From the moment I heard of Summer in Mara, I knew I had to have this one. As a fan of games like Stardew Valley, this one seemed right up my alley (unintentional but fun rhyme there). I am, thus, beyond excited to talk to you about my experiences with Summer in Mara! If you’re not familiar with the game yet, I’ll give you a quick catch up: Summer in Mara is an adventure game by Chibig. Farming, crafting, and exploring are keywords here. I can already tell you (and you’ll probably have guessed this by the score as well), that this one did not disappoint.
What we liked!
- Story: You play as Koa, a little adventurous girl that takes care of her home island. Koa has always lived with her grandma, Yaya Haku, a very strict old qüido. Koa isn’t allowed to leave the island, but one day, she sets sail to discover more islands. Of course, as in every story, there’s a danger lurking just around the corner. In this case, that’s an evil corporation (Elit) that threatens ocean Mara. Fair warning: there is a lot of talking going on in Summer in Mara, so if you’re not really into stories, this might throw you off a little. However, I did enjoy all the chats I had. Little jokes and anecdotes were thrown in, making the conversations light and enjoyable.
- Graphics: This whole game is so beautiful, wow! It’s a bit of a handmade look and amazes you every time. The environments look so cute and all the characters you meet are all beautifully designed. I loved discovering new places every single time, just to see what they’d look like and enjoy the vibrant surroundings.
- Quests: There’s a huge variety of quests available (apparently over 300). Every NPC you meet will give you new quests, and your own character, Koa, will also have her own list of quests (this is the main quest). Some are really simple, for example, having to plant some sunflowers and delivering them to a NPC. Quests like these involve a lot of going back and forth from your island to other islands, but I honestly never got bored doing that. The whole game is very peaceful and relaxing, so this fits right in. You are usually free to pursue whatever quest you want to first, but as you can see in the image below, sometimes it will say that you need to advance the quests of Koa in order to continue.
- Farming, exploring, and crafting: Of course, these three actions are what the game is all about. I ended up enjoying all three of them very much. Farming is quite simple, as you can just plant seeds of potatoes, carrots, cotton,… water the fields, and harvest what you planted. The simplicity made it even greater, honestly. Of course, a lot of exploring was involved as well. You start by exploring your own little island, and soon other islands. For this, you have a boat, which you can upgrade later in the game. I like exploring every little aspect, causing games to usually ‘last’ longer than developers say they will, and here it is so worth it. The third aspect is crafting. I’m a sucker for this as well. Gathering materials, making all kinds of things, and getting new recipes was very fun. The crafting itself is very simple: you gather your materials, you click ‘accept’, and a few seconds later you’ll have what you need. I like that you don’t have to wait hours for something to finish, not even if you make 10 of something.
- Educational: More and more games are released as being educational. This one didn’t have an indication of being educational at all (or I missed it). However, I found so many things that made me go ‘aww, this is so good!’. For example, you can pick up all sorts of garbage in random places and go recycle it. When you do, the recycle bin will show some hearts because it’s happy. I really loved hits. Another example can be found in conversations. From the beginning, it is made clear that the earth is beautiful and important, and that we have to be kind to it and to others. Yaya Haku will tell Koa in the very beginning that she always has to be kind to others, even when they are mean because some are mean because they are lost. She also tells Koa that when we cut down a tree, we should plant a new one. What we take from nature, we must give back. This melted my heart. I love it when people use their platforms to help (the earth) a little and try and make a difference.
- Music: I absolutely L O V E D the soundtrack in this game. It is so cheerful and contributes to enjoying the overall gameplay even more. Sometimes there were cute tunes, sometimes a little happy whistling, I absolutely adored it. Then why put it in this section, you’re probably wondering. Well, unfortunately, the music had a tendency of cutting out sometimes. Poof, music gone. I have no idea why, but I really missed those moments it wasn’t there. Please, please, please fix this because it’s such a wonderful soundtrack!
What we disliked
- I honestly couldn’t come up with anything that I disliked about this game, it’s pure fun!
Summer in Mara comes out today, June 16th, on Steam and the Nintendo Switch. If you have either of those, I strongly recommend you go get it right away. This game is a real gem and I enjoyed every second of it. Even though the music sometimes cuts out, the soundtrack is just wonderful, so that flaw is easily forgiven. The elaborate story, beautiful graphics, three well executed key mechanics, and enjoyable quests make Summer in Mara definitely one of my favourite games of 2020, if not my favourite (but who can tell, we’re only halfway through the year). The game is also coming to the Xbox One and the PS4 later this year, by the way.