For this edition of New Games to Cool You Off This Summer, we’re coming up and out from the ocean and on to some tropical islands in developer Chibig’s new title: Summer in Mara, enjoying everything that comes with a relaxing island life.

Summer in Mara is a life sim in the vein of Animal Crossing or Story of Seasons, but you’d be mistaken thinking it has the same type of depth as those series. On the other hand, lacking this depth could also be seen as beneficial, as you don’t have to worry as much about crops or anything else you created getting ruined, and you don’t have to worry about neighbors moving away at all! 

Summer in Mara stars Koa, a human girl adopted by Yaya Haku, who herself is some kind of humanoid fish person. They live together on Mara with a few other quirky characters and mostly enjoy laid-back island life, while also making sure to be respectful of the nature around them and give back what they take.

While most of Summer in Mara involves Yaya teaching Koa about farming, crafting, cooking, helping others around the island, and other things that help improve her quality of life, there is more of a narrative than other games in the genre. Koa is destined for something greater, as you might be able to tell with her being one of the few (if not the only) humans in the archipelago, and helps to fight against an evil entity while also trying to figure out the mysteries that surround her island and the rest of the archipelago.

Summer in Mara has a really charming presentation, which to me is almost reminiscent of various Studio Ghibli films. It’s not the most visually impressive or unique style around, but it really helps exemplify the more laid back feel of the game. Something else I admire about the game is how the archipelago has several different races throughout it, including fish people, cat people, and more, yet none of it feels out of place and Koa never seems to be surprised by the new friends she meets.

A few things I’ve noticed while playing the Nintendo Switch version are that the music will abruptly stop at times while walking around the island, and will randomly start back up again after a while. There are also a couple of small visual glitches I’ve noticed, like the camera completely moving underwater when Koa tries to talk to someone while swimming. I also noticed that at times, there’s no marker on the map telling you where to go, so you either have to make sure to remember locations or just guess what to do next depending on the situation. Hopefully, these problems will be fixed with a patch in the near future, but otherwise, any other problems I’ve had with Summer in Mara are more due to personal preferences.

There’s plenty of room for improvement regarding the user interface, but it’s simple enough to still easily get the hang of, and the majority of quest lines are fetch quests, but that’s why I probably wouldn’t recommend it to veteran players of other life sim series. While players may not have to worry about the intricacies found in other life sims, one thing that may not be noticed at first is Koa’s energy level, and once it has been depleted she has to rest for it to be fully restored. This is as complex as this game gets, providing another reason it probably shouldn’t be recommended to life sim veterans.

It’s not the most in-depth life sim title, but I could see it being a great pick for younger kids who may be intimidated by the constant play needed to succeed in more notable life sim titles. Summer in Mara also shares a handful of positive messages through its dialogue, something that’s always beneficial for young minds.

Summer in Mara is currently available on Nintendo Switch and PC, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions planned to launch in the near future.

A code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this article.

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Erroll Maas
Erroll is a writer with an enthusiastic love of Japanese monsters and the games which feature them, from Pokemon to Power Rangers to Pacific Rim and everything in between. You can learn more about this and plenty of other games and nerdy things by following @errollm

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