Review – Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara

When you are a small indie studio, and one of your games becomes a surprising success, odds are you are going to try and capitalize on it, maybe make a sequel based on what worked on that game, fixing its issues, and so on. That’s the natural progression. Well, if you’re the makers of Summer in Mara, one of the many slice of life/farming simulators to hit the market over the past few years, developing a sequel was the way to go, but in a very extreme kind of way. Instead of being another farming sim, or a cozy, casual experience, they decided to turn Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara into a 3D platformer. The reason? No clue. Did it work? Eh…

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara 3D Platforming

It’s just an average platformer. I’ve played worse games on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve also player much better games on it.

Getting something out of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara‘s plot is something that will only happen if you have played its predecessor. It is very heavy on lore and dialogue and first, presenting it via a not so subtle barrage of walls of text. The problem is that this game plays and feels totally different from Summer in Mara, making it a hard sell for fans of the predecessor’s gameplay loop. It also makes it a hard sell for newcomers when they are expected to know what the hell is going on. Especially since the gameplay itself is just average at best. Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is very safe and uninteresting when you stop and analyze it.

What we have here is a 3D platformer with preset camera angles, not unlike Super Mario 3D World or Super Lucky’s Tale. Go from point A to point B as quickly as possible, collect lots of coins seashells, and look for some secret MacGuffins needed in order to 100% the game (they also act as secondary currency for some unlockables). You will mostly deal with obstacles, not enemies. It’s also not very ambitious. The level design is just simplistic at best, with just enough variety to make the game feel less of a slog. Shout out to the speedy levels full of turbo zips, which reminded me of the Dreamcast Sonic games… without the charisma.

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara Hub

The hub town is filled with shops and annoying characters to interact with.

It doesn’t impress graphically (it runs well enough, at 60fps, but it looks simplistic), its soundtrack is as average as the rest of its presentation as a whole, and its gameplay is as standard as a platformer can be. With that being said, the fact that there is a run button you need to hold down at all times is somewhat pointless when the focus of your platformer is to reach the end goal as quickly as possible. Run buttons in 3D platformers were only a thing on systems like the DS or the PS1. Those systems did not have analog sticks. We do nowadays. There was no reason to have that mandatory functionality on a game released in 2023.

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara Speed Levels

Shout out to the Sonic-esque, speed-based levels.

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is, sadly, just another bog standard 3D platformer that does very little to stand out from the deluge of platformers available on the Switch. Not featuring the same gameplay loop as its predecessor makes it a hard sell for fans of Summer in Mara, and being so canonically tied to a farming simulator also makes it a hard sell for platformer enthusiasts looking for another hidden gem on the Nintendo Switch. Add in average-at-best visuals, music and level design, and what you get as a result is just a very middle-of-the-road game that fails to appeal to anyone.


Graphics: 6.0

It’s cute, and it runs at 60fps, but it’s also very unimpressive even for Nintendo Switch standards. Summer in Mara, the farming simulator predecessor, looked a lot more interesting than Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara.

Gameplay: 5.5

The platforming isn’t half bad, but the inclusion of a run button, as if we were playing Super Mario 64 DS, felt nonsensical for a console that features analog sticks for movement.

Sound: 6.0

Not bad, not good, just some really standard music that goes into one ear and comes out of the other.

Fun Factor: 6.0

Being a tonal shift from its farming simulator predecessor makes it a hard sell for fans of Summer in Mara. Being so canonically tied to that game also makes it restrictive towards newcomers. The overall game is just average at best, meaning its strengths do not outshine these issues.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is available now on PC and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara was provided by the publisher.