It’s tough to properly review a video game when you aren’t able to finish it due to a game-breaking bug. If I’m going to be honest, I’m relieved that Summer in Mara broke. I can tell that developer Chibig poured a lot of love into it, but the game is a mess of bizarre design choices and poorly implemented ideas. It’s a shame that this Kickstarted game didn’t receive the polish it deserved.
I can’t recommend this game to anyone, even without taking the game-breaking bug into account. Let’s get into what went wrong with Summer in Mara and the few things that did work well.
All About Execution
You start the game as Koa, a little girl who’s never known a life outside of her home island. Koa was adopted and raised by Haku, a Qüido whose in-game model is kind of terrifying. The story is simple and told through excessive, uninspired dialogue. It doesn’t take long to realize that Koa is a spoiled brat who constantly tells every person she meets that she’s… not a child? I understand that children can be irrational and immature, but Koa is literally a child.
The game’s story starts out fine but quickly becomes obnoxious to the point of being intolerable. Almost every character Koa runs into lectures her on being polite and having manners; most of those same characters don’t even follow their own advice and are incredibly rude. At first glance, it may seem like the game is trying to teach children the importance of treating others well. But is this game even aimed at children?
It’s okay for a story to repeat ideas, especially if it’s trying to make a point. The problem with Summer in Mara‘s approach is how little this actually benefits the narrative. Everyone repeats the same information, and if not for the art, I’d think most of the side characters are one person placed in different locations.
Another weak point in Summer in Mara is the lackluster farming mechanics. Farming is central to the game, but its implementation becomes a huge burden for the player. Koa’s home island is the only location I ran into where you can plant and harvest. This means you have to travel by boat and through a couple of loading screens to reach it when you’re off on other islands. You aren’t required to do this just a few times. The game forces you to make dozens of these trips to get anything done. had to travel back to Koa’s home island too many times just to grow one or two vegetables, just to complete a mission, come back, and repeat the process over and over.
Traveling by boat isn’t very satisfying. You don’t really do anything other than move in one of several directions. Opening your map to see where you need to go is inconvenient considering how often you may need to look at it. You can dive from your boat later on in the game, but the controls are a mess and you sort of have to figure it out while Koa drowns.
My biggest gripe with Summer in Mara is the …