Developed by three teams Chibig, Talpa Games, and Undercoders, and published exclusively by Chibig, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a brand-new platforming adventure game. Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a collective effort of three teams working from the start to the finish of the entire development process and the amount of dedication by each team is clearly visible in the title. If you played the original Summer in Mara by Chibig, you would notice a lot of similarities between the two titles. However, after playing the new game, you can clearly see how much the development has progressed and improved in nearly every aspect of the game. This is our review of the PS5 version of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara in which we explore a beautiful archipelago in our boat and complete some Pirate Races for some booty.
Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is set in the same world that was introduced by Chibig’s Summer of Mara and further expands it. This time around, you have 8 islands to explore and plenty of ocean to move around in your boat. While you are not playing levels and speedrunning through them, you will be using your boat to move between different islands and there is plenty to do in the ocean as well. You can find and break crates, bump into whales to collect pearls, and plenty more. The boat controls are pretty smooth, so it is pretty fun to move around in your boat. You can keep moving around and it is quite fun as well but this time around, it is a requirement as well.
Each island in the game has its own personality and environment and this is what really sets Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara apart from the previous title Summer in Mara. There are different NPCs in the game who bring their own colorful charm to the game and there are a few different stores in the game as well where you can spend your hard-earned collectibles to make good use of them. You will also find some bonus Pirate Races with these NPCs which are against AI, and they take place at levels that you have previously completed. These are different from the main story missions and offer as side-content in the game. Apart from the main missions and these Pirate Races, there is not much else that you can do in the game apart from exploring and collecting different items.
Koa has a limited moveset but the ones that you have are fairly enough for everything that you need to do in the game. Koa can jump, spring, and also has the ability to ground pound which is useful for smashing boxes and pushing buttons on the ground. Apart from that, Koa can lift and move around small objects to use them to push buttons and or blow up blockades to open paths. Koa also has a cool dive move which is useful in Pirate Races to get ahead of the competition. Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is themed-around pirates, and you will notice a lot of different pirate references in the game as well. For example, most of the bosses in the game are pirates and you will race against their pirate boats. You are using a boat yourself as well so there is plenty of ocean and pirate-related talk and references in the game.
Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a level-based game which means that the open world is only good for exploration and reaching particular levels. The islands are fairly far from each other, and you will need your boat to travel to these islands where you will be able to complete different levels. These levels become progressively harder the more you progress in the game’s story. In a typical level of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, you will find moving platforms, obstacles like spikes, moving logs and cannons shooting spikey explosive balls and other similar things blocking your way. Some of the levels will also require you to collect a specific number of items before you can progress further like keys and one specific section of the game is also set underwater so there are aquatic sections in the game as well where you have to swim underwater and avoid the spikey obstacles to reach the exit. You have to reach the finish line in each level to complete it and move on to the next one.
Each level in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara offers different collectibles that you can find and the approach to how you play each level is completely up to you. By default, there are two different counters to what you can do at every level. Depending on the level length, there are three or just a single collectible to be found which is tracked by the game. Apart from this, there is a time challenge for a medal in each level as well and since there are three different medals, you will earn the one whose target you achieve in the game. Apart from these two, pearls are scattered all over the levels, but these are considered the game’s main currency, and they are just counted in a separate tab. These can be collected or just skipped entirely depending on your mood because they always respawn when you start a level. You can replay a level to collect as many pearls as you want to purchase visual customization items from the different stores located in the game.
For my playthrough, I played every level twice where my first playthrough was a chill one where I understood how the level was designed, understanding its many obstacles, and collecting pearls and trash. I took a decent amount of time during this time to understand everything and then for my second playthrough, I would skip all collectibles and would sprint to the exit, doing everything necessary just to gain access to that final finish line. This allowed me to not only experience the title to its full but also give my best to each level as I sped through it. That is all you are expected to do for every level because, in this way, you will end up not only collecting all of the things but also getting the gold medal for the time challenge.
This is one of the positives of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara that the game does not demand any such things from you. You can just skip all of the collectibles or ignore the time trials and still be able to progress in the main story. However, this is different when there is a boss stage or that is what I like to call them. These are special races at the end of every major island where you have to race to the exit while trying to block a boss and slow it down to win the race so that you can get a piece of the map to unlock more of the Sea of Mara. This is the only real progression in the game where you have to win the race otherwise you will be stuck with the currently unlocked content.
This is again not that hard because if you are finding a level too hard to complete, you can head over to the settings and turn on the Relaxed mode which adds more checkpoints to the game, and you can fail as much as you want and can start over mid-level instead of the start. Each level is also fairly small and some of the smaller levels in the game can even be completed in less than 40 seconds. There are eight diverse islands for you to explore in the game and a completionist will need around 8-9 hours to complete each and everything in the game. Apart from speedrunning through levels and collecting items, there are also items to purchase from shops and you will need both pearls and trash for these purchases. These are simple visual customizations and nothing that will affect the gameplay in any way.
One thing you should keep in mind is that while Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara may look like a cute and cuddly platformer, it is built with speed-running in mind, and if you are playing on the default difficulty mode, the game will really test your mettle and patience at the same time. Some of the races can become really tough and since there are no checkpoints, the game expects you to be perfect at everything. One little mistake and you will fall down in the abyss and restart from the very beginning and your time will not reset unless you manually restart the level from scratch. However, what I really like is that the game allows you to tailor the experience according to your playstyle and there is no penalty for playing in the Relaxed mode. Everything remains the same and the game becomes easier. It is really a great platformer that everyone should experience.
Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a cute little title set inside the world of Mara, Chibig’s signature world where we have seen their previous titles as well. It is colorful, features a beautiful set of characters, and tight gameplay mechanics that you can easily understand and get comfortable with fairly quickly. If you love the old-school simple platformers with tight controls and challenging speed runs, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is your modern answer to that. It can be as easy as pie but if you want, it can become a real challenge that will have you tearing out your hair as you fall and on that last jump right before the finish line. If you are looking for a platformer that has high replayability, offers both casual and challenging gameplay, and a game that features colorful environments and characters, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is the perfect title for you.
Final Score: 9.5/10