Koi are a specially bred variety of Carp; breeders must take care or they will lose their colorful patterns and start to look like normal Carp again. Koi are mostly kept in ponds (public or private) as sort of a living showpiece. The word itself means love and a well maintained pond definitely shows the care and love shown for its inhabitants. Oasis Games put forth an effort to translate the serenity and beauty of the Koi pond into something we can enjoy anywhere. Appearing first on mobile devices, Koi has now made its way to the PS4. Let’s take a look and see how the first PlayStation game developed entirely in China measures up.
THE ART OF STORYTELLING Playing through Koi only hints at the true story. You actually have to complete the game to unlock the full tale. A short story with a moral is presented to the player. You are a special koi known as the Light Fish; a little girl saves the fish from death in the water that has been polluted by the advancement of man. The fish flourishes in her aquarium but loses its powers and purpose. The little girl notices this and takes the fish far from civilization to clean, free waters. This is where the story begins. There are precious few words in this game, but the message speaks volumes. Without getting on my soap box, the story is a wonderful tale about the importance of saving the environment. The koi represents mankind losing our most precious resource, the very Earth itself and forgetting the simple pleasures of nature. In that sense, every aspect of the game from the art to the sound of water droplets tells the story and does it beautifully.
A FISH TO WATER I mentioned in the intro that this game started off as a mobile title. You will have no doubt about that as you control the koi. Ninety-five percent of the game is handled with just the left analog. The remaining five percent is the О button. Each of the nine levels require you to swim and rescue tiny colored fish. This is accomplished simply by getting near them. Once that happens, they will follow you everywhere unless they get injured. Most commonly, fish are injured by the large, mutant black fish that have been tainted by pollution. There are other obstacles like electricity as well. The purpose of the game is to guide the little fish to their appropriate lily pads where their presence allows the Light Fish to make flowers bloom. When all the flowers in an area have bloomed, the black fish are purified (not in every level). This process also allows the Light Fish to proceed further into a level or to the exit. To add challenge, one must find hidden items like stars, puzzle pieces and the Old Toad in each level. The second level even has one hidden fish not required to proceed that counts as a puzzle piece. My only complaint here in the gameplay is that there is not enough of it. I wish the port of this game to PS4 had included more levels.
THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY Koi is literally a work of art. Oasis Games did not go crazy designing photo-realistic, 3D renders of fish. Instead, they made a simple, 2D world that would look as good on a canvas as it does on screen. The use of color works here threefold: it helps to tell the story, it gives the game a very distinct and pleasant feel and it is a game mechanic. The music properly sets the tone for every level. In the beginning it is very upbeat; as you move into the sewers it becomes tense and at the end the melody is very serene. Simple made this game perfect for the mobile platform so that it would run smoothly unlike some of the more intensive titles. On the PS4, simple makes for a calming experience that looks great on a large screen and is a pleasure to listen to on a home theater. Koi is nothing if not therapeutic.
I definitely enjoyed playing Koi. The relaxing sounds and colorful visuals are something that every gamer should be able to enjoy at least once in a while. Not having to remember a bunch of complex controls and moving about freely will remind many seasoned gamers of their arcade days. I definitely recommend this to someone who is suffering from stress or just wants to play a game and not really worry about anything while doing so. With the good, there is almost inevitably something that is not so good. Koi is short and painfully so at that. The above video plays through the entire game in under 90 minutes. After I recorded that I went through each level for cleanup and found all of the collectibles. That took less than an hour. I completed the entire game, getting all of the trophies except one in less than three hours. The one trophy that I did not have, titled “On Time’s Side,” has no place being among the trophies for this game. It requires you to have twenty four hours of total gameplay. The entire game does not even have an eight of a day worth of total gameplay. I guarantee you that the 2.8% of completionists that have this trophy (self included) got it by leaving their PS4 on for a day. I do not like to come down on this game because I really like it, but for what you get (including the bundled dynamic theme), $9.99 is too much. Koi is a game I think gamers should experience, but there are more worthwhile ways to spend your $10 on PSN.