Version Tested: PS4
Available On: PS4
Publisher: Oasis Games
Official Site: https://www.koips4.com/en/
Release Date: April 19th, 2016
Where to buy: PSN
Sometimes, it takes a little fish to bring balance to a big pond. KOI is the first Chinese-developed PlayStation 4 title to be published in Western markets, courtesy of Oasis Games. In a similar fashion to the PS3’s Journey and Flower, KOI is gold for players looking to play something relaxing, simple, and touching.
Chinese developer Dotoyou has created an aquatic story, play style, and adventure that begs to look at humanitarian issues through the eyes of an innocent fish. During your adventure, you must discover why the balance of a lotus pond has been thrown off, and lead stray guardian fish back to their respective flowers. The pond’s inhabitants aren’t just limited to koi fish – flowers, salamanders, and frogs will provide clues to help you along your journey. Players will face off against mysterious, evil black fish, and must piece together what has brought about the end of tranquility for the pond’s wildlife.
Tranquility and balance are the underlying theme of the game. The entire drive for your koi is to figure out what is transforming the pond’s peaceful guardian fish into monstrous, red-eyed, and dangerous black fish. Controls are fluid in motion, creating the experience of swimming by utilizing the joysticks. With a controller in hand, fighting to swim upstream or against currents, race down waterways, and brave through dangerous waters makes the player feel like they are moving fluidly like a fish. KOI was originally a mobile game, however, and it is apparent that controls would be more suited for a touch screen. The circular interface that helps you interact with the game would be much more suited for touchscreen laptops, phones, and tablets.
Bringing balance in a ravaged aquatic world is no easy feat. The motion of your koi fish, which mimics the way a fish would swim against water currents, in conjunction with the task of avoiding hostile black fish, makes the game a bit of a challenge. With a controller in hand, fighting to swim upstream or against currents, race down waterways, and brave through dangerous waters makes the player feel like they are moving fluidly like a fish. For a small port in game from and indie developer, it is an achievement to make the player feel as if they are the fish interacting with the pond.
Occasionally, players will interact with miniature memory games to access lost fish, puzzle pieces, or collectible stars. Collectibles will reveal unlockable pictures that compliment the underlying back story and the koi’s drive to explore. The adventure is limited to only a handful of levels, making it easy to power through for someone looking to kick back and relax. The entire game can casually be completed in a few hours.
While KOI provides a peaceful experience with a goal, it’s also hindered in depth. The game leads you from one goal to the next, leaving exploration discouraged. The short amount of gameplay also creates an experience that isn’t worthy of many repeated playthroughs. In-game achievements are offered to unlock different colored avatar fish in an attempt to combat this. However, this still doesn’t feel like enough to push through the simplified story over and over.
Visually, KOI is stunning in its minimalist, vibrant approach. The colors are vivid, beautiful, and compliment the level design well. In addition, the specially composed music created by composer Zeta is fantastic. A fairy-tale like score complete with synth samples and chimes deepens and grows as the player progresses. As the game progresses, the ominous feeling of falling more and more into polluted waters is achieved accompanied by a lighthearted tone.
Fans of titles such as Flower or Journey will enjoy the premise and relaxing atmosphere of KOI’s gameplay. Its beautiful audio and visual elements have blended spectacularly to create a touching, grand adventure through the eyes of a tiny fish. The story hits hard pressed issues based on China’s pollution issue, bringing the troubles it causes to light in a well-imagined way. However, with such a short story mode and little replay value, it feels as if this game doesn’t live quite up to its true potential. The levels discourage exploration. Goals tend to be hand fed to the player, making things much too easy. Exploration of the world around your koi fish is practically discouraged. This title is recommended for more of a mobile style instead of a console port. However, this doesn’t mean you should swim past the chance to pick up this indie. With a good soundtrack and visuals, along with solidly relaxing gameplay, KOI is perfect for casual gamers looking to unwind.
- Gameplay: Controls are fluid and interesting, but may be suited for mobile platforms. Exploration is discouraged.
- Graphics: Beautiful colors with minimalist flair.
- Sound: Phenomenal, fairy-tale style soundtrack that excels in creating atmosphere.
- Presentation: While calm and casual, the game lacks the depth that keeps players coming back for more.
- Striking, colorful visuals
- Tranquil gameplay for a relaxing experience
- Imaginative view of humanitarian issues
- Very little replay value
- Underwhelming incentive to explore
- Goals are entirely too easy to achieve