Summer in Mara
Genre: (Farming) Simulation, Adventure
Platform: Steam (also available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Playstation 4)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 16/06/2020
Price: £ 19.99
A code was provided for review purposes.
Summer in Mara has a story behind its development that is not too rare anymore: funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2019, the simulation game with RPG elements is beyond beautiful. The colourful and fresh environment burst with rich and appealing visuals at the first glance.
Since a lot of people demand and have gotten used to beautiful graphics, this title also allured me to pick it out to review it not just because of its cheerful visuals, but it’s also the genre I’ve played since I was a child: simulations.
The full ability to live through your day and do what your heart is longing for sounds heavenly and is, indeed, the routine of a classic farming simulation. Will it be as fun for me as all the other farming simulations I’ve played countless hours before, or will I not be able to give a recommendation? Keep reading to find out if it’s worth it to start a new life on another island while playing Summer in Mara!
Welcome to Your New Island
The first thing I did was enjoy the first screen that introduced me to the little girl I am playing as, Kao. She is the heroine of the adventure you are about to take on. Starting with a leisurely pace, I could have sat on that roof where the controlled character is sitting on at the beginning of Summer in Mara for hours probably.
You soon learn that the protagonist was found by an elderly woman named Yaya. Since then, those two live together on a gorgeous island. The kind grandma slightly reminded me – based on her appearance – from a creature out of a Ghibli movie. Styled after a sea creature, she more resembles a fish than the human Koa is. The passion for those movies of the developer team clearly shows.
After a brief conversation, you start a tutorial. Honestly, though, I first struggled to plant my first crop. Maybe it was because I started out playing on PC without hooking up a controller since I could not help myself waiting any longer, but I felt planting that carrot was not as clear as it should have been.
That was not the only slip-up, though. I could get the hang of the first things to do to survive and maintain my little farm after that, but the overall explanation in various regards could have performed better. More on that later.
Rough Start Ahead
It feels that the game was lazy with giving you some explanation and guidance at the beginning. Which is a shame since they did so well on a lot of aspects.
Like every farming game, you start with nothing and from scratch. Summer in Mara is no exception here. You won’t get flooded with information and learn the basic things you need to get the ball rolling. The player will get familiar with making their tools to make life easier. So exploring the whole environment is more enjoyable and effective.
The pacing of the story is laid-back and slow, but you certainly will not run out of tasks to fulfil in the meantime. Without spoiling too much or anything at all, I’ll try to give you slightly more insight of what to expect: Even though you met a few unique and various characters, do not expect to get a lot of answers anytime soon. That is just the flow of the overall game and, if you ask me, genre.
It does not matter too much, though, because Chibig made sure to pour work and detail into those characters as well. Not only design-wise, but they also get a lot of characters right. Thanks to side quests and encounters with previously mentioned characters (I grew especially fond of the cat trying to be a pirate), the story of unknown lands and what happened after the tutorial ends unfolds slowly. Fans of fast-paced stories sure won’t get their money’s worth with Summer in Mara.
No Haste – in Every Aspect
Without haste is the focus when it comes to discovering the world around you. With an open ocean around you, you can discover around 30 islands. That feature brought me back to Stranded Sails, a title I was also reviewing for Rapid Reviews UK, where you were also allowed to step into a boat and go further than your island to explore.
Similar to that title, the game gives you small restrictions about which islands you can discover since your boat isn’t made for long time journeys at first, and you should stick to the neighbouring specks of lands in the deep blue sea. While progressing the main story, the player as Koa gets upgrades for the boat that helps you navigate through the crashing waves.
Besides going to uncover the mysteries of the waters that surround your home island, you can gather materials to get yourself some nice tools and grow some crops. Fishing, keeping animals and mining as well as cooking can be done, too. You can even go diving at some point!
Oh, still energy to do more? Go ahead, as for completionists Summer in Mara offers side-quests such as gathering crabs or picking up trash. The game made sure to make you aware of your environment within the first minutes by telling you that cutting up a tree must result in you planting a new one. So, the picking up what others left behind as a side quest helped that message and is something we all should keep at heart – inside and outside the game.
In general, what you’ll see in that title is that you should be kind to others – and they’ll repay that kindness by treating you right. It goes for both environments as well as for habitants. I found that quite cute and nice.
Will the Rhythm Get Me?
Chibig’s love for details shows not only in the various aspects of the game but also in the soundtrack. The tracklist is inspired by tropical themes and celebrates summer in every note. A different attempt than the main line of games do, is incorporating many tracks with chanting which I am not too much a fan of. Regardless of that personal preferences, the music is well-rounded and splendid. Keeping in mind that this is not a big studio, it’s even more impressive.
The many dialogues you encounter in the game, though, have no voice acting. Not too bad, again, small studio and probably a budget issue.
Instead of that, they went down the middle of some sort – by using sounds like “Ah!” or “Ohh!” to empathize the on-screen appearing words. Along with made-up languages, that kind is something I wish was never implemented in video games. Better no voice acting than a bad one. Better no voice acting, than repeatedly hearing those strange noises.
Personal preference, but it hit me the wrong way. Some might say better a sound than no sound, but for me, it’s a hard pass.
Hinting at it at the beginning of this review, the visuals for Summer in Mara are gorgeous. May it be on the towns, environment and – for the most time – the characters, the graphics are well done. They are not high definition, but the overall concept is nothing the small studio has to hide for. Their biggest inspirations weren’t The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Stardew Valley for nothing!
The PC version probably suffers a bit for the sake of the game to be available on all consoles as well as PC, but I do not need the prettiest graphics in the world to enjoy a good effort with a good result. Keep that in mind though if your hardware would be powerful enough to display the best visuals in games there is.
Regardless of that, the game runs stable and did not crash on me ever – yay!
A Good Look is Nice; How About the Controls?
The controls, however, could have been better. Especially for PC. Of course, once you get the hang of it, you get used to it. You ended up doing some guesswork nonetheless sometimes. As previously stated, the missing guidance does not combine well with a fully fleshed out menu that is overly comprehensive and more than you need on your average simulation game. Plus, in Summer in Mara it takes a while to get there. Why do you ask?
Well, in some parts the game did not provide proper labelling of the functions, which lead to confusion and me trying to figure out what to do next while randomly pushing buttons on my keyboard. That was a tiny bit irritating and not a good start of my island life in Summer in Mara.
Did You Enjoy Your Stay?
The moment is here: What can I give to you as a final verdict?
Simulation games have a lot to offer – but also ask a lot from the developer. Summer in Mara is not perfect with its small and little hiccups. The biggest let down was the controls and the choice of performing certain tasks for me, but the game was still enjoyable. It won’t replace Stardew Valley on my beloved farming simulations, although it is a title considering picking up.
A lot of love went into Summer in Mara and that deserves to be rewarded. If this is your first farming/island life simulation game… Well, without patience for learning the proper controls and the menu combined with the lack of explanations, I would not recommend that to you yet. Maybe there will be a patch adding fleshed out tutorials which would do the game well.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Summer in Mara using the following links: Nintendo Switch or by using this widget for Steam below.