Summer in Mara Review
Reviewed on Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and PC
We all need a bit of wholesomeness in our lives and Summer in Mara has a certain charm that could definitely provide a respite from the world. Funded through Kickstarter last year, the latest game from Chibig studios lets you escape to a tropical island to farm and explore with a range of delightful characters.
The game begins with a very simplistic setup, with Koa, the main protagonist perched upon the top of the house, contemplating the seascape in front of her. As soon as she leaps from the roof, is immediately set tasks by Yaya, her guardian and for me, this where the game begins to lose the charm. The tasks like chopping trees and planting vegetables feels a little bit odd in the context of the game, and are simplistic to the point where the interest just isn't there for me.
I get strong Animal Crossing vibes from the mechanics, but Summer in Mara is more laborious and not as engaging as I would like it. It definitely feels 'fetch quest' heavy and not as organic as other games. I never really 'wanted' to do any of the farming, fishing or cooking because the reasons the game gave me to complete these tasks were just a bit lacking in substance.
Herein lies the issue with Summer in Mara, it is trying to be two very different types of games at the same time, a farming simulator and a narrative-driven adventure game and I don't think that either element are polished enough to work together. The confines of the narrative don't endear me to do the farming elements at all, and the narrative seems broken up and interrupted due to the farming. On top of this, you can’t chop down every tree, or plant anywhere which makes it feel so restricted.
In addition to this, the interface is a little bit clunky and at times can be a bit confusing and definitely added to my frustrations with the mechanics. This all makes it glaringly obvious how similar it is to other games, like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, but hasn't been able to deliver the polish these games deliver.
Despite these issues, I do think Summer in Mara still has a lot of charm and good intentions as a game. The messages about sustainability Yaya teaches you at the beginning are admirable, having you plant something every time you cut down a tree and the relationship between the two is lovely.
Summer in Mara’s biggest strength is the artwork seen in the cut scenes and the loading screens. The animations are really lovely and convey the narrative brilliantly and it is a genuine shame that this isn’t really carried on into the actual game. There is something about how the game looks when it is in 3D that doesn’t quite work for me perhaps because of how lovely all the non-3D elements, it did feel a little jarring.
I do think that if you have patience and enjoy these kinds of games, Summer in Mara might be the game for you, it does have a lot to offer in terms of relaxation and an overall really lovely and wholesome vibe, but this wasn’t enough to keep my attention or impress me that much.
Overall, Summer in Mara had a lot going for it, with the gorgeous artwork and lovely narrative with some great messages. However, it didn’t win me over with the mechanics and felt a little bit all over the place and was relaxing, but I found myself being bored.