جمعه, سپتامبر 29, 2023

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara Review

With some big names behind it in the form of Chibig, Talpa Games and Undercoders, as well as a successful Kickstarter campaign sorting the funding, you’d expect the next saga in the series – following Summer in Mara – to be one worth playing. 

And you’d be right. For the most part we’ve had some great fun with Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara. We’ve enjoyed taking in numerous time trials and we’ve appreciated the chance to go collectible hunting. But equally, we’ve found ourselves bored by a silly narrative and frustrated by some inaccurate movements.

Don’t let those put you off though. Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a wholesome family adventure that allows the chance for you to kick back and blast through things, pretty much without a care in the world. 

Koa loves a jump

The island of Qälis plays host

It focuses on the titular Koa as she rocks up on the island of Qälis to find this is a land with problems. You see, once vibrant, it’s now been taken over by a fun-loving pirate gang. It’s up to you to prove yourself to them – and the townsfolk – hoping to light up the night sky once more and get the visitors flooding back. 

Honestly, we’ve played through Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara in its entirety and could not give a damn for the story that is in place. Much of that is due to the way it is played out through static pop-up cutscenes, delivering awkward, unvoiced conversations between a variety of folk. 

It’s something that annoyed us from the get-go, and whilst it may well have a place alongside the rather family friendly nature that Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is trying to portray, it bored us silly. Skipping through every single element of conversation was our preferred calling, if only so we could just get on with things. 

But hey, we didn’t come to Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara looking for that story. We were here for the fun gameplay, the time trialling stages and the chance to consider replaying those levels over and over again, in hope of bettering our completion time or to go hunting down missing collectibles. And for that, it succeeds. It’s certainly capable of delivering a rather addictive little take on the puzzle platforming speedrunning scene. 

Multiple worlds with multiple levels

Spread across multiple worlds that make up the archipelago of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, playing through unlockable stages in a linear fashion is very much what is on offer here. Further islands and elements open up as you collect map pieces, trading them in for new levels. And thanks to stages being completable in a matter of minutes should you so wish, it’s always tempting to stick around for one more go. That’s particularly true with the shorter, sweeter stages. 

koa and the five pirates of mara review 2
A cute little adventure

Of course, if you wish to go exploring the lands instead, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is ripe for exploration. There are pearls to gather, pieces of material to hunt down and keys to nab. Depending on what you grab in each stage, there is also the chance to work in some character unlocks should you feel the need.  

With islands playing host to a variety of secret areas – Koa loves a bottom bounce to help smash crates and switches in hope of opening up inaccessible areas – going off-piste is very much urged. 

For the most part things play out in a 3D platforming style, with Koa running, dashing, jumping and squeezing her way across levels and past obstacles. Don’t expect to see anything too new here though, for the teams behind it have erred on the side of caution and kept with familiar tropes. Keep away from water, jump spikes, don’t hang around on platforms for too long and ultimately your journey will be a safe one. 

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara switches things up

There are elements which switch things up occasionally. We’re big fans of the fluid underwater stages, navigating our way through things with a Flappy Bird vibe. In fact, we’d take a full Koa or Mara game built around those watery segments alone. Sitting here now though, it does feel strange for these underwater sections to pop up, especially when you take Koa’s complete fear of water at all other times into the equation. 

Boss battles are okay too. Again, there’s nothing here that will amaze, but the opportunity to learn some attack patterns, fighting back when you can, is absolutely fine. But if you’re hoping for a proper test of your gaming skills, you’ll rarely find it in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara; straightforward is much more the line it takes. 

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Those bombs will come in handy

What we’re not quite so taken with are the inaccuracies of the hit detection and platforming. We’ve found depth to be a real issue in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, never really knowing if a jump is going to be a safe one as we move along various planes. Yes there’s a shadow to help, but this is too small and insignificant whilst the fast-paced, otherwise smooth platforming is taking place. We’ve found ourselves being hauled back to checkpoints over and over again. Granted, most of those are well-placed, but on the odd occasion it feels like too much of a traipse to get back on track. 

And don’t get us onto the camera which occasionally swings around to provide new perspectives. When you’re running from a boss, holding down the dash button, hammering jump and twirling a thumbstick this way and that, the last thing you want is a camera that keeps changing direction. And yes, even though we may have honed those age-old ‘running into the camera’ skills from Crash Bandicoot all those years back, we didn’t like it then, and we still don’t like it now. 

We’d rather a better sailing experience

And whilst we’re moaning, the controls of our boat as we sail the high seas in search of new islands, treasures and more is, frankly, terrible. Not once have we found sailing of the ship to be fun, always confused by where it is going to end up. 

What is fun are the visuals and audio. The soundtrack is, in our eyes, extremely impressive. Always upbeat and looking to push you along, how it switches up as various sections of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara play out is a good one. It’s a shame that the horrid ‘urg’, ‘huh’, ‘he-he’ randomness of conversations lets things down. 

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Koa and the Five Pirate of Mara is super bright

This is also a super bright, pretty decent looking game. Don’t get me wrong, you shouldn’t expect this to be taking home any end of year gongs for artstyle, but it all fits in nicely with that family friendly vibe that is being run. The various stages and levels are all pretty distinct from each other; they are mostly cleverly designed too. 

With a good few hours of play found in the main quests, you’ll not go too wrong by joining the adventures of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara. When you include tons of replayability, the hunt for collectibles, speedrunning opportunities and pirate races, the overall package can hardly be knocked. 

It’s a shame then that the story is poorly told, the platforming side of things occasionally feels off, and hit detection could be better. Yet on the whole, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a nice little romp through a neat little world.

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