Summer in Mara Impression
…all because of her childish innocence in the face of a sunnily cynical world.
I hadn’t heard of Summer in Mara before last Thursday, nor of its development studio, Chibig, so I came into this one rather blindly. I wasn’t even sure what sort of game it was, though the promotional footage looked lovely. After several hours with the game, I was willing to guess from the style and the various quirks of phrase in the localization that the studio was from a Spanish-speaking region, and I was right: it’s a games company from Valencia, Spain, that specializes in narrative-heavy adventures in a fantasy world that is actually spread over several games, each featuring a different region.
One common thread throughout Chibig’s oeuvre is stewardship and a love for nature, which often shows itself in farm-sim elements. Summer in Mara has its little farm at the center of everything, and while the heroine, Koa, will sail far and wide as she explores the seas, always will she return home to check the fields, harvest the fruit, and fix up whatever needs repair.
The game starts out with a nice tutorial prologue, as a younger Koa learns how to care for the island from Yaya Kaku, her adoptive grandmother. She harvests pine trees for wood, picks oranges, catches fish, and learns the basics of cooking (the results are… edible?). As dusk falls, her yaya tells her stories of long ago, of the two little god statues atop the hill and the strange thing she calls a door that’s set into the promontory.
Curtains close, lights dim, and a new act begins. Sadly, it does not include Koa’s yaya. Whatever happened remains a mystery to me, since Koa doesn’t seem inclined to monologue about the details, but at the start of the main game the little heroine has been alone on her island for a while now, eking out a basic but comfortable existence. True, the pigs may have swum off and the chickens flown the coop, but she’s doing her best to take care of her island.
Then a visitor prompts a newfound interest in the world, and it’s up to Koa to show her ingenuity in fixing the boat, traversing the waters, and finding out where her yaya used to go so regularly. And maybe find some chocolates, too.
Summer in Mara is primarily an adventure game of the let’s-talk-to-everyone variety. There are loads of requests to take from the inhabitants of neighboring isles, and Koa’s soon-to-be expanded garden has plenty to grow in order to meet demand. What’s interesting is how far from positive so many of the main NPCs actually are. There’s a whole range, from condescending to manipulative to largely apathetic in regards to the dreams and desires of a young lady such as Koa, but everyone is more than willing to make use of her. So far in my playthrough, she’s been an accidental party to a prank war, swindled at least twice, and become an accessory to petty larceny, all because of her childish innocence in the face of a sunnily cynical world.
There is no form of combat in this game, and that is about the only thing that would keep Summer in Mara off the spectrum of the RPGestalt in the minds of people who like to argue about that sort of thing. It’s a game of the meet-people, make-friends, and do-stuff variety, and it’s simply fun to run around and see what all Koa can climb in search of new things.
In any case, I need to get back in there now. I just added to my sea charts, and there are still a few islands left to check out.