I really want to believe in Chibig Studios, a sentiment that initially led me to try Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara. When I reviewed Summer in Mara back in 2020, I had hoped it would fulfil my dreams of farming on the high seas, but instead, it was another example of a game with good ideas but poor execution—CGM’s Dayna Eileen had similar feelings about Deiland Pocket Planet.
But once again, I really tried to give Chibig a chance but was left feeling somewhat deflated. Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a fairly bog standard platformer that doesn’t really do anything interesting or unique with the franchise and does even less with the genre.
Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara has a bit of a simpler story this time around. Koa receives word that pirates have attacked the city of Qualïs—the main city from the previous game—and rushes over to solve the problem, only to discover this was done as a prank by the pirate Mayo and her friends. Mayo then invites Koa to participate in a grande challenge, with the prize being the opportunity to join their pirate gang. Koa then sets off to complete their challenge, if not to join them then to at least make them clean up their mess.
“Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a fairly bog standard platformer…”
I’ll keep this short because there’s really not much to say about the gameplay of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara. The game takes the form of a simple 3D platformer, with players tasked with running and jumping through each level, avoiding obstacles and sometimes collecting keys to progress.
Additional challenges come in the form of finding three collectibles or trying to complete each level within a set time. There are small ways in which the game livens up its levels that anyone who’s played Super Mario will recognize, but for the most part they’re pretty basic. And while basic isn’t always a bad thing, my problem with Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara comes from its movement, which isn’t varied or even very intuitive.
There aren’t a lot of options for moving Koa around, and all players can do is run, jump and ground pound. There is a long jump but pulling it off requires the aforementioned unintuitive controls where players have to press the run button after landing a jump to initiate a roll, then jumping out of it will result in a quick, long jump. Running and jumping never feels fluid, and needing constantly rely on the rolling jump can result in some misplaced jumps—as it’s your only means for moving fast, but you’re locked into the jump distance whenever you use it.
“You could’ve used tools as movement items or picked up side quests from the series’ memorable NPCs, but none of that charm is here.”
As a result, the levels feel very basic and unmemorable, as they’re not built around verticality like Demon Turf or even Super Mario. The game would have done well to take ideas from the games that defined the genre and add a side flip, wall jump or triple jump, or even just find ways to shake up the gameplay in a way that really suited the Summer in Mara franchise.
There are small ways Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara attempts a connection to its predecessor, such as having you use a boat to go to the various levels—which ends up being annoying since it always starts you on Qualïs and never the island you’re currently progressing through, so every time you boot up the game you have to sail to whatever island you were on. But the game never really connects to its roots in a way that would’ve suited a 3D platformer. You could’ve used tools as movement items or picked up side quests from the series’ memorable NPCs, but none of that charm is here.
In the audio/visual department, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is..well…basic. While the game looks very nice, it has a simple art style that utilizes a good use of bright colours and doesn’t really go crazy on the little details, giving it an almost cartoon aesthetic that works. The music is fine, albeit somewhat repetitive. Each main island reuses the same theme for every level and starts to get slightly noticeable.
I wanted to like Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara because I wanted to like the whole world of Summer in Mara. While some might argue that the game is perfectly suited to younger players, I can’t help but feel that Super Mario will still be a more satisfying experience. However, while I definitely think there is a lot to like in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, the lack of polish and simplicity could make this a rather unsatisfying experience for more experienced platformers.