Title: Summer in Mara
Release Date: June 16, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Adventure Sim
Farming adventures are typically enormous time sinks. Players are required to spend many in-game days building up their crops and micromanaging their time to get the most out of their harvest. However, Summer in Mara takes these ideas and streamlines them to be approachable with relaxed systems that don’t punish the players for prolonging certain chores.
Summer in Mara tells the story of Koa, who you meet at a very young age after she is saved from a sinking ship. Her only friend is an alien-like creature known as Yaya, who teaches the basics of survival and manners. The opening moments of gameplay set up the adventure that is about to take place as the next time we meet up with Koa, she’s older, and Yaya is no longer around.
Koa is a curious girl and eager to make it out on her own. This happens sooner than expected after a strange creature appears to require her help getting back home. Given that this is the first time she is leaving the island, she prepares a ship and sets off to the unknown.
Koa’s travels lead her across Mara, where she meets a host of whimsical characters and completes quests to complete her goal. The remainder of the game branches off this idea, but the story sadly doesn’t really pick up entirely until the information dump of a conclusion. Regardless, the story merely takes a back seat as Koa spreads her wings in this new world.
Combining such a big adventure and farming elements is no easy task. Still, Summer in Mara pulls it off by having quests tied to growing specific fruits and vegetables or crafting particular tools. Luckily, not every quest is related to growing items, but most can be summed up as fetch quests.
This mission structure can get repetitive in the later hours of gameplay. This is mostly due to how you will be sent on dozens of these quests that require you to put the adventure on hold for a few days as you go home to grow lettuce. After you deliver the item, you’ll get a new quest that sends you back home to produce a new crop. This back and forth happens more times than I could count.
Summer in Mara isn’t all about completing quests, though, as time can be put into leisurely harvesting your goods and building up your inventory. However, you will hit several walls as progress is locked behind some quests. As time goes on, your tools improve, and you can create intricate farming zones complete with animal life and plentiful food. After collecting, items can be crafted into more useful things, which can be sold or used to progress the adventure.
Thankfully, the game never forces the player to micromanage their time. Players can also take on quests at their own pace and not feel rushed to complete something right away. Each active quests can be found in a menu that informs you how to progress the questline of a character, which makes it easy to know what your next task is.
Direction ends up being a bit of a problem for Summer in Mara since the island map isn’t very intuitive. It merely shows you an overview of the island but doesn’t exactly tell you where you are. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but some islands are rather large. Regardless, it provides a sense of discovery as you take your time exploring, collecting items, and getting the lay of the land.
Players travel to islands by boat. On the open sea, there are fishing spots, diving spots, and even pirates. It gives the entire game a sense of scale as your work towards unlocking more of the map and discovering new landmarks. Still, the fast travel options are a bit limited.
Summer in Mara picks up in the later portions of the game as the story nears its conclusion. This is when Koa learns new building recipes and farming becomes more straightforward, which automates most of the hard work. However, I would have appreciated those systems in the early portions of the game or maybe after my 50th time back to the island to grow a couple of sunflowers.
The graphics of Summer in Mara give the entire adventure a colorful look. Even though some structures might appear to be a bit basic, the developer has spent plenty of time filling up the world with unique NPCs and explorable areas.
The music is full of relaxing tones as the ambiance and wildlife do the most for the atmosphere. Things like hearing the waves against the boat or the sound of the gentle breeze really make you feel like you are out and about with Koa.
Summer in Mara is a whimsical adventure that doesn’t require the player to micromanage their days. The balance of exploration, discovery, and farming-sim elements make this a charming way to spend an afternoon. Still, the repetition of it all will make long play sessions dull. While direction and pacing can be confusing, this game is exceptionally approachable to anyone looking for a farming-sim adventure with a low barrier or entry.
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