For a game, Zen Koi 2 is surprisingly relaxing. You begin with a koi (a Japanese ornamental carp) floating in the pond, swaying gently in the current. Every aspect of the game works to keep you calm, from the soothing soundtrack to the fish's meditative swimming motion.
Paul Naylor of Singapore-based LandShark Games explains how that movement was created: “Many of the other fish games out there used canned animations for swimming that don't look good when the fish turns,” he says. “I found inspiration in two sources: a research paper on the mathematic formula for the swimming motion of a robotic fish, and also the fluid turns of the creatures in the game Flow.”
Not only do the turns look good, but they are also a little tricky, as you will find out when you chance upon a visiting koi. As your koi swims with the pond guest, an egg might turn up, and a new pattern and colour of koi may be delivered. There are more than 500 colour combinations to collect.
Like any other fish, your koi has to eat to grow. But be careful: catching the various types of prey within the pond is not as easy as it seems—they move differently. Catch enough and you’ll be able to unlock gems that you then bring to symbols located within the pond. Succeed in doing so and you'll expand the boundaries of your pond, getting that much closer to elevating your koi into a dragon.
The game doesn't end when your koi morphs into a majestic dragon though. “One of the main motivations for making Zen Koi 2 was to create playable dragons that were free to roam the cosmos. Players are able to control their dragons and connect the stars to form custom constellations, which can be shared,” says Naylor.
Plus, dragons will provide you with things that will go a long way in sprucing up your pond with the odd mossy rock.
Don’t freak out if the screen starts flashing when your koi swims over a red plant—you can’t actually die in this game. Naylor says, “So many games punish you if you make a mistake; we thought there'd be a place for a game where you can take your time and just play.”
So next time you’re feeling a little stressed, take a moment with Zen Koi 2.