Summer in Mara - from developer and publisher Chibig - hits PC and Nintendo Switch on June 16th, bringing its ambitious, beautifully constructed adventure farming sim to players to enjoy while stuck inside. The game is not without its faults and it isn’t for everyone, and it’s a bit hard to nail down exactly what kind of player Summer in Mara is for. That said, Summer in Mara succeeds in providing a delightful single-player experience allowing players to farm, sail, and explore the world of Mara without ever leaving the comfort of their own home.

Welcome To Mara

via Nintendo

As one of my most-anticipated games this year, during the buildup to its release, Summer in Mara drew me in with its charmingly beautifully animation and an innocence in its main character, Koa, that I couldn’t wait to experience as a potential way to temporarily escape the realities of the state of the world. Thankfully, Summer in Mara executed greatly in this regard. Running around Koa’s home island, or even in the delightful cities that she ends up visiting on the adjacent islands, I couldn't help but be at ease as I visited shops, “talked” with the townspeople and other main characters, and ran up and down the beachside. Along with the delightful music, it felt as though I was interacting within the world of a Saturday morning cartoon from my childhood, such as The Weekenders or PB&J Otter, in which an innocent curiosity allowed me to make the most of my time in Mara. Of course, there is more than meets the eye within the world of Mara.

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Player’s take on the role of Koa, a young girl rescued from a shipwreck as a baby by Yaya Haku - an alien-like creature that raises Koa as her own grandchild. A few years later, Koa becomes old enough to fend for herself on the island using the knowledge bestowed in her by Yaya, such as farming, fishing, mining, cooking, and crafting. Eventually, a mysterious light visits the island, leading to Koa sailing away from her island, for the first time ever, in search of answers.


Get Ready To Explore. A Lot.

The farming and crafting sim elements in Summer in Mara do well enough to please fans of those types of games. Players can grow lush vegetation on their farms, plant trees around the island to replace the ones that get chopped down, and build structures such as chicken coops. Overall maintenance isn’t super involved, which I appreciated given the fact that I don’t generally gravitate towards (or do well in) those types of games.

However, there isn’t really too much direction given in terms of how to craft things. When Koa is met with an item that she can’t mine or farm, she responds with, “I need a better axe/hoe.” This is fine since players will eventually be able to make something better after finding a new axe or hoe crafting recipe, but most of the recipes are just given to Koa without any sort of instruction as to how to snag the required components. I can’t tell you how long I searched for ways to create thread before giving up and eventually finding some after leaving the first island. Luckily, this learning curve eventually levels out after spending a ton of time in the game and getting familiar with craftable items.

This lack of direction extends into the absence of a real map to show Koa where she needs to go to complete her next objective, or simply figure out where she is. A static map of Qälis, the second island Koa visits, shows up before even leaving the home island, which also led to some early in-game confusion. Granted, part of Summer in Mara’s primary charm is to explore. It just would have been nice to have an ability to turn on hints or arrows as to where I needed to go, rather than running around aimlessly in hopes of running into my objective.

Beneath The Surface

As alluded to - both in this article and in the recent Summer in Mara story trailer - the game is much more than just a sunny day on the beach. Players will uncover the secrets that Mara and its inhabitants have to offer - and Koa’s connection to it all - over the course of 20-plus hours and hundreds of quests (which include side missions). Although some of the dialogue exchanges are a bit incohesive or time-wasting, the overall plot is one that will keep players invested as they venture throughout some of Mara’s more mysterious settings.

Thankfully, while an in-game clock does exist, players aren’t beholden to any sort of hard schedule, allowing for a less linear gameplay experience so that players can play the game however they see fit.

Summer in Mara gets a lot right in a game that can be enjoyed by narrative adventure players and farming sim players alike. It might be a bit overly ambitious in that regard, not perfecting or catering to one single genre more than the other. However, for those willing to be patient in the early game and look past its lack of directions and slight technical issues, Summer in Mara is a game that will provide plenty of charm and easy-going fun this summer.

A Switch copy of Summer in Mara was provided to TheGamer for this review. Summer in Mara is available on June 16th for PC and Nintendo Switch.

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