As a small koi fish trapped within dangerous waterworks you need to help your fellow koi’s find the flowers in which they belong. Evade the scary black fish and the dangerous electricity as you swim your way through 8 different levels.
I fell in love with Koi from the first time I saw it on the PS Blog. I’ve said it many times before, but I absolutely love artsy types of games, and that is exactly the category that Koi falls into. The goal of Koi is to guide the smaller fish to their respective flower to bloom them in order to progress further in the level. A few obstacles will be introduced as you go, but you will always be able to recover and work towards making it to the end.
One of main annoyances with Koi came up very shortly after launching the game. The main menu contains absolutely no labels as to what each of the buttons do. You’ll have to play a guessing game to try and figure out what each of them even do. Call me old school here but I do enjoy my menu buttons actually having labels on them.
The gameplay of Koi is pretty straightforward. Propel your fish forward, find the other fish in the level, guide them to the flowers, rinse repeat until you’re at the exit. While this starts out as fairly interesting, by the time you make it to the last few levels, you’ll start to feel pretty done with the concept. When you’re in the last few levels, you’ll really start to just feel like, “alright, I’ve seen the gimmick, I just want to be done with this now.”
One of the biggest things that really made this start to drag out for me was that whenever you bring a fish to a flower and confirm it, the game slows down to make sure that you really SEE that you bloom that flower. This hurts the flow of the game massively as you have to deal with this slow down animation every single time you bloom a flower.
There are two dangers that you will face during your time playing Koi. The first is the black fish that will charge at you (or your fish buddies should they be following you) on sight. Much like with the flowers, time will slow down when they spot you, something that actually proves to hinder your ability to dodge them effectively. This really comes to a head in the end of the seventh level – you’ll be stuck in a pond with nothing but charging black fish with absolutely no clues as to what it is you should do to progress. I honestly don’t even know how I finished this level, I just remember that the game finally progressed when I’d given up moving and had started to mash all of the buttons on my controller.
The other danger is introduced fairly late and isn’t used very frequently – sparks. Some wires will be snapped open and will occasionally spark in a circular area. First off, I’m not really sure how wires could be sparking that much that close to water and not be electrifying more of the water. I also do wish that this had been used as a hazard more, and that it hadn’t been so simple to walk around the area getting electrified. In the first level they’re introduced, all you have to do is hug the walls to avoid them, making them really not being that much of a hazard.
The part Koi absolutely nails is the art design. It’s bright and colourful when it needs to be, and is dark and gloomy otherwise (such as in the sewers level). The flowers and fish are easily distinguishable, but it does bring up one concern for me. So much of the game revolves around the different colours and being able to match the fish up accordingly, but I didn’t see any compatibility for those who are colour blind. Even without being colour blind I found some of the fish hard to properly match up with their flower.
Koi features two types of collectibles – stars and puzzle pieces. The puzzle pieces are used to unlock a story about a girl, and 4 pieces are located within each level. Each level contains several stars to collect, with most of them being fairly easy to find. There are some pieces that are a bit trickier to spot though, especially if they are located behind shrubbery or are within spots the current is quickly pushing you forward (you can fight the current but it is difficult).
Koi is an interesting idea that ends up faltering on some of the design decisions made. Time slowing down each and every time you bloom a flower gets a lot more irritating than it should and really aids in causing the game to feel like it’s just dragging on. The art style, one of the original things that drew me towards the game, is absolutely stellar and does really help the game along. It would’ve been nice to see some sort of colourblind mode (if there is one then I must have missed it). The collectibles in the game are fairly simple but sometimes quite easy to miss – I’ll need to go back sometime (when there’s a guide out) to try and actually find the ones I missed. If you’re able to find Koi on sale then I highly suggest, but otherwise I do struggle to be able to suggest at the regular prices of $10.
Koi Review Score
Koi is available now for PS4 via PSN.