There is more than meets the eye in Summer in Mara. From your humble start on a small island to the great triumphs that adventuring in Mara brings, you’ll find love and meaning poured in throughout. Spain-based Chibig Studios has delivered.
Diving into the world of Mara and the life of Koa, the young human girl who loves to adventure around it, is an absolute treat to experience. The game slowly opens up more and more of its world but not until you deal with your central duties, often errands that erratic characters of different species put on you.
These characters and their little quirks are what make Summer in Mara a joy to play. There isn’t as much of that grind that games like this tend to put on you. Instead, everything is an adventure, and you have to recall what other characters may have said or done in order to make it to your next task.
You might have specific fish to catch, a person to retrieve supplies from, a meal to cook, or hundreds of other quests spread over many islands in the ocean of Mara. This aspect of community runs throughout.
The first lesson of the game is that from whatever the ocean or nature gives us we must give back. There needs to be harmony between people and the land on which they live. This is the framework for the rest of the game as you find yourself running between islands using the area around you to make it further.
There is just so much to do in the game, and each quest brings a new level to the game. As the young adventurer Koa, you see the world through the eyes of a naive but optimistic child. Her past is revealed throughout the game, and the story hooks you in.
What gives this game an extra bump up is the art style, the 2D aspects more so than the 3D. Each character and species has a unique design that creates a culture of the island Quido, where you do most of your adventuring. The islands all have distinct looks to them as well. Quido’s town reminded me of a cute Pokémon city.
The 2D art in the dialogue pop-ups and the beautiful opening sequence shows just how much care was put into the art. When moving around, the graphics and art style fit this type of game pretty well.
The rush from ping-ponging around the islands is one that comes up only in a game that really digs at your soul. Sometimes it can be a drag going back and forth, as fast travel isn’t an option other than going to one of the islands. Overall, that’s fine, and I don’t think it takes away from the experience.
Way too often, games like Summer in Mara don’t give an incentive to keep going and updating and maintaining the game. There might be too much time between small advancements in the game or too many redundant actions in those games. Mara doesn’t dwell on moments, and you can enjoy the natural progression of the game while doing your own adventuring.
A few of the mechanics in the game are wonky. You jump comically high which takes a minute to learn how to control, but it is always fun to watch. When swimming, you can’t do things like climbing on docks or up onto rocks; you have to swim around to find sand or a shallow rock.
The commerce part could be a little smoother, too. Sometimes it gets clunky trying to maneuver around the screen and trade with characters, yet the whole idea of trading with the different characters is well-implemented into the game.
Farming in the game is key to success. Whether you need to eat, trade, build or complete quests, it is essential to the game. This is why it’s satisfying that the farming mechanics are quick and painless while still having other possibilities open.
I have no clue how I got this far down in the review without mentioning the music. Think summertime, childhood, ocean, and adventure all mixed into poppy guitar sounds that move you further into the game.
Chibig Studios came out with a great game that provides a far more engrossing story than what might meet the eye. The aspect of childhood adventures flows through the ocean of Mara, and the game itself.