22 June 2024

The launch of Summer in Mara, by the Spanish studio Chibig, could not have come at a better time. The whole adventure takes place on a set of paradisiacal islands and given the current circumstances in which the world is immersed, nothing better than to dive into a relaxed environment, without violence, and with the proper safety distance. This project was supported through the Kickstarter campaign and almost raised an astonishing € 300,000.

The player plays the role of Koa, a girl who was abandoned by her parents and adopted by her grandmother, a ladyfish of the liquid species, called Yaya Haku. It turns out that Yaya Haku is a very restrictive character, so she never let Koa travel outside of her island. On this island, there is a portal shrouded in mystery that is closed, and that holds a secret that only Yaya Haku knows.

Unfortunately, one day Koa’s life receives bad news. Her grandmother embarks on a mysterious mission and has not returned to the island. Now the Mara Ocean is in danger since a mysterious corporation arrived on planet Qü, attracted by a strange energy emerging from the oceans. They want to dominate and exploit all of Mara’s resources.

At the beginning Summer in Mara manages to print the adventurous spirit and graphics of titles such as Zelda. However, in this case, the feeling of progression is not so satisfactory, but it still works. This is a title that mixes humans, fish, cats, aliens, and other beings without anyone questioning or feeling less well about it.

The gameplay is centered on a mix of adventure and an agricultural simulator. The vast ocean has space for several islands that can be visited, with different items and arrangements. Still, there is a feeling of emptiness, largely due to the half-naked environment.

The island of Koa serves as the main point for farming, raising animals, fishing, creating new tools, and even cooking food that helps it to recover the “stamina” bar, which, by the way, is consumed quite quickly, and they satisfy the hunger. If the “stamina” bar is completely consumed, Koa passes out and starts immediately the next day, with only a portion of this bar available. Each food, or cooked dish, is equivalent to different recovery values ​​for these two premises.

The whole idea of ​​Summer in Mara is trying to relax the player with calm gameplay. Although on paper it seems to be a very promising concept, in practice it leaves much to be desired. All the missions presented to the player give the idea that Koa is a girl of errands and the fact that one has to get on the boat, sail from island to island in an expressionless ocean every time an NPC asks for a fruit or vegetable that needs to be cultivated, is, in fact, a very frustrating point.

Still touching this point, all the products planted, except for the fruits and the trees, have a number above the plantation indicating how many days it will take until it is possible to harvest them. It is still possible to use elements like fertilizers or water that will speed up this whole process. It is also possible to speed up the whole process if you sleep, this will advance the current day. There are no months or seasons, so there are no specific foods.

That said, the problem is that there is no meaning whatsoever during the “days” lost in the loop between islands and long waits during the gestation of the planted products.

Regardless of the time, you spend off the island, there is no sense of loss. The animals continued to live and the entire plantation will not be overdue, even if it is ready to be harvested. This title does not encourage the player to play optimally, among resources, share costs, and the benefits that these could bring him.

Regarding history, it has no rhythm or emotion and is easily overlooked. While 2D drawings are quite vivid and expressive, all 3D models of the characters have no expression whatsoever. The world itself is perhaps the point in favor. Although it is often stripped of NPC’s, tropical environments are able to convey a sense of serenity.

Unfortunately, Summer in Mara does not present anything new to the already huge catalog of games of this genre. Its mechanics of super repetitive missions, very simplistic gameplay, and a story with little weight can transport moments of some frustration.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by Chibig.]