Tired of shooting other players online and eager to try something relaxing for a change of pace? Don’t worry: Chibig Studio has something for you on their sleeves. First released for PCs (in 2020), the Spanish studio now brings to our beloved Xbox One Summer in Mara. In this relaxing adventure, you play as Koa, a young girl full of personality eager to explore the archipelago where she lives.
Rescued from a shipwreck and raised as a grandchild by Yaya Haku on a paradisiac island, the young Koa will grow into quite a hot head adventurer! Using the old ship of your gramma, you will explore Mara’s islands, know many interesting people, and live the adventure of a lifetime. At the same time, you will take care of the life on your island, growing crops, breeding animals, and discovering new friends along the way. Let’s get all aboard because Koa’s adventure is about to begin!
Rafa spent more than 25 hours taking care of his farm, animals and exploring the seas in Summer in Mara. Who would guess that such a big guy would spend more than a week breeding sheep, chickens, and pigs on his island?
What we liked!
- Visuals: The visuals in Summer in Mara are magic! So colorful and charming, this adventure will surely be eye-catching for players of all ages! Even my wife, who doesn’t like games at all, enjoyed watching me helping Koa take care of the island. Mara’s world isn’t a place inhabited only by humans – they are rare in these waters, to be honest. While exploring this world, you will meet some very creative specimens like cat-people, shell-people, and other hard-to-identify individuals with great visuals. The 3D models for these characters are beautiful, although they do not show any emotions – which was a big letdown. We can only see their expressions through dialog boxes that show characters talking to each other – and the images for each one in these moments are impressive. Especially the intro animation, that could fit between any Studio Ghibli animations. And let’s not forget about the day-and-night cycle and weather changes that help make the atmosphere of this game so special! Kudos, guys!
- Gameplay: The gameplay in Summer in Mara reminded me of another franchise from Amccus/Natsume called Harvest Moon (also available on Xbox). If you enjoyed spending countless hours in one or more games of that franchise, this one is certainly a title you should check! Anyway, here you will take care of your island, breeding animals, growing greenery, and exploring the island’s resources. With those, you can cook delicious recipes or build objects that you can sell to other characters. During its day-and-night cycle, Koa will feel hungry and tired, so please always remember to feed her and give her a good night of sleep. But since you live all by yourself on this island, you will need to explore the sea – a lot! Only by exploring the world you will meet new characters, which Koa can help in their needs, as Yaya Haku taught her when she was younger. And as you help them, you will be able to accomplish Koa’s dream of exploring the world as an adventurer. A win-win situation.
- Audio: Now this… this is the jewel of the crown in Summer in Mara! The sound effects are remarkable! Grunts, laugh, the sound of tools – you name it! But the soundtrack here is simply superb! Perfect for one of these days when all you want is to chill and relax. Excellent to hear after a tough day at the job. The soundtrack mixes a few different rhythms, presenting some voiced songs that are wonderful. The team nailed this aspect of the game!
- Good story for younglings: The development of the story and interactions between characters bring interesting and meaningful lessons for children (though I know many grown-ups that could use it). It talks about the importance of goodness helping others, acceptance, and forgiveness in an easy-to-understand way. I’m sure a younger audience will learn something meaningful with this game.
- Fighting against the clock: As the poet once said, ‘you can’t always get what you want.’ Especially when time is at stake. In Summer in Mara, the mechanics of planting, watering, and harvesting your crops and breeding your animals grew old pretty quickly to me. Even more when you have a long list of tasks to accomplish and you can’t find enough time to do them before the end of the day. Yes, you can ignore your animals and plantations and go all out exploring, but WHAT SORT OF MONSTER ARE YOU TO DO SO!? HOW CAN YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT LEAVING THOSE LOVELY ANIMALS WITHOUT FOOD!? Thankfully, we have fast travel between islands that helps a lot (when it works – we’ll talk about it later) in exploration. However, it still feels there’s not enough time to do everything.
What we disliked
- Bugs: Summer in Mara isn’t free of bugs – but it’s becoming more and more a standard nowadays. Besides the visual glitches (trying to pet my chicken when its body was not even close to Koa) and awful collision detection (sometimes you will see her floating when close to an edge), sometimes the fast travel ceases to work for no reason and only after restarting the game it will work again. But the most useful (!) bug that I saw happened when the clock was approaching 9 PM and it went back to 10:30 AM and stopped advancing: it allowed me to rush the exploration and saved me a good amount of hours of gameplay.
- Problems with translation: I don’t usually mention – even less complain about it – if there is no translation to my idiom (for those unaware, I’m from Brazil and we speak Portuguese here – and it’s quite different from what our friends in Portugal speak) in a game. Still, it’s always nice to have it for those who don’t speak a second idiom. And Summer in Mara does have the option for texts in Portuguese. Full of misspellings and gender-swapped words, but it does. I can’t say if it happens in other languages too, but it seems their Portuguese translators didn’t pay enough attention to their texts. Nothing that compromises the experience, but still worth mentioning.
Reviewing Summer in Mara was a relaxing experience – particularly after two Souls-like games in a row. The visual of this world is so charming and enchanting that it will suck you in and, like me, you will lose the notion of time while playing it. Its nature is a little repetitive, that’s a fact, but you will still feel the need to help each character out there. After Dovahkiin, the delivery boy from Skyrim, Koa, the delivery girl from Mara, promises to keep you entertained – or busy – for hours and you won’t even feel them passing by.
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.