This summer comes the most ambitious project from Chibig, a small Spanish studio which previously made two mobile games – Tiny Planet and Ankora, and had made their way to consoles and PC with Deiland in 2018. But we’re not here to talk about them – we’re here to talk about Summer in Mara.
The story behind Summer in Mara began in February 2019, when the project to fund it was launched on Kickstarter. I actually backed this project, pledging the lowest tier of €16, securing myself a digital copy, which I am reviewing now. They had a goal of €20,000 and smashed it, achieving to raise more than 10 times that amount. As a result, they were able to add a lot more to the game. In March of this year, the game was showcased on Nintendo Indie World, and struck a deal with Nintendo, resulting in the game coming to Switch and PC first, with PS4 and Xbox One still to come.
Now with all the background info over and done with – lets dive in.
When I look for a good Switch game, I like them to be chill, as 300+ hours of Animal Crossing can tell you. And this game is certainly that. You play as Koa, a feisty young girl, living on an island within the sea of Mara with her adopted grandmother. The gameplay is centred around farming and fetch quests. There are no penalties for abandoning your farm for days on end while you sail across the sea, fulfilling the needs of the cast of characters you encounter on your adventure. Some reviewers may see this feature as lacking, but for an anxious person like myself who’s cortisol levels rise whenever there’s any sort of timer within a game, this is perfect. I can grow my plants as quickly or as slowly as I see fit. The animals on my farm don’t starve if I don’t, or can’t, feed them in a timely manner – instead, they are content to roam around my island, providing me with eggs, truffles or milk once I provide them with their preferred food.
I think the moment I fell for the game was when I obtained my first chicken. You don’t buy your animals in Summer in Mara, but rescue them from the sea, where they are afloat in crates. You can stumble upon them at any point on the sea, take them upon your boat, and when you return home they are now on your island. The chickens start off as little yellow chicks, growing in size each time you feed them, following you around once you leave your house. Once fed, every animal is pettable, too, from your own chickens and pigs, to the dogs you find roaming on the island of Qälis, the main town where you’ll be travelling to over and over.
The game opens with a 2D animated sequence, which sets up the beautiful art style that is present throughout the entire game. Just look at the character design, my word! The world is inhabited by all sorts of different races, mainly the Qüido which are jellyfish-like humanoids, and each character has their own personality.
The game, in its current state, is not perfect. You often get quests that require items you won’t get until much later down the line in another quest line, travelling back to your island to craft can be tedious, and there are glitches. The PC versions of Summer in Mara have since been updated, but the Switch version hasn’t, at time of writing, so I cannot yet speak of the changes that have been made. However, the developers have been open as to why this is via their discord, in that Nintendo have a quality assurance process that is impeding the update. The discord itself has been full of players all contributing to highlight bugs and issues they have found within the game. Some players may feel that all these bugs should have been found before launch, but I feel that this small team is working hard, and as more people play the game, more issues were bound to be found, and they are trying their best to make Summer in Mara an even better game than it is right now.
If you want a new chill game, that isn’t overly complicated, filled with cute art, and something that will scratch that completionist itch, I would definitely recommend Summer in Mara. I’ve lost track of the number of hours I’ve poured into it in the week I’ve owned it, and I’m still not done. Though if you want it on Switch, maybe keep an eye out for the patch, as some early glitches can be jarring, and from I’ve seen updated for PC, many quality of life changes are coming. As time goes on, resources for the game will continue to grow, which I feel is only to the game’s benefit.