This is My Island in the Sun

Time for another vibe check!

The “cozy game” space has seen a lot of releases lately and there’s plenty more to come. Personally, I’m looking forward to Sunnyside and am cautiously optimistic about Loftia. What do you have your eye on?

Today, though, it’s time to take a look at Coral Island. I’ve been enjoying it over the last month, so it gets the proper vibe check treatment. As of this point I’ve put in over 60 hours of playtime, exactly the amount of time I’d like to give games before a review.

Company History

First, let’s take a look at their company and funding. When it comes to investing in a game these days, especially ones in early access or being Kickstarter funded, I think it’s important to know where your money goes. Not just yours, but the investors too.

To be clear, my philosophy here is not anti-VC or anti-startup, nor is it blindly in their favor. Games are expensive to develop, some more than others, and I’m a fan of everyone getting paid and not being overworked. That can be difficult to do on just fan funding alone and that’s when investors enter the picture. So, as a fan, I want to know who may be pulling the strings.

So, with that said, let’s take a look at Stairway Games, the company behind Coral Island.

As of 2023, Coral Island is Stairway Games only title. They’re a team of Indonesian developers who began work on this dream back in March of 2019. For the next two years they would post regular monthly dev blogs and make great traction.

They announced their Kickstarter in February 2021. Surprisingly, in 36 hours they were completely funded! This allowed them to grow their team and hire more devs. Then, roughly a year later, Humble Games became their official publisher.

Yes, that Humble Games – a part of Humble Bundle. They’ve been publishing titles since 2020, though Humble Bundle has been publishing titles since 2017. I had somehow missed the news but I’m glad to see a lot of promising titles in their catalog.

Now, Pitchbook lists a seed investor of Capstone Partners Korea. Capstone is a VC firm from Seoul that has quite a diverse portfolio across a lot of sectors. Strangely, however, I was unable to find out how much they invested and Capstone doesn’t claim them on their website. I would dig into them more, but as I can’t confirm they’re an official investor, I’ll leave you with links to chase up.

With all the money talk out of the way, let’s talk about the company culture.

Reviews on Glassdoor paint a very positive picture and are fairly recent. The most frequent complaint seems to be required overtime during patch crunch. It’s sometimes a necessary evil when in development, though I certainly hope it doesn’t remain an every patch need.

That said, they do get plenty of time off and compensation to balance it all out, which can sometimes push their schedule out of whack some. In most of their communicated timelines they’ve decided to stay away from giving specific dates. In my opinion this works to their favor, though I know others would disagree with me; I’m glad to hear that they’ll prioritize their devs health over player demands.

Glassdoor paints a picture of a studio that is trying to listen not just to players, but their staff as well. It’s clear they’ve got some minor growing pains but overall they’re balancing well. With that in mind, let’s get into the Vibe Check.

Vibe Check

For this post, I’ll largely be basing the vibes off of their Kickstarter post:

The Promise

A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Promising to keep intact what makes classic farm sim games fun, Coral Island aims to modernize and make the experience more inclusive. We feature a large cast of diverse characters and weave environmental awareness into the core game loop --- all the while keeping it a wholesome good time."

What I gleamed from their post is this: they want to keep intact the things that make a farming sim enjoyable, add diversity and inclusiveness, and establish environmental awareness as a core gameplay loop. All this while supporting a good wholesome time. That doesn’t sound too over-the-top ambitious!

But do the vibes hold up?

I’ll be breaking things down into different sections based on their promises in the Kickstarter: Characters, Customization, Gameplay, Environmental Awareness, and Development. Since this is a game in Early Access, we can’t completely judge the game but we can still see if the vibe is on the right track.

Note: Games in Early Access are hard to gauge depending on where in the larger development cycle they are. While with Palia we were told the game is in Beta phase, Coral Island is not strictly adhering to a traditional development phase system. They do, before major patch releases, allow users to opt into “beta testing” to ensure that encountered issues can be addressed before the patch is released. That said, the game itself is still pre-1.0 release and would therefore fall into some level of Beta phase much like Palia.

Given this, I will be explaining in each section any current things in development. These wont factor into the overall Vibe Check, they’re meant to give you a picture of where the game is hoping to go. Vibe Checks will be done purely based on what I’ve been able to play and how well that lives up to the game’s promise.

As of the time of writing, I’ve completed year 1 and am in Spring Year 2. My town rank is still somewhere in the C rank, so I haven’t unlocked everything, but I have completed the ocean cleanup and have finished all the caverns. My farm is by no means optimized for max profit, since that isn’t really my gameplay style; nor is it a fully realized dream farm. I say this to give you a sense of where in the game I’m at. If you’d like to join us and see more as things develop, please join us over on Twitch on Thursday for a relaxing stream time.


A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Meet the islanders. There are over 50 islanders living on Coral Island. Coming from all walks of life, get to know these people by chatting them up --- extra brownie points for gifts!"

There are 16 romancable characters and 40+ non-romanceable townies. It’s honestly staggering just how many NPCs are in this world when compared to other farm sims. On one hand, I’ve enjoyed the variety of characters. On the other, I find it a bit overwhelming to get to know them all.

Diversity in characters is high! There are at least two enby characters (and a male-bodied enby at that!) Lots of PoC representation, most notably from the Southeast Asian diaspora, though just about every type of human configuration is represented. Also, varying levels of physical ability are present, with one character even sporting an amazing looking robotic arm.

Blended families and complex family dynamics are also represented in the cast, which is a wonderful thing to add as not every family is a nuclear family clone. This is by far my favorite cast of complex characters to date and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them.

Oh and I absolutely have to mention character rigging here. The character’s idle animations are all unique and really express who they are. Same with their reaction images and animations. I’ve loved getting to know them through these little things.

I also love the stories they have, no matter how rough some of them may be around the edges. For me, there’s some work that could be done on cleaning up the dialogue and character consistency, but overall all the characters have a strong baseline. This may also be due to the fact that cutscenes are not played in the same order for everyone, so there is variability in how players will experience their stories.

There are definitely some characters that some players feel very strongly about, both positive and negative. Once again, my feelings about needing some clean-up around characterization keep me from feeling any particular way about any character. I certainly like most of them (except Bobby, what a jerk) but I’m not currently swayed towards loving or hating anyone in specific (except Bobby.)

It’s very easy to earn hearts with most characters, especially when raising the town rank. Most characters I have a couple of hearts with and have seen a few “heart events” for. Some characters I’ve accidentally gotten closer to than I had realized, while ones I’ve wanted to get closer to have remained somewhat elusive. I find this to be true in most farm sims, that there are just some characters that are easier to get to know than others, so this seems on trend to me.

I also want to briefly touch on the animals in this game: there are adoptable pets (as of the latest Fall 2023 Patch) and four animals that are owned by NPCs. The adoptable pets, since they were just added, don’t have much flavor text but visiting the adoption center is a treat because their interactions with one another are just so adorable and realistic.

Taco, BonBon, Peanut, and Butter are the other four pets you can encounter around the island and…they are just a joy! They easily make my game more enjoyable and their flavor text really makes me want to reach out and pet them through the screen. Bonbon, and possibly the others, are based off of the developers actual pets and sometimes they can even be spotted on their official TikTok or Insta!

Back to characters. My largest criticisms really come down to consistent characterization and diversity in every day dialogue. There seems to be a set pool of conversations you can have with a given character, so you’ll often end up repeating dialogue while waiting to unlock the next heart level. It gets a bit repetitive pretty fast. As for characterization, it isn’t too glaring, but every so often it feels like I encounter a heart event where I’m wondering why a character is responding in a way I didn’t expect.

A great example is the relationship between Luke and his father Walter. I didn’t interpret Walter as an overbearing and demanding father based on Walter’s heart events, so it was strange to see him react harshly with Luke in one of Luke’s heart events. Of course I won’t go into details about the scene, as to avoid spoilers, but it left me with more questions about the sympathy I felt towards Walter in other scenes.

Note: They have recently added additional text and other slice-of-life scenes between characters. I genuinely love seeing these! On the other hand, again the consistent characterization comes into play. Some have noted that accents for characters have changed, for example. While a lot of character interactions are still a work in progress, it is something I hope the developers will revisit at another point before full release.

Vibe Check

Definitely the vibe, but needs a little work around the edges.


A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Shape your experience. Packed with a variety of outfits, accessories, and options to choose from, you are armed with plenty of styles to express yourself. Conform to the community or be different! There is no wrong answer because there is only one you in Coral Island!"

Up front, I want to mention this is largely a WIP area. The devs have said they are currently working on more customization options in terms of the player character/farmer. Some of the customization is locked behind town rank, but those are largely just other clothing options and hairstyles outside of the base farmer outfit.

There is, however, still a large amount of customizing that the player can do. Anything that requires choosing a color can be done through a color slider, so you aren’t stuck with the same base set of skin tones, hair colors, or eye colors. There are a variety of hairstyles from bald to long and every texture in between. While facial hair isn’t something I usually play with, there are a few options for those that would like it.

One area that is lacking is body type diversity. There are two base models, once again a male-appearing and female-appearing body. You can adjust body fat through a slider but that’s where body customization ends. This is a little disappointing but the developers have said they’re actively working on other body type customizations, so hopefully that will change.

This is made up for in the later sections, however. When naming your character, you’re also able to choose a set of pronouns and honorific. I chose they/them and Mx as my honorific. It’s honestly so sweet to have the children in game use the correct honorific without question, or be referred to by the correct set of pronouns by other characters.

While they could go further and allow for custom pronouns and honorifics, I also understand that coding that can be a nightmare for dialogue. I’m just happy to see a set of neutral pronouns included without any character questioning or challenging them.

As for the outfit options I’ve been able to see, I generally like them but none have spoken to my style. Again, this is an area where the developers are working to expand the offerings. Personally, I don’t enjoy that they’re locked behind ranking up, but it does make me more motivated to complete things so I can finally find my dream outfit!

A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Build your dream farm. Transform your overrun land into a lush and lively farm. Find your play style by deciding what crops to grow, which animals to nurture, or what structures to build."

Speaking of dreams, let’s get into farm customization. One of the promises of this game is the ability to customize your farm to your liking and that is so true.

I’m not really sure how many different styles of indoor and outdoor items are available because, again, they’re locked behind town rank. That said, a lot of people post their farm layouts in the Discord server and everyone has a different layout. Some go for a more natural look, some a very tailored idyllic garden, and others go for complete maximization of their farm land. While you only have the option of one farm layout – unlike in Stardew Valley where you have four different options – there is a lot you can end up doing with that space. No two farms look alike.

Interior decoration is another area rich in potential customization. It still needs to be built out some, given that the second floor of the farm house is currently not able to be utilized until marriage is implemented, but what is available allows for very unique houses. There are five different outside styles you can choose from when upgrading your house and then there are a variety of indoor décor items you can use to show off your interior decorating skills. One thing I really love is the inclusion of clutter items to really give the home a lived-in feel.

Vibe Check

Overall, the vibe is right. There are plenty of options and while there are some minor things that would be nice to have, the dev team is doing their best to add as many options as possible.


I’m going to break this down further into the major gameplay areas: farming, fishing/bug catching ranching/artisan goods, diving, and caverns.


A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Agriculture. Choose from a variety of crops, flowers, fruit plants, and trees. There are over 75 plantables in the game, ranging from age-old classics to the exotic and obscure nature to Asia."

The gameplay loop here is largely the same as every other farm sim. You till the land, you plant the seeds, you water the seeds, you harvest plants, and then you sell them or turn them into artisan goods. Seeds have a season or two that they are viable for before turning to weeds. Where things change is in the variety of seeds available.

While there are the traditional crops you’d expect, there are also a variety of crops that are unusual in the space. Durian, dragon fruits, and other crops from mainly tropical areas are a welcome addition to the options. There’s also a fun variety of flowers to grow as well, so if you’re more inclined to have a flower farm that’s a possibility too. Additionally, there are two sets of fruit trees you can grow: some only produce for a couple seasons before dying, while others are perennial and will keep producing whenever in season.

Later on, as you unlock the Lab, the addition of sprinkler attachments really adds to the quality of life in farming. While there are attachments that will handle fertilizing, seeding, and harvesting separately, the team also developed a three-in-one solution as well. And as the range of the sprinklers increases, so too does the spread of automation the attachments are able to preform. So, if you find the repetitive farming to be too repetitive for your taste, you can upgrade and automate that task away!

Ranching/Artisan Goods

A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Ranching. Make a living by caring for animals and raising livestock. Though you'll first need to build a coop of barn to house them! These farm animals can be left outside during the day and will return inside as night falls."

Another basic gameplay loop here. Buy the houses for the animals, buy the animals, give them love every day, harvest their goods, turn them into something more valuable, and then sell. Each animal has a produce type they provide. You’ll need to feed them and keep them comfortable to increase the quality of the produce they provide. The same as any farm sim.

One area that the gameloop differs is that the animals can become sick. This was a staple from Harvest Moon, I believe, that got left out of Stardew. So, if you’re used to largely ignoring your animals except for hugs and produce, you’ll have to remember not to let them out on bad weather days and keep them comfortable during hot/cold seasons. And have some medicine on hand, just in case, though likely you’ll never have to use it.

You do have your standard barnyard animals: chickens, ducks, cows, sheep, and pigs. In addition to them though you can choose a peafowl or quail for your coop. For the barn you can also choose a goat, llama, or luwak.

Llama’s will produce wool, peafowls drop feathers, quails will give you quail eggs, and the goats provide milk to turn into goat cheese. Just like pigs can snuffle up some truffles, the luwak is an expert at finding precious gesha coffee beans that you can turn into gesha coffee. You will need at least one of each animal in order to complete the altar bundles, as a heads up!

Overall, the new additions to the usual barnyard lineup are great! There’s nothing too new in the gameplay loop itself, unless you’re not used to thinking about animals getting sick. Again, it happens so rarely that so long as you don’t do some obvious things, you’ll never have a sick animals as far as I can tell.

Fishing/Bug Catching

I’m going to be real, there are some tweaks needed to this gameplay. It isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just very difficult at lower levels.

There are two main ways to get fish or bugs: through the associated tool (either the fishing rod or the bug net) or different traps and scents. Fishing requires you to fight against the fish you’re pulling in, so you do have to be mindful that it doesn’t flail so much that it snaps the line. With bugs, you have to get them before they notice you. Some bugs have a really wide awareness meter, so it’s difficult to sneak up on them.

Personally, I’ve not had much issue with just using the basic or quality bug nets. The jump from basic to quality fishing rod though? Huge improvement. I can actually catch fish with the quality rod!

I’ve not messed with the traps much, to be honest. It’s been on my list of things to do but just not a priority. People have said that, up until they could afford the Master Rod and Master Net, traps were the best way to get bugs and underwater creatures.

Speaking of underwater creatures, get ready to “bug” hunt under the sea! Seahorses, urchins, sea stars, shrimp, and more all live down below. With the variety of life at different levels of the ocean, it really does make you want to start an aquarium to watch them float around all day.

There isn’t much more to say about the two. There needs to be a bit of balancing done but it’s pretty solid otherwise.


A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Dive to Save Coral. Dive into the ocean to restore the coral reefs! Select a diving spot around the island, and unlock deeper levels to explore. Unravel all that the ocean has to offer."

Now we’re getting into some new gameplay. The premise is pretty simple: there was an oil spill, the ocean is wrecked, and you need to go down there and clean it up. Along the way, and with the help of some land and sea friends, you end up healing the ocean.

The actual gameplay is a lot of using the scythe for something other than just cutting down grass. Under the ocean, you’ll discover a lot of trash. So much trash. The whole floor of the ocean is trash.

You work your way through different areas, clearing the trash and reviving the ocean. Very straight forward. You get a diving suit early on (and other things down the line, but that’s spoilers) and a cute little robot friend who follows you around. Mostly it warns you when you’re low on stamina or when something is blocked, but he is nice company to have around while you explore.

The questline for the ocean healing is a lot of fun. I won’t give away any spoilers here, especially since the latest patch just expanded on the ocean areas. Just know that it’s really worth the time to do, in my opinion. And remember: as you upgrade your scythe, you can charge it so you can take out more trash at one time. It’s an audio cue, for those who may be hard of hearing. You’re welcome.


A screenshot from the Coral Island Kickstarter campaign post. It reads: "Explore Abandoned Caverns. Go deep into the caverns to mine precious gemstones --- use the loot to upgrade your tools and farm. But beware, monsters protect rare finds so bring a weapon or two!"

Mining is mining, there isn’t much more to it there. You have four elemental caverns to explore, each 40 levels deep. Each contains a different kind of ore: bronze, silver, gold, and osmium. There are a variety of monsters to fight. And there are cute friends to rescue.

A feature I do want to draw attention to is that they just recently added a pacifist mode for the monsters. If you don’t want to fight them, you don’t have to; you can turn it off in the Settings menu. It doesn’t remove one of the altar bundles, so you will need to pick on some of them to complete a bundle, but after that you can ignore them. Frankly, I like being able to have the option to engage them or not, since I don’t really like dungeon crawlers in my farm sims. That may be an unpopular opinion, it’s just my preference.

This is also another really cute questline! It’s also not one you can avoid if you want to finish the mines. Each level requires you to complete a step in the questline to open up the next area, but the payoff is that you get to meet some incredibly cute characters.

Tool enchantment is another gameplay that comes from the mines. Using gems and artifacts that you can find through diving or mining, you can upgrade your tools with different buffs. Most people prefer to boost rare drop rates, but there are a few different enchantments you can apply. I largely haven’t messed with it too much but it really does help when you’re looking for that one missing artifact or fossil you need to complete the Museum.

Vibe Check

Overall, gameplay lives up to what it promises. Mostly classic gameplay loops for the genre with a new one that finally makes use of a tool that usually gets ignored. Really, it’s the variety of creatures and questlines that make this section go above the vibe.

Environmental Awareness

For their two DLC packs, Stairway Games has partnered with Coral Guardian. I’ll briefly touch on the DLC packs and their success. Then I’d like to take a moment to shout-out an organization that is doing something positive in the world.

First, the packs. Both packs cost $5USD and contain three items: an outfit, chest + recipe, and a scarecrow + recipe. Each pack runs for about a month and has a different theme.

The most recent pack – Ocean Explorer – has a scouting aesthetic, complete with sash and badges on the outfit. The Ocean Guardian pack has a superhero theme going on. Edna Mode would be disappointed to see the cape on it though.

A gif of Edna Mode from Disney's The Incredibles getting angry as she shouts "No capes!"

At the time of writing (3 Oct 2023) we don’t have the latest donation amounts. That said, the Ocean Guardian pack did quite well: all told Stairway was able to donate $50,000USD. Everything that they earned on the DLC went directly to Coral Guardian to continue their conservation efforts. It really gives me hope that this pack will also be a huge success!

So, what exactly does that money go towards?

Always a great question! According to Coral Guardian’s website, a whopping 40% of donations goes towards their marine conservation programs. Which means transplanting new coral into bleached or damaged reefs.

Essentially, they’re planting sea trees into sea forests.

Additionally, another 20% goes towards outreach programs. These include local and international awareness campaigns, of course, but they also include educational efforts. They also provide assistance in conservation efforts through their Blue Center program, which trains people to be able to lead coral restoration projects.

You can find out so much more through their website:

Vibe Check

I would say that Stairways partnership with Coral Guardian is extremely the vibe. We love to see a game that’s able to give back to a very serious cause.


As of right now, the game is on version 0.5. The timeline has shifted somewhat and it’s a bit difficult to say where exactly we are on their roadmap at present. Still, players know we can expect another version update before full 1.0 release.

Things that are still missing: winter festivals, marriage, children, and some decor/clothing items. It really isn’t all that much when you get down to it, so there is some speculation that 1.0 may be nearer than we think. Update: Stairway have stated that this next update will be the 1.0 release on 14 Nov 2023!

One of the things I appreciate about the team at Stairway is their daily developer diary updates on Discord. It’s easy to glance at and see all the fun surprises, and bugs, they’re working on. The same goes for the changelist channel.

Let’s take a second to address the elephant in the room though: Discord development and support.

While I know that it’s funny to clown on companies that only do their support via Discord chat, this is actually an example of a company trying to do it right. Instead of obfuscating it behind layers of tickets and support personnel, or setting up a whole separate team of moderators, Stairway devs reply to issues directly. It may take them a little longer than some, but there is something nice about seeing a dev address your issue directly.

Of course, they can’t handle everything. This is where the community has really stepped in to help. Members not only patiently refer new players to resources when asked, they will also try to assist players through complex technical steps to restore their game should something go tragically wrong. I’ve even started a thread there to collect bug reports for common visual errors.

And I think that’s what makes the difference. The community is involved in the process, not removed from it. It’s fair to say that wont work with every game community, absolutely, but here it really does work because of the community.

Lastly, post 1.0 development.

The devs have already announced their plan to include a “tourist” system and a multiplayer system. They also want to include children growing up and allow modders access to tools they’ll need. Personally, as someone who is always pro-mod, I’m glad to see their commitment to including the modding community.

But that’s not all! If you’re not a PC player, don’t worry. Stairway has plans to release the game on all major platforms and just recently announced they’ll be available for PS5 soon. No word on if cross-platform multiplayer will be allowed, but here’s hoping.

Vibe Check

Getting a good vibe. Things seem like they’re headed in the right direction. They might want to revisit their support strategy for the long-term, but with the community they’ve built I’m sure they’ll adjust well for 1.0.

Final Thoughts

Coral Island is fantastic. If you love farm sims, you’ll love this addition to the genre. While it doesn’t offer a spectacular overhaul to the genre as a whole, what it does add is sweet and island flavored.

Personally, I love their partnership with Coral Guardian. That alone makes them stand out in the — ahem — sea of cozy farm sims. I will happily be investing my money towards any future DLC packs they offer.

Truly, the vibes on this game are great! It’s well worth the investment and with everything they have planned, I have high hopes for this game being a new staple in the cozy farmsim world. If you’re looking for something new and like the art style, I definitely recommend picking it up post 1.0 release!


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