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Review

Written by Jade Swann | Edited by John Gerritzen

Summer in Mara is a relaxing farming and exploration game from developer and publisher Chibig. You play as Koa, a young girl who wants to venture outside of her own little island and explore all of what Mara has to offer. With charming characters, plentiful quests, and interesting islands to explore, you’ll find much to do in the world of Mara.

WELCOME TO MARA

After a brief tutorial, you start your adventure alone on your own island. Soon enough, though, more of Mara opens up to you and you’ll meet a wide variety of interesting characters as you explore the various islands. From the lazy sailors who are filled with stories to the mischievous cat waitress to the outsider who has isolated himself from the rest of the town, each character you meet brings forth their own unique personality. They each also have their own beautifully-drawn artwork that appears beside them and has different emotions when speaking to them in conversation, similar to the dialogue style in the Harvest Moon games (though they do not have much dialogue outside of quests). 

You’ll get to know all of these characters both through the main quest and their personal side quests – and there are a lot of them. These quests will have you utilize all of the gameplay mechanics, such as growing crops, crafting objects, cooking food, sailing to new islands, digging up treasure, raising farm animals, fishing, and talking to other island residents. 

The majority of these quests tend to be fetch quests, with you running back and forth between people or islands in order to complete them. This can feel a little grindy at times, especially when they require walking back and forth across the large main town of Qüalis. While growing crops and crafting objects is fun, the endless walking around can feel a bit tedious at times. That said, there are plenty of quests to do and if you grow tired of having to walk around one island, you can usually find something else to do. Though the rewards for these quests aren’t always the best, some do provide an additional outfit or backpack for Koa, which does add a nice touch of customization. 

All in all, it took me over twenty hours to beat the main quest with a few side quests still left over, which is an impressive amount of content for the price point. 

To the Sea

As you set sail around Mara, you’ll discover over a dozen different islands. These islands each have something interesting about them, whether it be how vases mysteriously move when your back is turned or how you might find an abundance of cute pigs lazily roaming around, or something less grand, like a rare fruit tree or type of fish to catch. The islands are both beautiful to look at, as well as interesting to explore. 

Much of the main quest revolves around protecting these islands and Mara as a whole, whether that be by picking up trash, helping your fellow residents, or thwarting the evil actions of those who want to use up all of the precious resources. The main story arc is interesting to progress, and has a few beautifully-drawn animated cinematics throughout as well. 

ROUGH EDGES

While the scenery is beautiful and there are a lot of fun things to do, there are some rough edges that keep Summer in Mara from reaching its full potential. There were times when I entered a new part of the map and fell through the world, as well as times when I fast-traveled to my island and found myself stuck, as the island had glitched and merged with the water. Hitboxes for talking to the pirate ships can be rather finicky, and I spent a fair bit of time backing up my boat and repositioning trying to get the hitbox to appear whenever I needed to interact with one. The nice soundtrack often has a silent lull when first entering an area for a minute or two, which does sort of interrupt the relaxing feel.

Additionally, while not bugs or glitches, there are some aspects that feel like they could have been expanded on more. For example, NPCs will still regard you with their same standard one line even after completing all of their personal quests. One character will greet you with a sad sigh despite giving them everything they’ve asked for, while a shopkeeper character will only answer you with “Buy something or get lost” after helping them and finishing their questline. It seems like an odd choice not to include post-completion dialogue and does sort of jar you out of the immersion. 

Additionally, despite the emphasis on the farming aspect of the game, there aren’t very many features to go along with it. For example, there are no season cycles, and your plants do not have any quality indicators; they grow the same and sell for the same amount regardless of how much you water them, or if you choose to water them at all. While not a huge deal, these features could have helped to make the farming mechanic feel a bit more fleshed out. Ultimately, while the main ideas are all there, they are a few features short of the depth that they could have had.

6

The Verdict: Good

With cute artwork, interesting characters, and an impressive amount of quests, Summer in Mara is both a fun and relaxing experience. Some features could have been better fleshed out and you’ll likely encounter a bug or two on your journey, but there is a lot to do and see in this charming world. Despite the rough edges, I had a lot of fun during my time in Mara and if you enjoy similar games in the genre, you’ll probably enjoy this one too.

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