Developer: Carlos Coronado
Publisher: Carlos Coronado
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop download
Category: Adventure, Arcade, Education, Puzzle
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: May 16, 2019 (EU & NA)
Price: $11.99 USD
Koral is both a colourful and dark platformer inspired by real life events that are happening every day. It was developed by Carlos Coronado and his team who are known for their work on INFERNIUM and MIND: Path To Thalamus, both of which have previously released on Nintendo Switch.
Koral was painstakingly yet lovingly developed on a sailboat in the middle of the Cap De Creus Marine Park Reserve in Cataluña, Spain. Developing a game at sea had its fair share of issues like limited power supplies as well as other challenges but the end result was worth it. What better way to create a video game about the sea than to make the game on the Sea itself?
The health of our Seas and Oceans are on a rapid decline with entire ecosystems being relentlessly eradicated. Coral reefs are deteriorating at a rapid pace, which will take over 100 years to recover if we strive to do something about it now. This isn’t just the main story of Koral but what is genuinely happening right now in this day and age.
A lot of games have storylines that are based on real world events but they usually wait until the dust has settled before bringing these events into the video game world. Koral on the other hand, can’t wait for the dust to settle as there would be nothing left to save and it would be far too late to try. As a Scuba Diving professional with a profound love for the sea, I truly respect what Carlos and his team have tried to do with Koral.
As a current, you move through the oceans in the hopes to bring life back to the Coral Reefs. On your journey, you will visit many different marine ecosystems and will see the effects that mankind have had on the ocean over the years like Dynamite fishing and the dumping of our everyday waste.
Your task as the player, is to navigate the current around the 15 different ecosystems and bring life back to the Coral Reefs. It isn’t as simple as going from point A to Point B though. There are obstacles like polluted Algae walls to block your progress and must be dispelled by bringing certain species of coral back to life.
There are puzzle elements in place that will have you revisiting some Corals to claim some of their life essences in order to help corals that have succumbed to Coral bleaching (Corals turn white upon death). You will then have to gather up a certain number of essences in order to revive another piece of Coral that will open up your path to the next area.
You move around freely with the left joystick. To interact with Corals, you simply have to move through them to pick up their essence, gain a temporary speed boost or create a mini gulf stream.
Some Corals also act like doors. The green branching Corals can be pushed easily depending on which way you are pushing them. The red Corals can be pushed with a speed boost from a nearby Coral patch. They too can only be pushed from certain directions.
Some levels take place in overhead environments like Caves and shipwrecks. There are many narrow tunnels that are in plain view or hidden behind the foreground. Some of them lead to hidden Corals while other tunnels can take you onto the next part of the level.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
Regards to content, other than the main “campaign” there are 32 collectibles that span over the course of 15 levels/ecosystems. These collectibles inform the player with real life facts about the state and the inevitable fate of the oceans if we do not start rectifying our ways and humankind’s effect on the Earth’s most valuable resource.
One of the toughest things to do for a video game of this calibre is most definitely the audio. Gameplay alone is one thing and visuals are another, which I will get to in a moment. Audio though really needs to be something special. It needs to make you genuinely feel what you are witnessing on the screen.
I believe that the developers really did manage to accomplish that. The sorrow tones that can be heard as you gaze upon a dead and hollow reef that used to be something so vibrant and pure. The powerful and uplifting music that engulfs you as the Coral reefs come to life again once more, bringing beautiful colours back to the once lifeless shells of a marine organism. Lastly, the music and ambient sounds moved me on an emotional level that I have not felt in a long time.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This I feel sums up the visuals for Koral. Some people may feel that there are much more visually stunning games out there but Koral makes the players work to bring the game to life. There are a lot of dark and colourless moments, which are there to make the players realise the harsh reality of what is going on now.
As the player moves through the different marine environments, the environment comes to life as you restore the Corals back to full health. There is a hazy cloud that mulls over the background that obscures the scenery. This is actually quite realistic as our depth of vision is incredibly reduced underwater. This has to do with the particles that float in the water like Algae, Plankton, nutrients and even plastic and other things.
For a game that is essentially 2D or ‘2.5D’, a lot of thought has gone into creating as much depth to both the background and foreground as possible. Marine animals like fish, turtles and squids swim between all three fields, bridging background, mid-ground and foreground together.
Where performance is concerned, I didn’t encounter any issues. There were no significant drops in fps or graphical issues that I became aware of. When playing in either handheld mode or docked, there are no noticeable improvements though obviously, if you are playing on the TV you will be able to see more of the mysterious underwater realm that you are venturing in.
Strangely enough, when it was first announced, Koral didn’t appeal to me. It was yet another puzzle adventure game on Switch and there were already hundreds on the Nintendo Switch already.
However, after learning more about the game, it eventually piqued my interest when I learned that the game development took place on a boat, at sea. I thought this was a really “outside of the box” kind of thinking and it intrigued me. Couple that with realising that this is not just a puzzle adventure game but one that is educational and addresses the real grim goings on with the fate of our oceans, it helped to rekindle that flame of passion that once burned inside me for all things aquatic.
Koral’s initial premise looks simple but it holds a much more deep and profound meaning. You feel true wonder and amazement as you bring life back to the underwater world. It has reawakened a passion in this old Diver’s soul of mine and I find it both educational and impactful.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*A download key was provided by the Publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by Mike Scorpio