Family Game Night: Summer in Mara

SUMMER IN MARA: NINTENDO SWITCH, PC

RATING: E10+ (FOR FANTASY VIOLENCE)


By John Wahl

Most of the time, when we do a Family Game Night it involves playing games with our children, but “family” doesn’t just mean kids, it can include anyone in your household! And when I first saw the trailer for Summer in Mara from developer Chibig, I thought to myself “This is a game my wife would probably love“. Well, I didn’t call her “my wife” in my head. That would be weird. I usually think of her as…. you know what… nevermind. You know what I mean.

Summer in Mara is best described as Stardew Valley meets The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. You play as Koa, a young girl who was rescued as a baby from a shipwreck by Haku, a grandmotherly woman who lives alone on a small island. She raises Koa like a daughter and the two of them spend their time on the island farming, fishing, and cooking up tasty recipes. When Haku disappears one night, it’s up to Koa to care for the island and venture out into the world to solve the mystery behind her disappearance.

I sat down to check the game out one lazy Saturday afternoon, bopping around the island to see what the game was all about. It had a pretty charming aesthetic, with bright and colorful visuals. The controls were a bit loosey goosey for my taste, but you could get around the island pretty quickly which felt good. I planted some crops, chopped down a tree, and went fishing. It was a cute game that felt like a decent little summer diversion. So I called to my wife in the other room “You should give this game a try, I think you’ll dig it!”

And that was the last time I played Summer in Mara myself.

She doesn’t play a ton of video games, but when she finds one she likes she really latches onto it. Fortnite, Animal Crossing, and Paper Mario are all games that she has really gotten into. It’s often times the more accessible and family friendly games that she enjoys (although she got into Left 4 Dead hardcore and could pop off a Boomer from 100 yards). This game was easy to pick up and play, and was right in her wheelhouse.

Mara follows a pretty simple gameplay loop. You get a handful of quests to complete, most of which are simple fetch quests for various characters that you meet. It’s usually a matter of “find this” or “craft this” and return it to them. After completing a quest you’re usually rewarded with money and/or some sort of ingredient which allows you to craft a new recipe. It may sound overly simple, but there are some games that do this kind of thing really well. Just turn your brain off and complete the tasks. Check the things off of the list.

I sat back and watched as she made her way through the game that afternoon. She first had to repair her broken down ship to be able to sail, at which point the game shows it’s Wind Waker influences and has you cruising the high seas in search of other islands. She made her way to one large island that was full of life. With shops, restaurants, and new characters all around. It was here that the game began to open up a bit and she could begin multiple quests to complete in whichever order she chose.

In between completing quests on the big island, you can return home to craft new items, plant new crops, and upgrade your island with things like a water well or a chicken coop. It’s not quite as customizable as something like an Animal Crossing, but it is neat to see your island improve as you progress. There are also plenty of other smaller islands to visit and discover new characters and quests.

There were a few times where she found herself getting frustrated by quests which were unclear about exactly what they expected, or by objectives that she thought she had already completed, but she was never stuck for too long and eventually found out what the game was wanting from her. The game also progresses at a pretty slow pace, which could be either good or bad depending on what you’re looking for.

Summer in Mara is a simple game, a farming simulator with some light RPG elements, but that might be just the right kind of game for her right now. Nothing too heavy or complicated, just a pleasant, laid back kind of game that she can chill out to for a bit on the weekend. It probably says a lot about the game that since our “Family Game Night” she’s returned to it repeatedly and has put in quite a few hours of play. With a map full of islands and over 100 quests to complete, the game has plenty to keep you busy if you’re looking to chill out and live the island life.

Dad’s Take: ” A fun, light way to spend a weekend or two for those looking for a simpler experience.”

Mom’s Take: “A fun time, but it can be slow and tough to understand what the game wants you to do.”

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