KOI on PS4
As pretty much everyone knows, China is an interesting player in the games market. Koi, the first-ever PlayStation 4 game developed there, is testament enough to that. With restrictions in the country easing up recently, it didn’t take long for developer Dotoyou to take advantage of this yet-untapped market, bringing to us a strange and soothing game following an adventurous koi fish on a mission to restore tranquility to a pond poisoned by human intervention.
Koi puts players in control of a free-swimming young fish whose habitat has been corrupted by pollution. Gameplay consists of puzzle-solving, exploration, and restoring the once-beautiful lotus pond to its natural state. Most of this is accomplished by finding smaller, multi-colored koi and bringing them to flowers that match their hue. In so doing, our piscine protagonist opens up these flowers and gradually brings nature’s beauty back to the waters.
Despite the zen-like feel, soothing soundtrack, and calm aesthetic, Koi isn’t a game without perils. Corrupted fish lurk the waters, threatening the wellbeing of our hero and its tag-along friends. These, of course, become a more common threat in the game’s later levels that take our story nearer and nearer to the source of all of the human’s corrupting influence, an abandoned factory that poured foul toxins out during its operational life.
Koi’s focus is on restoring the flowers hidden around each level, but more puzzles await those who would explore this serene title. Memory-testing and pattern-matching minigames stand between the scaled savior of the pond and its goal. While these puzzle elements aren’t particularly challenging, they’re a welcome inclusion into the overall presentation, and Dotoyou does a fine job of including these unique pieces without disrupting the game’s flow.
Koi is a pretty brief game, taking maybe an hour to complete if you’re not concerned with exploring each of the pond’s nooks and crannies. Of course, those who do take the time to explore are well-rewarded, as hidden stars and puzzle pieces will need to be collected for the full experience. Though the stars are merely there for those with a completionist mindset, the jigsaw-style pieces hidden within each level actually serve a purpose, revealing more of a story behind the young fish and the purpose behind its mysterious restorative power.
With its soothing overall look and feel, Koi isn’t likely to appeal to those who prefer their games gritty, dark, or driven by intense stories. For fans of a more casual sort or those who just want a break, though, it fills its niche very well. The exploration aspect means there’s plenty of time to waste searching the pond for secrets, and the relatively stress-free play offers a respite from more demanding games. Koi releases for PlayStation 4 today, for $9.99.