Farming games have remained one of the most interesting genres in gaming. Instead of following a gripping adventure, or complex narrative, players relax by enjoying the simpler things in life. Tending a garden, exploring a romance, to just decorating your digital house. They can be a lot of fun when done right, as experiences like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon remain popular franchises. Stairway Games hopes to leave their own distinct mark with Coral Island. The fresh out of early access adventure boasts a number of exciting features, but is it enough to warrant exploration?
Before the adventure starts, players are given an opportunity to make their character. I was surprised how robust this system is. Not only does it have a wide range of body types, hair styles, and practically any color you could possibly want, there is a distinct effort towards inclusion. So many I wasn’t even sure what some of these options even meant. Like I’ve never encountered the title Mx, which apparently is used for gender-neutral individuals. These little touches are great to see, as it shows a lot of care went into this friendly world.
I Got Some Work to Do
After creating a character you arrive in the small town of Coral Island. The mayor will introduce the location to you, give your first quest (repairing your house), and the basic tools needed to sustain a farm. Another interesting choice is the ability to simply skip the introduction if you don’t care. This option is used both on the character creation screen, or by holding a specific button at the time.
As you might assume, repairing your house is a brief tutorial that teaches the core gameplay loop. By cycling between your tools you can chop down trees, break rocks, cut grass, destroy trash, and get the ground ready to plant seeds. I imagine this is easier to do on PC, though console performance is fairly straightforward.
Each tool has a specific function that can be cycled between by using the back triggers. Every action uses some level of stamina, which can be replenished by eating, or sleeping. About 10 to 20 minutes later you should be ready to repair your house, and explore the town.
Two things immediately stood out about the townsfolk. The artwork, and how diverse this island happens to be. I actually really like the artwork. It’s very reminiscent of things like Lilo and Stitch, a choice that makes Coral Island stand out. As far diversity, the current list of datable characters can be found below.
So Many Choices
Had someone asked, I don’t think I would’ve expected possible options to include Someone who could be inserted into Hades, Hammerlock, or blonde Nathan Drake. Unfortunately, I don’t think the female cast has the same range found on the male side, but each design is genuinely unique.
Along with design, characters have their own vibe. Much like real life, you might really dig one character, only to select another that resonates more with you. Regardless of which path you choose, there is a relationship system for all notable characters. The only difference between a standard character and a datable one is the single qualifier.
Maybe It’s Best He Remains Single
Besides dating and farming, there is a lot of other things to do in Coral Island. I was surprised how much attention each location received. Most of these games I play have some personality, whereas there are legitimately four or more rooms to explore. Some of these are limited to relationship level, so you can’t go into certain bedrooms without being so close, but overall it makes the world feel a bit more real.
There are also side tasks to complete besides building a farm/family. Like the mine has monsters to fight as you explore. Combat is extremely floaty with practically no depth. Still, I appreciate seeing the effort. It’s nice to know you can fight monsters for resources, grow them, or make a fortune, and see what you can buy.
Coral Island Review Verdict
Coral Island: Even though Coral Island does not reinvent the wheel, it offers an inviting world to be part of. Characters are diverse, options plentiful, and a strong emphasis on inclusion. Even if these elements are unimportant to you, the core farming/romance loop is more than enough to get countless hours out of. Something that will only further expand if you want to explore more than one option. – Mark
Editor’s Note: Coral Island was reviewed on PlayStation 5, and a copy was provided to us for review purposes.