Summer in Mara — Visually Impaired Review

Summer in Mara is a farming sim and adventure game available for the Switch on June 16, 2020. It is also available on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam. In the game, you play as Koa, a young girl living on an archipelago, who takes care of the people and the environment on her island. It incorporates positive messages about the environment, friendship, and respecting others.

About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to focus too precisely for too long.

Visual Characteristics 7/10

(Contrast, Lighting, Tracking, Clutter)

The art style is easily the best aspect of the game. The colors really pop, making it easy to keep track of Koa. The lighting is bright and vivid, though the game does incorporate a day-and-night cycle. The lighting at night isn’t great, but it’s a cue that you’re supposed to go back to your hut to sleep. The clutter generally isn’t bad, but there are times when you need to find certain items that blend into the background. There are occasionally arrows pointing to items you need, but they do not stand out from a distance. I’d have liked to see better wayfinding aids and more noticeable indicators.

Summer of Mara - Screenshot showing Koa in a bright yellow shirt and green shorts against a sandy hill

Accessibility Features 2/10

The only accessibility features in the game are the ability to control the music and sound effects independently. I think it’s helpful to turn up the sound effects as there are some nonvisual cues, but the accessibility features aren’t anything to write home about. I definitely needed larger font options.

Beyond that, there is a good amount of information that is communicated by a character’s facial features and expressions. Most of these characters aren’t human, so it was very difficult for me to assess their expressions. It would have been nice to have text or audio description for those elements.

Summer of Mara - The lower half of Koa is floating in midair at the top of the screen

Assist Modes 0/10

There is no assist mode. The game does not instruct you in the control scheme beyond button prompts for basic actions. If you press the + button and then the right trigger, you can access a quest list, but you are never directed to access this list.

I’d have liked to see an assist mode that would eliminate button-mashing, make fishing easier, add highlighted paths to follow, and overall provide hints.

Summer of Mara - Screenshot of Koa's sad facial expression

Non Visual Cues 4/10

There are nice sound effects for the farming tasks. However, these are the tasks with on-screen button prompts, so it seems like the sound effects would be more useful for some of the tasks without button prompts. There are fishing mechanics, and there is no communication about how to fish or what any of the indicators mean.

Decent Fonts 3/10

The font itself is a very clear sans-serif font. My complaint is that it is way too small, and there are no ways to adjust it.

Summer of Mara - Koa in a cave standing next to a rock with a button prompt for breaking the rock

Necessity of Text 1/10

(The higher the rating, the less necessary the text is)

Unfortunately, the text is very necessary to complete quests to progress the game. You can wander around and farm a certain amount without doing quests if you choose, but you can only farm a limited amount before the quests become required. Even the exploration is severely limited as the island is quite small. I would not at all recommend the game unless you think you can read the text.

Summer of Mara - Screenshot of fishing mechanics showing three horizontal meters with no other indication of what the meters do

Handheld Play 5/10

There’s nothing inherently bad about the handheld play in Summer in Mara. That said, in handheld mode, certain bits of text are reduced to about 6-point font. I am normally pretty forgiving about text being smaller in handheld mode because that is the nature of the beast, but when the text starts out as small as it does, it can become cumbersome for even fully sighted people.

Level of Precision Required 6/10

Summer in Mara is pretty similar to Animal Crossing in many aspects, including its laid-back gameplay. Most of the game is very forgiving with relation to timing, aside from the fishing component, which is a confusing mess that requires good timing. It can also require a good amount of precision to find items needed to complete quests. Wayfinding aids and better indicators would improve this experience a great deal.

Summer of Mara - Screenshot of inventory menu showing small font

Controls and Depth Perception 4/10

The depth perception is not the greatest. Koa has an amazing jump for a grade-schooler, and this can cause a bevy of problems when trying to navigate to a character on a small rock. There are also numerous instances when you try to walk off of a rock only to appear to be floating in midair because the visual model doesn’t match up with the physical model.

There are several of these types of bugs, some that just have you dangling above an ocean that disappears, and they can be very confusing visually.

Summer of Mara - List of quests to complete in small font

Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment

I don’t recommend this game, but I’m guessing you’d need at least 20/40 to read the text comfortably. I’m not sure because I’ve never had 20/40 in my entire life.

Overall, I do not recommend this game. If you want a farming sim where you can make friends, check out Animal Crossing instead. Summer in Mara has a lot of bugs that make it frustrating to play and severely impacts its accessibility.

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Christy Smith

Christy Smith is a visually impaired gamer whose main goal in life is to snag a seat on the metro instead of having to stand so that she can play Switch on her commute. She/her/hers or They/them/theirs

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