Review – Summer in Mara

When I first came across the Kickstarter project for Summer in Mara, I was pretty hyped.  I was already on an ocean-high, having recently watched Moana. This inspired me to watch nature documentaries and play The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker for perhaps the third or fouth time. The Kickstarter trailer for the game was beautiful and it felt like the perfect virtual world to whisk away to and spend my summer in. Did Summer in Mara live up to all of its summery and ocean-y hype? Almost, but not quite.

In Summer in Mara, you play as Koa, an eleven-year-old girl who lives on an island with her grandma, Yaya Haku. Koa takes care of her home island by exploring the environment, gathering materials, growing crops, and crafting tools and items in her workshop. She ultimately decides to use her boat to sail away to explore other islands, where she meets a plethora of people, friends, and a few enemies along her adventure.

Summer in Mara

The best friends to talk to are the ones that don’t talk back.

The gameplay is a tightrope balance between fun and frustrating. It’s fun to explore the different islands, speak to people, and gather materials. However, I feel as if a minimap mechanism would have gone a long way to help the player, or at least some way of showing your location on a map. I respect, and perhaps even appreciate, that this game does not hold your hand, and it encourages and fosters exploration and trial and error.  That being said, after a while it takes a turn from being fun to being tedious. I can’t even say how many times I was trying to find the next character to speak to, but before I could even find my bearings of where I was on the island map, Koa became tired and had to get some rest.

Summer in Mara

I related to the character of Koa the most because of how low energy she is.

The game is challenging, but after a while it begins to feel like an impossible juggling act.  You need coins for various reasons; you need to sell items to earn coins. What if you’re saving those items for a specific purpose? Some shops are only open during certain times of day. As the player, you’re not sure which quest is possible to do at any given time and not many clues are given at all. It’s easy to become overwhelmed in terms of the number of quests that are given, and traveling back and forth between your home island and the other islands quickly becomes somewhat of a frustrating chore.

Summer in Mara

This lady has been posing for this picture for at least 45 minutes.

It’s not all bad.  The art style is beautiful and the atmosphere is charming.  The music and sound are well done. There is minimal voice acting; basic vocalizations to get the point of the emotion across, but it works. The art and music allow the player to experience a childhood exploring islands in the summer. Another strong aspect is the element of learning and discovery. It is challenging to search for certain items, but when you finally discover them and realize that they only appear in certain conditions, it is satisfying.

Summer in Mara

This quote speaks to me.

Perhaps the beautiful art and music will be enough for Summer in Mara to be a great game for you. The gameplay may become a tad bit monotonous, but it is satisfying to travel the tropical ocean from island to island on an adventure. The high number of quests might quickly overwhelm you, however, if you find the idea of searching through islands across a vast ocean for items to gather and craft is exhilarating, then this game might be for you.


Graphics: 9.0

The art style is beautiful and immerses the player in a tropical island environment.

Gameplay: 7.0

The gameplay is fun at first, but quickly becomes quite monotonous.

Sound: 9.0

The music fits well with the game, as well as the minimal vocalizations.

Fun Factor: 6.5

The tedious gameplay is why I probably wouldn’t replay this game any time soon.

Final Verdict: 7.5

Summer in Mara is available now on Nintendo Switch and PC.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Summer in Mara was provided by the publisher.