Sail away with Koa, an energetic kid who wants to help everyone she meets.
Release date: 16th June 2020
Genre: Adventure, Farmer, Indie
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows PC (Steam), Linux, Mac OS
Reviewed on: Windows PC
Game Supplied by: Publisher
Sometimes you just want to pick up a game and escape the world for a few hours. You don’t want anything too hectic, nothing flashy, just a simple and easy game you can get lost in. Luckily Summer in Mara has provided the perfect world for us to escape into during lockdown. Filled with colour, sunshine and a great message of love and support, it brought a smile to my face on a cloudy day.
Thanks to its successful Kickstarter campaign, Summer in Mara replicates the success of Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon in its play style. The main character is a feisty kid called Koa who was adopted onto a small island. You learn of the magic surrounding the island and live with her as she says goodbye to her adoptive Grandmother and takes responsibility for maintaining the island and its crops. Until, one day, a strange light appears in the waters surrounding the island, and the adventure unfolds. The likeness to Disney’s Moana is uncanny; a young girl, an island, the urge to get out on the sea for adventure. It’s a real homage to my favourite Disney movie, and to play a game like it and escape into an oceanic world is a great feeling.
After losing her Grandmother, Koa has let the island fall into disrepair, and it’s your job to help her bring it back to life. The crop fields are overgrown, there are fallen trees, chicken coops have fallen. Koa’s to-do list appears endless! Slowly but surely you help Koa rebuild and reshape the island into its former glory. This is done by planting trees, decluttering the crop fields and rebuilding structures on the island, all with the help of resources gathered on Mara. Luckily throughout the game, Koa remembers how to make certain tools and recipes that help in completing certain tasks. It can be a bit laborious when you have the recipe in hand, but you are unable to make the components for it. For example, I really wanted to fix my chicken coop as soon as I had the recipe, but Koa didn’t know how to make nails yet. So, I had to wait until she learned the recipe for nails. It seemed that she learnt the recipes backwards, knowing how to complete a full build before knowing how to make the ingredients.
The visuals in this game are adorable and beautiful in their simplicity. It seems to have a touch of Zelda Windwaker to its style. The bold colours and flat lighting style make the summer in Mara a little more inviting and warmer. The lines are bold and crisp, no blurred edges or unnecessary particles. The characters are of different species entirely, with Koa appearing to be the only human for a portion of the game. The characters are mostly anthropomorphic with animal-like features such as squid or cats. Each character that you can interact with has their own personality traits, there’s an old man who likes to rabbit on about different stories, a lady who lives in a lighthouse alone, a lonely traveller who takes on the role of mentor. They are all unique and it gives this game great character through their dialogue.
The game progresses at a steady pace which allows for a more leisurely style of play, which suits this game to a tee. At the beginning, you start on Koa’s little island, eventually being able to branch out to different islands as you upgrade parts of your boat. The travel between islands is easy and doesn’t take too long. There are even fishing and diving spots to go to if you want to complete some side quests. It’s not too hard to navigate your way around as each loaded section on the map has a clear landmass to explore. This more structured and guided playstyle enables younger players to navigate their way through without getting lost.
Summer in Mara focuses heavily on fetch quests and resource management in its gameplay. A lot of the quests you receive you’ll be tasked with growing something on your island to make a specific item for a recipe. This back and forth does become a little tedious after a while, but it gives a good break to allow you to stop and take in the calming atmosphere of the game.
Also, each time Koa learnt a new recipe it allowed me to repair and upgrade parts of the island, fixing it up to its former glory again. How quickly you progress through the game is entirely dependant on how you play the game, are you an explorer, a resource gatherer or a quest completer? With over 300 quests to choose from you won’t be at a loss for things to do. Sometimes it does feel like the quests have been reused in places, but all in all, they are enjoyable to complete.
This game is perfect for younger players wanting to dip their toe into farming simulators and fetch quests. The main storyline is slow-paced, but the visuals allow for a relaxed style of gameplay that even the older players can vibe with. This is a game that I can see myself quite happily playing on a rainy Sunday afternoon. Escaping into the colourful and charming world of Mara.