In a time where many of us are distanced from society, the slew of games that revolve around farming simulation can provide us with a bit of structure.
Chibig Studios’ kickstarted game, Summer in Mara, sees the player journey to over 20 different islands helping to bridge that distance between Koa and the diverse characters that inhabit her neighbouring isles. Returning to your own bubble and tending to your island results in moments of growth and contemplation. It’s an interesting parallel to the act of socially distant forms of socializing people are experiencing in 2020.
Enjoying the island life
Summer in Mara begins on a secluded island with the protagonist Koa and her adoptive, anthropomorphic grandmother, Yaya. The game plays like the gentle breeze that nurses the island, with a relaxing gameplay loop allowing you to carry out objectives at your own pace.
Despite the day/night cycle, there’s no emphasis on completing tasks with any haste, which ultimately works in the game’s favor. One of the problems I’ve often had with these types of games is that doing menial tasks becomes redundant. At the moment, at least, I think it’s easy to underestimate how helpful these quests can be to relax and grant a bit of structure to our lives.
What works against it is the lack of specificity to objectives and instructions at times. In one quest, I had to make a food offering, but there was no indication of the quantity required. That may seem like nitpicking, but you have to eat food to alleviate tiredness. As you need to grow your own fruit and vegetables, you’re then left waiting for the day to pass in order to hope you have the correct amount.
Simple and repetitive
The farming and resource management is a generally enjoyable aspect of the game. However, the mechanics are simplistic. The lack of real progression leads to a somewhat repetitive loop that erodes your engagement the longer you spend in the game.
On the plus side, there’s a real emphasis on replenishing resources you use, such as replanting trees after cutting one down. It’s refreshing to see that kind of responsible ideal enshrined in the game’s mechanics and its narrative.
Speaking of narrative, the story is a charming adventure and one of the more palatable aspects of the game. Owing to its style and method of travel, it’s easy to draw comparisons with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. These two things aside, the gameplay is wildly different.
Summer in Mara is aesthetically appealing and lends to the joy that the story elicits. Much of that comes from the characters you meet along the way, many of whom are similar to your anthropomorphic grandmother. This grants them a distinct appearance, and the writing helps to create some truly memorable interactions.
Summer in Mara manages to instill joy. It connects you with likable characters and weaves a narrative into its gameplay loop in ways that many other similar titles do not. Ultimately, though, the simplicity of its mechanics too often turns the game into a chore.
Game Freaks 365 received a free review copy.