Coral Island Review – Coasting by

Reviewed on November 22, 2023


PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


November 14, 2023


Humble Games


Stairway Games

Coral Island is a farming and lifestyle sim that has had genre fans excited for a while. Releasing in full after being in Early Access for just over a year, it promises tonnes of content such as farming, ranching, mining, foraging, town improvement, and small-town romance. Coral Island wants to stand out with its deep-sea diving gameplay, but after spending a whole in-game year with it, I’ve been far more engaged with its good -old-fashioned above-sea farming.

Coral Island combines the farming and lifestyle sims of recent years like Stardew Valley and adds an extra avenue for content with its ocean exploration. The farm you inherit is overgrowth with trees, rock, and debris, which you will gradually clear to make way for crops and barns. There’s a cavern where you can mine for resources and slay monsters, and many bodies of water to fish in for some extra cash.

I initially worried that the game was riding on the coattails of Stardew Valley a bit too much. Of course, Stardew Valley did not exactly re-invent the wheel, and many of these similarities are simply genre staples. But there are ways Coral Island could have easily avoided feeling like a Stardew Valley clone that it doesn’t bother to take. Certain things like the layout of the farm, the UI, as well as some of the combat and mining mechanics, seem copied exactly. Happily, as the game progresses and grants access to a better variety of seeds, livestock, and machines, the similarities become less and less noticeable. The day-to-day gameplay loop of farming, foraging, or whatever you want to do that day is addicting, fostering that “just one more day!” mentality that’ll keep you up until midnight. I love that levelling up the town’s rank will grant you access to more kinds of crops and livestock, so it gives you a reason to look forward to the next year’s seasons — what new crops will be available?

Woven into the story is the goal of reviving the town after a nasty oil spill caused by the sinister corporation Pufferfish has resulted in the town’s rank dropping down to a big fat F. Who’s going to spend a hundred hours picking the town back up to an A? Why, it’s you of course! To increase the town’s score, you can gift produce to the local Lake Temple or clear the ocean of rubbish. Coral Island even has a little bit of Animal Crossing: New Horizons mixed in, with a huge museum relying on you to donate relics, bugs, fish, and fossils. This adds extra reasons to search for those rare fish and bugs, and to delve back into the caverns and sea areas you’ve already visited.

Under da Sea

Coral Island’s front billing is its ocean mechanics and Merfolk storyline, which involves reviving the ocean from a nasty oil spill. But it’s locked behind a few hours of clearing mountains of rubbish from the entire sea floor, which is a monotonous chore that gets old pretty fast. It’s essentially just another kind of mine, just with a slightly different method of progressing deeper.

Your reward for reaching the Merfolk village is… not much. Although you get a bit more story and access to a few undersea caverns that give you extra resources, but I was expecting more.

“The day-to-day gameplay loop…  is addicting, fostering that “just one more day!” mentality that’ll keep you up until midnight.”

It turns out there’s a reason for that: Developer Stairway isn’t done adding content to Coral Island. Its 2024 roadmap revealed a “Revive the Merfolk Kingdom” storyline, romance with several Merfolk characters, and even ocean farming and ranching. This all sounds great, but it also sounds like stuff that should have been included in the base game. After all, the game did advertise the ocean gameplay pretty heavily, and so far it’s outshined by other aspects of it.

The features it launched with were great examples of what they are, but it was hard to ignore the feeling that I was playing a game that I’d already played before. Putting ocean farming and ranching at the forefront would have really boosted this game for me and avoided seeming like a Stardew Valley clone for its first few seasons.

The town of Coral Island is quite lively and full of different characters to meet. There are a whopping 25 eligible singles in your area, each with events that occur gradually as you become friends. It doesn’t have to lead to romance, though, and can also befriend non-single villagers. There might even be too many townfolk for my taste; it’s hard to memorise everyone’s names and faces with so many to keep track of. The characters are more grounded in real life than in some farming sims; there’s no dramatic edge lords or secret witches in town.

The game is played using 3D models, with 2D character illustrations during dialogue. The art style is perfectly serviceable, although I have to admit it’s not my favourite. There’s something a little generic about it that reminds me of Disney or Pixar movies, but not any particular movie; just the general look of the 3D character design since Tangled. It’s especially noticeable when it comes to the 2D character illustrations. This is subjective though, and the quality of the artwork itself is quite high.

Coral Island’s little details make up for a bland art style, though. The town is quite large, and it looks gorgeous; it’d be a crime to give such a beautifully built town an F, regardless of any oil spill. As the town nears each season’s big holiday, like Halloween or Christmas, the townsfolk will start to decorate the town accordingly, rather than having the town suddenly become decorated only for the in-game event.

You can customise the house on your farm, and most farm buildings like barns and coops, with one of a handful of different types of exteriors, which is a really nice touch I don’t see a lot of farming/life sims do. The interior can be designed completely to your taste, with a furniture and kitchen appliance store in town that stocks a range of different styles; and more will become available with every town rank you achieve.





  • A solid mix of farming and lifestyle sim gameplay
  • Town rank system encourages playing through multiple years
  • You'll never run out of stuff to do
  • Great farm and house customisation options


  • Art style is a little generic
  • Ocean mechanics aren't very interesting.... yet

Coral Island takes cues from the best games in the business to create a mix of farming and lifestyle gameplay, and so it gets most things right. It’s lacking in a bit of unique flavour and the first few seasons play a bit like a Stardew Valley clone, but it comes into its own soon enough. I wish the more interesting ocean gameplay hadn’t been relegated to the 2024 roadmap, but what’s here is just as addicting as any great farming sim. It’s only going to get better, and it’s an easy recommendation for genre fans.