REVIEW | Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara

REVIEW | Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara

LifeIsXbox Review | A spiritual successor to Summer in Mara but with a focus on platforming and collecting, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara brings back our cute heroine for some light-hearted adventures. After a successful Kickstarter raising close to €300K, we can now enjoy this addictive collect-a-thon on all platforms.

Combatless platformers focusing on the simple yet fun activity of collecting tons of stuff, now that’s a genre you won’t have any issues selling to me. Bonus points if they’re colourful and somewhat aimed at children, so my kids can watch me play through the game without me worrying about their impressionable little minds.

Let’s put on our sandals and visit the sandy beaches of Mara!


ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series X|S | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on Twitter!

What we Liked!

  • Cute & colourful aesthetics | You play as Koa, a young girl with a taste for adventure and the game’s plot is one that’s easy enough for kids to understand, with colourful environments and equally quirky characters. It’s a great game to play as a parent if you’ve got kids watching over your shoulder.
  • Replayable and short but fun levels | Because of the nature of the game, you’ll play most levels twice. First, to explore every nook & cranny to find the hidden items, and then once more when you try to beat the top time and earn yourself a gold medal, now that you’ve learned how to easily dash to the finish. While the game is short, there is a decent amount of levels in various locations that make it feel longer than it really is.
  • Variation | You can challenge your companions to a race on certain levels, fish for sunken treasure, or visit a few leisurely locations without any real goals other than taking in the sights.
  • Upgrades & Cosmetics | The items you collect aren’t useless. As you get more of them, you unlock new outfits, backpacks or upgrades for your ship, that allow it to jump, boost or make its way through whirlpools.
  • Exploring the ocean | I loved how all the levels were located on different islands that you have to discover by exploring the ocean. It was always exciting to receive a new map piece and uncover more areas.

Mixed Feelings

  • Story | You don’t play a game like this for the captivating story and it really does boil down to “the pirates want to test you so you can join their ranks”. It’s only here to drive the player forward with the bare minimum of gravity. You can talk to plenty of people on the island, but unless you’re a returning Summer of Mara player who recognises characters from the previous game, you won’t really be motivated to.
  • Some environments look a little empty | While most locations have some nice little details, there are also environments where the level layout looks a bit too barren and objects are missing detailed textures or shadows. Performance wise the textures also take a while to load, especially on the Xbox Series S, and this is pretty noticeable when loading in a new level. Compare it to Super Lucky’s Tale and you’ll notice that similar games on the last generation of consoles could actually look better than this.
  • Locked content behind challenges | I like being challenged, but I prefer if there isn’t any important content locked behind it. The “optional” races unlock the last parts of the map and if you’re uncapable of reaching the finish first, a part of the map will forever be locked away. Most gamers won’t find this an issue, but I can see younger kids getting frustrated because of this (my children included).

What we Disliked

  • The controls | It’s essential to have full control over your character when you’re speedrunning, but having the X button both act as the run button as well as the roll+jump move is frustrating beyond belief. Even when I just kept the X button pressed, Koa would sometimes roll and jump off a platform instead of running along, failing my current speedrun attempt.
  • Music bugs | Some of the levels would start without any music. This is typically the kind of bug that gets easily fixed with the very first patch though so I wouldn’t worry about it and expect it to be resolved soon.
  • Achievement bugs | Near the final parts of the game, the achievements wouldn’t pop for me. I first thought it would be caused by quick resume and that it might be a local issue related to my Xbox, but then I noticed the achievements for petting the dog or throwing thrash in the frog trashcan also hadn’t popped early in the game. Nor did any of the “buy all clothes” type achievements. I hope this gets fixed, because I invested quite some time in replaying levels to find all items and get all the gold medals.

How long to beat the story | 4-5 hours if you’re only focused on the story levels
How long to achieve 1000G | ~7-8 hours are sufficient to get 100%
You’ll love this game if you like these | New Super Lucky’s Tale, A Hat in Time, Yooka-Laylee

Do you want to see the game in action? Of course you do:


Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a carefree and wholesome platformer with lots of sights to see, shiny things to collect and optional speed runs to challenge yourself.

It’s a balanced platformer that’s sure to scratch that collecting itch, wrapped in a neat island adventure package.

Gameplay 🎮

Koa controls great for the most part, but the decision to have the same button used for sprinting as for dash-jumping can lead to some unfortunate input mistakes.

Visuals 🖼️

The graphics are a mixed bag. On one hand, I appreciated some of the level and character designs and the colourful nature of it all. But on the other hand, the textures and shadows are slow to load, and some locations feel a bit barren.

Sound 🎧

Koa has some cheerful tunes to accompany on your adventure and her grunts and sighs never annoy despite hearing them with every jump. The only real blemish on the sound design is the background music not playing on some levels.

Story 📖

A simple yet cute story about a young girl getting enlisted to join the ranks of the pirate captains. It’s enough to set the scene, but you won’t be writing an essay on the surprising plot twists 😉

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