Koral
Gameplay 6
Graphics 8
Sound 7

Koral is a short puzzle game set in tranquil underwater environments. As a love letter to the ocean, it highlights the beauty and diversity of life underneath the sea while telling an important message about the destruction being wrought by humanity. While fun to play, the game is concise, and even with some variation in the puzzles, some parts can feel a little tedious. However, players who can overlook these flaws will find a game that was clearly a labor of love.

Gameplay: Koral features some mild puzzle solving and is relaxing for the most part, but the timed elements might annoy casual players.

Graphics: 3D models for the aquatic life and parallax for the fore and background elements make for a good-looking game.

Sound: The music is calm most of the time but isn’t afraid to tug on your heartstrings with some emotional orchestral swells in some spots

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Koral

Developer: Carlos Coronado | Publisher: Carlos Coronado | Release Date: 2019 | Genre: Casual / Simulation / Indie | Website: N/A | Purchase: Steam

Did you know that over 55% of the world’s reefs are threatened by destructive fishing? Or that there are about 500 dead zones in the ocean created by pollution? Neither did we, but after playing Koral, we know these and other sobering facts about the ocean. The developer of Koral, Carlos Coronado, describes it as a love letter to the ocean, and since he made the game on a boat in a marine reserve, we are inclined to believe him. However, there’s more to this brief indie game than just reminders about how terrible humanity is for the environment.

In Koral, players take control of a sea current and are tasked with bringing coral reefs back to life. This can be done by collecting the healing energy of other aquatic plant life and then transporting it to where it’s needed. It is a non-violent game with light puzzle elements that can be completed in less than three hours but with a message that will stay with players for much longer.

Although it uses Unreal Engine 4, Koral keeps all the action on a 2D plane as players maneuver their small sea current around the beautiful environments. Coronado has used UE4 Marketplace Character Packs for the ocean environments, fish animals, and other underwater life seen in the game. The results are impressive as shadowy shapes swim about in the background until players heal the area, revealing the lifeforms in their full splendor.

Koral makes good use of parallax effects as well as some shiny particle effects and bloom to spice up the visuals. Unfortunately, the foreground visuals can sometimes obscure the view. Some areas are also beautiful, while others feel more barren. However, this is to be expected in a game that draws attention to the damage being done to the ocean by destructive fishing and other eco disasters. The game starts in a healthy reef before moving through caves, shipwrecks, and the deep. In total, there are fifteen different sea ecosystems for players to experience in their journey.

As expected for a game set entirely underwater, the music in Koral is suitably mellow and low-key. However, some nice orchestral swells kick in whenever something dramatic happens onscreen. Sound effects are decent for the most part, apart from one or two that can be a little grating. Unfortunately, the game does not feature voice acting and instead uses text boxes for the ocean facts. These are scattered about as glowing orbs that count as collectibles. Tracking them down isn’t too hard, and players can replay previous chapters, but getting all 32 of them does pad out the playtime a little bit.

The controls in Koral are very straightforward, and the game can be played with either a gamepad or a keyboard. The only thing players can control directly is the direction in which to move their sea current. Each area is gated by pollution barriers that halt progress until players solve all the puzzles needed to clear them. The puzzles mainly involve collecting healing energy and transporting these to the right spots, but the game does introduce some variation in this process. Initially, healing the coral is as easy as picking up the clearly marked energy orbs and taking them to where they are needed. Later on, players have to make use of coral switches to open up pathways or swim through unique plants for speed boosts required to get to specific points on time. It never becomes too challenging, but the timed sections, in particular, do require some reflexes to complete. Unfortunately, even with the brief playtime offered by the game and the changing puzzle mechanics, some sections can feel tedious.

Koral is not the first game with an ecological theme set underwater; neither is it the best-looking or most entertaining one. Nevertheless, the game definitely has its moments and offers a relaxing experience for the most part. While it doesn’t quite have the same impact as titles like Abzu, it is still an impressive effort from an indie developer who had an important message to share.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 64bit, Windows 8.1 64bit Windows 10 64bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 / AMD® FX-6300
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 750 Ti / ATI Radeon HD 7950
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 1 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9 sound device
  • Additional Notes: Controller support: Microsoft Xbox ® Controller for Windows® (or equivalent) recommended
  • OS: Windows 7 SP1 64bit, Windows 8.1 64bit Windows 10 64bit
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3770 / AMD® FX-8350
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 970 / ATI Radeon R9 series
  • Storage: 1 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX 9 sound device
  • Additional Notes: Controller support: Microsoft Xbox ® Controller for Windows® (or equivalent) recommended

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