In late 2022, a tiny seed of curiosity was planted when a friend introduced me to Coral Island, a charming 3D farm simulation game with a tropical twist. Fast forward to 2023, and I found myself with over 100 hours poured into an early-access game. Now, two years after Stairway Games launched Coral Island’s Kickstarter campaign, it’s time to fully dive into this tropical paradise.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. With farming games dropping every month, why should I even bother picking up Coral Island? Well, as much as I hate to say it, she’s not like other girls. Coral Island is not just another farming simulator; it’s a lush oasis crafted with a commitment to modernizing the classics.
When I finished Stardew Valley, I launched myself on a pretty short-lived and frustrating quest to find its worthy successor. The search left me high and dry, unable to find anything quite like it… until Coral Island washed ashore.
This Indonesian Team Can Teach Us a Thing or Two About Diversity
Stairway Games, an Indonesian indie studio established in 2019, is the creative force behind Coral Island. Their mission? To export and celebrate the rich culture of Southeast Asia through gaming. The island’s lush environment brims with local flora and fauna. This is a refreshing departure from the typical muddy farming simulator scene.
Coral Island’s expansive map is a tapestry of beauty with Starlet Town at its heart. The island is home to a beach, lake, forest, hills, and residential areas scattered amidst nature’s bounty. Secrets are waiting to be uncovered and unlocked in every corner of the map.
However, Coral Island doesn’t just nab everything previous farming simulators did; give it a tropical coat of paint, and call it a day. There is a green message engrained deep into the story and gameplay mechanics of Coral Island.
It’s a refreshing departure from the typical farm simulators we’ve grown accustomed to and adds a touch of authenticity that sets it apart.
Promoting Sustainability Without the Preach
Stairway Games aspires to modernize the classics with a storyline that explores the climate crisis. while other farming games have settled for industrialization as the main antagonist, Coral Island has picked a different foe: our negative environmental impact.
At times, the message comes through gripping cutscenes, where locals rally against Pufferfish, a drilling giant linked to an oil spill. The gameplay echoes the theme with coral restoration quests, tree-planting events, and beach cleanups. But I think the louder moments are the most subtle ones, like hanging out with the townfolk at the beach and noticing how the ocean is tainted with black.
Whether through visuals, gameplay, or the main storyline, Coral has a message to convey and does so in the most beautiful ways. I can think of more than one instance where their intentions could have gone wrong; making eco-friendliness a punishing game rule or preaching sustainability while having conflicting gameplay features are just a few. Stairway Games effectively conveys its message without coming off as preachy or overly direct.
There Are Over 25 Romanceable Characters. And Yes, They’re All Hot
You just arrived at Startlet Town from Pokyo. As a newcomer, one of your first quests is to meet 30 townfolk. That’s not even all of the town’s residents. It is, though, pretty close to the amount of townfolk characters you can date: 25.
Once you’re done with the town introductions, you might want to start searching in the mines, the village east, or even underwater for more cute characters to meet. Who knows, you might run into even more romanceable characters.
Coral Island boasts more than forty vibrant characters, each brimming with charm, captivating stories, and distinctive personalities. The clever blend of 2D for conversations and 3D for gameplay creates a visually appealing dynamic. The character design celebrates diversity, showcasing a range of skin tones, facial features, and ages that breathe life into the town.
The sheer diversity in character design, both visually and in their storytelling, is truly amazing. Every character is unique, offering something for everyone. You’ll discover a redeeming quality in each villager, even if their initial interaction involves critiquing your outfit — yes, Leah, that means you.
You have your faves, and so do they. You’ll notice certain characters forming closer bonds over time or even catch some in flirtatious exchanges if you’re keen.
Seasonal events provide ample opportunities to interact with nearly all of them, joining in fun activities. The community buzzes with life, hosting impromptu events like vineyard family lunches or beachside mishaps with jellyfish stings. You’ll slowly start to drop the main character syndrome and embrace the fact that you’re just a part of the community, like everyone else.
A Slightly Overwhelming Collectathon
Though you’ll join Startlet Town as a farmer, you’ll soon start taking up other hobbies. As you do in most farming games, right?
Well, not quite. Stairway Games was on a mission to include every farming sim gameplay mechanic in Coral Island. You can farm, raise animals, fish, mine, and craft. On top of all of this, Coral Island adds a novel and fitting feature: diving.
With so much to do, every day’s a new adventure. You wake up at 6 AM and the day is full of possibilities. Do you want to advance in the mining department and help the giants? Or do you feel like venturing further into the ocean and uncovering all its secrets? Perhaps you’ll just want to stay on the farm and clean that humongous, untidy plot. It’s easy to lose yourself in Coral Island’s world. It wasn’t until the 8th day of summer that I realized I hadn’t gone fishing even once, as I had become completely enamored with the underwater world.
But here’s the catch: Collecting plays a significant role in Coral Island. You’ll be contributing to town museums and a goddess’ altar. Unlocking new areas and features depends on collecting specific items tied to seasons, weather, and time of day. Miss one, and you’ll be waiting a whole year for that greenhouse.
There is also the issue of diving and mining sharing a somewhat similar gameplay loop, which can make things feel repetitive. In one, you’re breaking rocks and collecting ore; in the other, you’re picking up trash and collecting kelp. Progress can be slow in the early stages, especially when juggling multiple tasks. However, the pace does pick up later, particularly in late summer, after a potentially grindy beginning.
Stairway Games has put a lot of love and care into every line of dialogue, every location design, and every game feature. The tiny details make Coral Island stand out: cute pamphlets that let you know where the fun is at in an event, random interactions between townsfolk provide depth, and the quiet but noticeable messages put out about our environment educate us as we explore. It’s a testament to the developer’s commitment to crafting a truly immersive and captivating experience.
Sail for Coral Island and let the tropical breeze carry you to a farming paradise like no other. This is a farming game that you absolutely shouldn’t pass up.
9.5 / 10
|+ Polished seasonal events with fun minigames|
|+ A huge roster of attractive characters to date|
|+ The diving mechanic is innovative|
|– Progress is slow and grindy in the early game|
A PC code via Steam was provided for the purpose of this review.