Over the last few months many things seem to have come to a halt. But gaming has kept moving forward. Now, more than ever people are looking for games to help them escape the day to day craziness that is 2020. One of the best ways to do that is to create your own little slice of paradise within a game world. Chibig has recently released Summer in Mara, a mix of adventure game and farming simulator.
You play as Koa, a young human girl that has been living on an island with her grandmother for as long as she can remember. Your Yaya has taken care of you and taught you how to live off the land and protect your island home. But soon, you will have to venture off your safe haven and sail the ocean to explore the world and expand your horizons.
The tutorial teaches you the basics of the game – as most tutorials do. You learn to craft, gather materials, and the location of things on your island. But once you complete the tutorial and go to sleep, the game changes. You are treated to a cartoon cutscene that feels like it should be for a Saturday morning cartoon, not the game you were just learning to play. Once you wake up, you are in the same world, but something is off. Yaya is gone, the island is in disrepair, and you must go out into the world to learn about your past, and the secrets your island holds.
The game is fairly simple to get into. Plant your crops, water them, gather supplies, and complete quests. The biggest obstacle you will encounter is time. Crops take days to grow, trees blossom every few days, and you can only gather certain supplies under specific conditions. Mushrooms, for example, only come out during the rain. You will spend most of your time running around doing errands for inhabitants of other islands to move your quest line forward.
Graphics in the game are good, but a bit of a downgrade from the crisp, cartoon cut scenes. Bright colors will draw you into the story and see all that is possible in this new world. Character design is well varied. You will encounter many different NPCs, and most are different species. This makes for a very diverse world. The soundscape of the game will have you believing that you are on an island in the middle of the sea. Gulls squawking in the distance and a gentle breeze are almost present.
At first glance, this title looks like a cross between Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and any of about a dozen adventure games. The problem is the game is a Jack of all Trades and Master of None. The farming simulator is rudimentary, the quests are almost all fetch and return, the travel is uneventful, crafting is basic, and the game timing is beyond rushed. Certain people and businesses can only be accessed at specific times, and you have to plan an entire day around one small task.
Summer in Mara is out now on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and will be coming to Xbox One and PS4 soon. With a price tag of $25, this game would be a good way to introduce younger or newer gamers to the genre. As much as I wanted to enjoy the game, it just drags. It takes too long to get the basics done, and once you start playing, you are constantly running back to your island because that is the only place certain tasks can be accomplished.