The Nintendo Switch has enjoyed one of the most exceptional launch years for any console, going from strength to strength with its software and building up plenty of hype. Even so, it’s inevitable that not every game on the eShop is going to turn out great, and Koi DX is a perfect example of this. What we have here is essentially a glorified demo, a jumble of half-baked ideas tossed into a functioning piece of software and sold for a few bucks.
Koi DX is a relatively directionless experience; even the menus are just a series of bizarre symbols that require you to decipher their meaning. You play as the titular koi fish out on a journey to purify the water of mankind’s pollution by leading other koi fish to lotus flowers that match them. Along the way, evil “Black Fish” and miscellaneous puzzles will stand as obstacles to your progress. Once all the fish have been escorted to their place, the Black Fish are purified and you move on to another section to do it all over again.
Though the game’s concept is initially intriguing, it’s all show and no substance; Koi DX quickly devolves to a series of easy, meandering chores that have little connection to each other and even less reward. The key problem seems to be the utter lack of any challenge or tension whatsoever. Levels primarily consist of swimming around broad expanses in search of the other koi so you can guide them to the lotus flowers and find more koi to guide to more lotus flowers. The only things that bring any consequence are the Black Fish; if one spots you, it’ll ram into you, which renders your koi essentially motionless for a few seconds. The lack of any challenge takes away even the most basic sense of accomplishment, as there’s nothing to really prevail over other than the game itself.
To mix up the experience a bit, a handful of puzzles are tossed in to trip you up, but these are mindless endeavours that don’t seem to follow any sense of purpose. For a game that pitches itself as a smart, artistic experience, Koi DX sure doesn’t show it when it asks you to match similar-looking lizards, or to remember a short sequence. And if you somehow do manage to fail a puzzle, you can just keep trying it until you get it right.
From a presentation perspective, Koi DX performs a little bit better, but it still comes off disappointing. The simplistic, colourful visuals are nice at first, but they don’t hold up very well under closer inspection. Whether it be blurry, poorly-upscaled images of rocks or shadows of lily-pads that impossibly extend past the water surface they’re supposedly cast on, we weren’t all too impressed with what we saw. The soundtrack — for its part — does a decent job of creating a somber atmosphere through the light piano notes and bells that play, but it's hardly anything memorable.
Those of you hoping for a more in-depth experience will be sorely disappointed as Koi DX can be cleared in about two hours if you’re taking time to smell the roses. Each of the eight levels hides a few stars and puzzle pieces that you can find by swimming around a bit. The puzzle pieces unlock paintings that reveal a bit more of the story through brief phrases and sentences, and it all ultimately serves to preach the cliché and well-worn message that mankind is polluting the purity of nature. Different skins for your Koi can be also be unlocked by achieving certain goals, like finding all the stars, but these are nothing but palette swaps and the game will have long since outstayed its welcome by the time you unlock them.
All told, Koi DX is a cheap, uninspired game that has the beginnings of some good ideas, and it fails to execute any of them in a meaningful or memorable way. Boring gameplay, mediocre art direction, and an anaemic amount of content dooms this one to insignificance. We would strongly advise you to steer clear, as you very clearly are getting what you pay for, if not less. With so many other quality games available on the eShop right now, this is one to miss.