Coral Island Review – An Adorable Stardew Alternative

8.0 TOTAL SCORE

Coral Island Review

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Coral Island

Visiting Coral Island is like taking a vacation to a beach paradise only to realize that everyone around you is extremely hot. Except you're too busy watering plants, cleaning up the ocean, and helping out the local nature Goddess to ask anyone out on a date. Coral Island is an upgraded version of the much-beloved Stardew Valley cozy farming game.

It offers tons of activities to do, adorable festivals to attend, and a massive list of potential romances to woo. However, the formula is so similar to Stardew Valley that it makes progression unexciting. I already know what to expect when it's all been done already. That said, if you're looking for a replayable, adorable, clone of Stardew Valley, then Coral Island doesn't disappoint.


Review Score 8
PROS
  • Tons of activities to occupy your time
  • So many romances of all shapes, colors, and personalities
  • Scratches that Stardew Valley itch
CONS
  • Other than some new activities, it doesn't offer anything new from Stardew Valley
  • A few graphic stutters in line with most Unreal Engine games
  • Minor mouse-precision issues that become increasingly frustrating

Cozy farming sims are my glasses of wine in the evening. They help me unwind and relax. Coral Island blipped on my radar when it was in Early Access on Steam. It looked like a 3D version of Stardew Valley with beautiful art and all the fun activities I enjoyed in SV–particularly farming and finding love.

On its surface, Coral Island looks excellent. It has all the different aspects of a farming sim that should be there and even includes some activities not common in other, similar, titles. Its island theme, for example, opened up the opportunity for diving activities, which helped keep the game refreshing.

But is Coral Island really a game that stands on its own in the vast ocean of farming sims? Or is it just another sim lost in the sea? Let’s dig in deeper in my review of Coral Island.

Engaging Character Art and Adorable Animal Models Make This Game Stand Out

advanced pets Coral Island
Adorable 2D art. Image Credit: Will Butterworth

I have to admit something here. I am not a big fan of pixelated 2D art. It’s just not for me. While I can appreciate the depths of work that go into making 2D pixelated art, it’s challenging for me to become immersed in the world. Immediately, one improvement Coral Island has for me, compared to other farming sims, is its focus on 3D art.

It blends stylistic 3D models with 2D character portraits to add life to the world. The key reason is animation.

A vital example of this is when I was running by the school while trying to find the blacksmith. One of the characters, a young girl, was literally skipping down the road. It was a fun, exaggerated, skipping that you might expect an actual child to do. That animation alone brought so much life and personality to that character.

There was one glaring problem with the visuals, however, and this is a problem that plagues most games built with Unreal Engine 4. It stutters. Now and then, I watched my character almost glitch in place or lag behind while running through town. It’s a problem the engine produces and not something the developers can fix.

When the stutter occurs, it’s just so blatant because the rest of the game runs so well. It also breaks the immersion that the game tries so hard to develop with its 3D art and playful animations. The stutter is a disappointing flaw in an otherwise beautiful game.

Relax with the Chill Tunes of Island Music

advanced the plot thickens Coral Island
Tropical music mixes with cartoonish-ominous soundtracks for dramatic moments. Image Credit: Will Butterworth

It isn’t just the art and animations that helped immerse me in Coral Island. From ambiance to music, the world is rich with sound. If farming sims are known for one thing, then it’s their upbeat, chill, soundtracks. The best farming sims know how to use music to set the mood without overstaying their welcome.

There isn’t much talking in farming sims, and Coral Island doesn’t break the mold here, either. None of the characters have voice lines, which always disappoints me. That’s one area where farming sims could expand. Having voice acting could be the ultimate step in making the characters feel real. However, it’s not something I expect in farming sims, so there weren’t any real surprises there.

Most of the sound comes from the game’s soundtrack. In keeping with the island theme, most of the music sounds tropical. I had chill, island, vibes while farming, which would switch to a slightly more urban rhythm when visiting the town.

The combat music was appropriately fast-paced and had me wondering a few times whether I was facing a boss or just a mere monster. It provided a tense backdrop each time I explored the mines, making the experience just that much more tense.

Outside of its soundtrack, the sound of the ocean waves offered a sense of serenity. Now, maybe this is because I’m a Water Sign, but the sound of trickling water or the roar of ocean waves just does it for me.

But Coral Island could stand with a bit more work on its sound mixing. The sound of water flowing near the rivers is incredibly loud compared to the ocean’s waves. When walking by the river, I could barely hear the wonderful birdsong in the area, let alone my own footsteps. Yet, when traveling along the beach, everything seemed eerily quiet. It’s a shame since the roaring water drowns out other, immersive, sounds of nature that I’d like to enjoy, too.

I won’t be buying the soundtrack for Coral Island any time soon, but it serves its purpose of keeping me engaged with the world.

Doesn’t Break the Mold

Coral Island beginning farming guide
Starting the farm. Image Credit: Will Butterworth

As a farming sim, I knew what Coral Island would likely offer from the start. I’d be farming, helping townsfolk with their problems, and hitting up the local mine or cave to find ore. I expected seasonal crops, festivals, and romances. And I was right on all accounts.

I started my first day with some farming and was pleasantly surprised to see that I could reach tiles a few squares away from my character. I’m used to having to be directly by the tile I want to till or water, so this was a quality-of-life change that I loved.

Farming is typical of other sims, however, with no real and exciting changes. There are some new crops I’ve never planted before, but the system itself is the same old thing. As someone who loves farming, I don’t mind the same process, but considering Coral Island’s tropical theme, it’d have been nice to see them lean into that a bit more.

There was one glaring problem with many of the activities that required using a tool. The precision with mouse tracking isn’t sharp. I’d be trying to hit a tree in front with my mouse clearly over the tree, only for my character to hit the spot next to it. While it didn’t happen frequently, it occurred enough that I wasted a good amount of energy needlessly hacking at the air.

Adding in greater mouse sensitivity may help the problem, but until then, I’m going to have to be extremely focused on where my mouse is landing to keep from hitting the wrong tile. That’s a problem I shouldn’t be dealing with, considering how refined the rest of the game is.

Coral Island advanced mining
Trying desperately to find ore. Image Credit: Will Butterworth

Off-Farm Excursions

After hearing that the nearby mine was open for exploration, I picked up my sword and pickaxe and headed to the mines. The game separates its different mines by element. There’s an Earth, Fire, Water, and Air mine. There’s some story tied to each mine, too, with a giant locked away in each one. Adding some narrative to the mines, instead of just putting up a goal to reach the bottom, was refreshing.

It gave me a bit of purpose in exploring the mine besides just delving for ore. It’s needed because the lack of ore is one of my biggest complaints about the mining gameplay. There just aren’t enough ore nodes. Maybe I’m just very unlucky with ore spawns, but each time I’ve visited the mine and reached a new level, there has been a lack of ore.

It makes the process of mining feel less rewarding. Add in a mine full of monsters with no ore, and I’m questioning why I’m even bothering going to the mine when I can simply buy what I need from the local blacksmith without risking my life. There’s an imbalance here, and it’s causing me to avoid visiting the mine entirely.

Coral Island diving
Diving to the ocean floor. Image Credit: Will Butterworth

One activity that does have me wanting to engage with it more is diving. It’s a new type of gameplay I haven’t seen in other farming sims, so its freshness was already exciting to me. I put on my wetsuit and took a deep dive with an adorable bot at my side. My task was to clean and restore coral by finding orbs of power buried in all the trash.

Unlike the mine, diving has a better balance of reward and grind. There are collectibles for me to find on the ocean floor, and that helps break up the monotonous activity of removing trash. I was also deeply satisfied to watch the dead coral become flush with life after activating a machine with an orb of power.

The activity also scratches that OCD itch to remove all the trash and make the ocean clean again. The fact that it has an environmental message interweaved throughout the task also does it favors. It’s a new activity that I can definitely see myself partaking in more and more. More importantly, it’s nice to see Coral Island trying something new with the farming sim formula.

Rushed Narrative Can Overwhelm Cozy Farmers

quests Coral Island
So many gosh darn quests! Image Credit: Will Butterworth

While I started my first day simply tending to my farm, I suddenly found myself pulled in one direction and the next. Suddenly, the town was falling apart, and fixing everything was up to me. And it’s here where I had a problem with the pacing of the narrative.

I play farming sims to relax. Coral Island did not let me rest in its first few hours. Instead, it showed me cutscene after cutscene of this problem and that problem and all the things I could do and should do to ensure the evil oil corporation didn’t buy the town. It was a lot, and it was all too fast.

Now, I am okay with having a lot to do in farming sims, but I like to have those plot points opened to me gradually over time. I don’t particularly appreciate that the game thrust everything at me within the first few days of arriving on the island. I understand that the devs need their players to know that there’s plenty of content in the game, but the rush to show everything all at the start of the game isn’t the way to do that.

Let me plant some potatoes first and worry about saving the ocean later.

Coral Island Uses a UI I Wish Other Farming Sims Had

Coral Island beginning map
Finding NPCs with the map. Image Credit: Will Butterworth

Another strength coming out of Coral Island is its user interface. Everything from its menus to its map has clearly received a lot of thought. One aspect of farming sims that always drives me crazy is figuring out where all the villagers are. When I need to turn in a quest item to someone, I don’t want to spend the day traveling across the entire map trying to find them.

Coral Island does something here that I wish other farming sims (and games in general) did. It tracks NPCs for you. At every point, you know precisely where an NPC is heading. The tracking even extends to houses. When you hover over a house with your mouse, you can find out who lives there and if anyone is home.

There are other details that the map gave, too. When I wanted to visit Sam’s General Store to buy more seeds, I wondered if he had closed the shop. I wanted to save time, so I pulled up my map and looked at his store. It showed me that he was still open. I didn’t have to run to his store and check for myself. It saved me time and effort, which are both vital in a farming sim.

Moving forward, I hope this sort of map and information system is something other farming sims use, too.

The Real Heart of Coral Island – Its Diverse Characters

romance Coral Island
The one true love – Chaem. Image Credit: Will Butterworth

Coral Island was very much on par with other farming sims I’ve played. It was fun, and a few of its activities were new and refreshing. But I had yet to find what made the game stand out from others. That changed when I started to engage more with the townsfolk living on the island.

And it’s here where I found the soul of the game.

The first interaction you have is with the mayor. He’s a bumbling, good-hearted, older gentleman who clearly wears his heart on his sleeve. You then meet the husband-and-wife duo Dinda and Joko. They’re carpenters, and they actually look the part.

A lot of the characters on the island have diverse body types, backgrounds, and personalities. Some may have started as stereotypes, but the developers gave each character a unique personality or quirk that makes them break free from those expectations.

Dippa, for example, is your local moody artist. Except she doesn’t like tapping into her darker moods to create art. She prefers to channel her positive emotions to create bright and happy art.

Then there’s Mark, who fights monsters. He seems tough and has the scars to prove it, but you’ll often catch him spending time at the Animal Shelter and doting on the animals.

I love diversity in games, so seeing such a vast collection of different types of romanceable characters totally won me over. There’s also a considerable number of singles out there. I found it difficult to pursue one romance.

Now, if there’s one problem with the romance mechanic in Coral Island, it uses the same romancing mechanic as other farming sims. I tracked down my potential lover, talked to them, and gave them different gifts to find what they enjoyed. That earned affinity with them.

There’s nothing new here.

That’s a bit of a wasted opportunity and makes Coral Island a bit too similar to other farming sims for my liking. It already has such a great cast of characters. Not pushing or innovating the romance mechanic is a letdown.

Alternatives to Coral Island

sun haven farm
Sun Haven

There are tons of farming sims out there. Many of them try to copy the Stardew recipe, like Coral Island. Others offer something a bit more unique. Consider some of these alternatives if you want to try out a new farming sim.

  • Dinkum
  • Stardew Valley
  • Fae Farm
  • Harvest Moon
  • Sun Haven
  • Dave the Diver

The Verdict – Want a Reskinned Stardew Valley with 3D Models? Coral Island Is Your Answer

coral island verdict

Score: 8/10

Fans of farming sims are likely going to enjoy Coral Island. I did. While I wish the game had pushed itself more to be something beyond a Stardew clone, it does what it offers well. It even provides some quality-of-life changes with its map NPC tracking and ability to reach tiles further from the character.

But at the end of the day, Coral Island is just another farming sim. It is a good farming sim with interesting characters and a unique take on cleaning up the environment, but it is just a farming sim all the same. It doesn’t do anything new enough to push the genre to new heights.

Aside from the few visual stutters and precision problems I encountered, the game runs smoothly and provides a fun, relaxing, experience. Knowing myself, I’ll play it more and make a dozen playthroughs to romance all the characters.

If you want more of the same with a few new activities, try Coral Island. But if you’re looking for something innovative, then I’m afraid you’ll only face disappointment. At its heart, Coral Island is just another Stardew clone.

Pros

  • Tons of activities to occupy your time
  • So many romances of all shapes, colors, and personalities
  • Scratches that Stardew Valley itch

Cons

  • Other than some new activities, it doesn’t offer anything new from Stardew Valley
  • A few graphic stutters in line with most Unreal Engine games
  • Minor mouse-precision issues that become increasingly frustrating

My Time on Coral Island

  • Platform: PC
  • Time Played: 16+ Hours
  • Romancing: Chaem

FAQs

Question: What platforms can you play Coral Island on?

Answer: Coral Island is playable on PC, Xbox, and PlayStation 5. It has a targeted release date in 2024 for the Nintendo Switch.

Question: How big is Coral Island?

Answer: Coral Island is an 8 GB installation but may require more space as the devs release new updates and content.

Question: Is Coral Island a copy of Stardew Valley?

Answer: Coral Island is a very close copy of Stardew Valley. It’d be worth labeling it as a clone.

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