fishing, coral bleaching, and reef blasting, which is also visualized in some of the levels. Having this mixture of beautiful environments bleeding with color and bleak ones that give off an uncomfortable vibe really hammer home the message of what Koral is trying to say: The oceans are amazing, but they’re in danger.
Thus, this is basically an interactive form of the many PSAs that have come out over the years about the importance of taking care of the environment. While some may see this as being too “preachy,” I think Koral‘s way of handling this is actually rather beautiful. It wraps up this message in a neat little puzzle game that exudes a lot of character and can be enjoyed by both skilled and novice gamers. Even though it’s not heavy on content, it’s a relaxing experience that you can embed yourself in for a while and get lost in the world below that, as the game points out, we really don’t know all that much about.
A review code was provided by the publisher.