From the mind of Carlos Coronado, Koral launched onto Steam and Nintendo Switch and is honestly one of the best games you’ll play this year. Koral focuses on simple, easy to understand, accessible gameplay and therein lies its success.
In Koral, players will take on the role of a sea entity. Think of it as a spirit of sorts because it’s devoid of any features other than some glowing particles. As the bunch of glowing white particles, players will embark on an emotional, educational journey through the vast open ocean. Fish, anemones, whales, turtles and of course, coral will be visible throughout and they look amazing. Unreal Engine 4 powers Koral and the game is a spectacle to behold because of this. It may be a side-scroller but it sure does look great, especially when there’s lots of sea life around.
As the sea spirit, players will have to traverse levels by progressing towards the right-hand side of the screen. Players will encounter walls of pollution that need to be destroyed in order to progress and this where Koral introduces some of its best gameplay mechanics. As you progress, there is a gradual increase in difficulty with regards to destroying the pollution walls. Players will have to collect glowing red orbs from rather large sea sponges and use these orbs to activate specific plant organisms. These plant organisms can then disperse the pollution or can induce an aquatic current.
The aquatic current as mentioned above can be used by the player to give themselves a speed boost and allow faster travel or can be used to propel themselves forward into coral switches, which are activated by pushing them in a specific direction. These coral switches can in turn move rocks or allow you progress further along by letting you pass through previously inaccessible areas. This is the key gameplay mechanic used throughout Koral and the game makes absolutely excellent use of this. Puzzle platforming gameplay comes into the equation thanks to this mechanic and gives the game far more substance than simply progressing through levels with no challenge at all.
As you continue making your way throughout the game’s world, you will encounter glowing white orbs that serve as collectibles. These orbs provide you with a fact about the real-world ocean environment and while most of these are quite frankly, sad to read, the game serves its purpose of educating players about the state of our oceans. Koral is a game that serves as a harsh eye opener. There’s a particular scene in the game that will quite possibly make you tear up as the orchestral score plays in the background and invokes a range of emotions from shock, sadness and quite possibly, anger depending on how passionate you are about marine life.
The game gets progressively harder as you reach the latter chapters and blending together the mechanics of activating sea sponges, collecting red orbs to progress and pushing coral switches to activate sea currents and remove rocky outcrops provides a decent challenge. Never does the game become too hard or frustrating though as thankfully, the puzzles are all manageable throughout without the need for a guide or hint system. This is a testament to the developer’s skill in crafting a world that is not only beautiful but easy enough to navigate and get through with a little bit of ingenuity.
Koral’s soundtrack makes use of orchestral themes and it works well for the title. There is no voice acting or spoken lines but the game doesn’t need it. The music and the sound of swooshing through currents and pushing coral switches is all you need to appreciate it. Graphically, Koral is great and makes use of Unreal Engine 4 to deliver a visual feast for the eyes. The glowing coral and aquatic environments are beautiful and even though the game doesn’t feature ultra-realistic graphics, its aesthetic is perfectly suited for the tale it tells. The only downside to Koral is the fact that it’s over far too quickly coming in with under 2 hours of gameplay in total.
Koral is still however a great game and one that will certainly make you think about the vast ocean environment we have on our planet. The educational content featured as collectibles is bite sized and hopefully will encourage gamers to learn more about our oceans or take up some form of conservation in their real lives in the future. We only have one planet and Koral with its message and great, simple puzzle-solving gameplay comes highly recommended. This is a game that more people should definitely purchase and play through.