Summer in Mara promises to be the ultimate summer title: vast oceans, pirates, farming, many islands, an idyllic spot, no time pressure, what more could you want. And that’s exactly it. Summer in Mara begins with a tutorial on your home island, where your grandmother teaches you everything and provides you with your first tools. I am in good spirits, it feels good to have a grandmother who tells you where to go.
I enjoy the sun and the calm of my home island, I watch the crabs on the beach and the fish in the sea. At this point, I’m still the little Koa who has to learn everything first. This peace remains as Koa grows older and the grandmother disappears. I don’t know where she went and Koa doesn’t mention it with any syllable. Did she die? In the sea? Where is she? But that doesn’t matter because one day we see a strange light in the ocean and in Koa the desire to explore the islands in Mara matures. So after a few game days Koa and I got fed up with the island, repaired grandmother’s boat and went to Qälis, the next big inhabited island, to start our adventure.
It’s a nice start, it’s calm and relaxing. And it feels like a real beginning, because I only learn everything bit by bit and slowly approach everything. Unfortunately, that is exactly the speed at which Summer of Mara continues and that is a bit of a shame.
Mara consists of many different islands and when I arrive with Koa in Qälis, a whole new world opens up to me: other beings run around, I can go shopping and accept quests and somehow convince the lady in the lighthouse to make me a map so that almost all of Mara with all of its different islands is open to me. It’s pretty cool!
But until I have this card, many game days pass. I accept quests that have to do in part with the fact that I drive back and forth between Qälis and the home island, armed again and again with only one or two items that I now wanted. It feels tough. I often go to the home island because I am supposed to plant vegetables, so I spend a few days on the home island, do not get anywhere and wait for the vegetables to bring them to the client.
Or I go back to the home island because I am supposed to make a rope. All of these tasks feel aimless and not as if I’m really experiencing adventure. Summer in Mara simply presents me with a lot of “bring and get me” quests, which now feel so slow that it is sometimes not really fun to do them.
The more I discover in Mara, the more quest givers I unlock. However, if I don’t get any further in the main story, it may also be that I no longer have any quests and then only go back and forth between the islands for the main story, which is a bit annoying in the long run because I have challenges that appeal to the ship and steer sensibly. In addition, exploring is only partially fun, because on many islands I find nothing and nobody that is really worth driving there.
By the way, you can also dive to look for treasures. It was a difficult thing for me in the first place, because I absolutely cannot cope with digital water. Unfortunately, the diving mechanics are not well developed: I dive down faster with the rear right shoulder button, but cannot swim up quickly and generally move very slowly under water. In itself, this could be a cool aspect of the game, but it feels a little out of place to me.
As befits such games, Summer in Mara also has an exhaustion indicator, along with a hunger indicator. So when koa is hungry, her exhaustion drops faster than when she eats something. It’s pretty rudimentary, but it’s a nice gimmick so that I’ll even cook something. Not that I don’t enjoy cooking in Summer in Mara, but I regularly forget that there are such functions.
Even if the fatigue indicator is part of a standard bar in such games, it annoys me a little bit in Summer in Mara : If it is almost empty, I get the message that the fatigue is too great, but then I don’t have enough time to sleep to go but fall straight over and wake up the next morning. But then only with a very lightly filled bar so that you can go straight back to bed or have something to eat. Here I would like more time to do something about the exhaustion.
All the more I love the many recipes that I can prepare. There’s even a jelly recipe! It’s pretty cool and a lot of fun to prepare these dishes, even if I’m basically just saying that Koa is preparing something and I don’t have to bother with it. I really like this variety of dishes. But not only that: I can even use various components to design my small farm on my home island the way I need it. It’s pretty cool.
I also find it a little sad that the villagers don’t seem to have any real life. Caleb and Noho are at the pier at all times of the day and night and are always open. And so it is with all NPCs, they are always there. That’s a shame and doesn’t have to be for a game of 2020.
I really like Summer in Mara for its quiet moments, the relaxing things and the lack of pressure, although I would sometimes like to have a bit of time pressure – although this basically comes from time itself. Every day doesn’t start until half past eight, which is quite late for the genre. However, time flies really quickly, so it is sometimes dark even though I haven’t done much yet. For example, it happened to me several times that I ran to a shop, which was then already closed.
But these are just the little things that bother me. I find the bugs that I experienced in the course of the game that I hope will be solved with some patch much more difficult. Let’s stick to the topic of time: on Qälis I was able to go to the shop behind the metal fence at some point. So I ran in and then I couldn’t get out. The reason for this is that the shop closes at 5 p.m. and then the gate is closed again. And then I couldn’t get out.
Or when I swam in the small pond, something happened and suddenly I found myself in the ocean. I cannot understand exactly what happened here. Or simply the fact that I have quests that I simply cannot hand in because the quest giver does not accept that I already have everything for them. Or that the frame rate sometimes just drops when I arrive in Qälis in handheld mode. Or that there is an island with small bottles hanging from the ceiling of a cave. If I look at the matter, Koa does nothing and only a restart of the software fixes that.
Summer in Mara also has a German translation, but it is more that you should simply leave it out. Felling trees is called “cutting”. Yes, it’s called “to cut a tree”, but that’s not the right translation. I also had a lot of grammatically incorrect sentences and some things weren’t translated at all. I don’t know if there will be a patch here that fixes all of that, but so far Summer in Mara is just full of so many bugs that it’s a shame and all of it outweighs the positive aspects like the extremely successful soundtrack.
Summer in Mara lets you explore Mara and her islands, you slip into the role of the girl Koa and go on a big adventure tour. What sounds very nice and exciting, unfortunately turns out to be a very slow game in which you simply travel from quest to quest, from home island to the next island and collect items somewhere or make them yourself and then travel back to the quest giver. Many quests do not make any sense, or somehow do not fit together, so I often do not even know what the quests have for the big picture.
I had a lot of fun starting Summer in Mara , but this travel mechanic sank out pretty quickly, so exploring the islands isn’t that much fun either, as there is often very little or nothing to be found on them. Summer in Mara could be the summer hit par excellence because it is calm and relaxing and comes with a phenomenal soundtrack, but … And unfortunately Summer in Mara has such a big but that I almost don’t want to write it. Not only is it very slow and tough, it is also full of many mistakes at the time of the review, which range from poor translations to immobility from koa.
This is a pity. I really wanted Summer in Mara to be a highlight, but a nice soundtrack and laid-back graphics couldn’t fill the gaps in the gameplay and didn’t make the mistakes go away. I hope the developers take the time to release a patch to fix all the bugs.
Summer in Mara is a relaxing game that is as fun as a day on the beach.