Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara has you following the titular character across the beloved world once again, this time in a platformer genre, as the pirates have attacked and ransacked Qälis and are looking for a new, speedy recruit to join their nefarious ranks.
As Koa, you will be tasked to run, jump, and roll through more than 28 levels as you gather collectibles and shells that work as currency as you try to complete the trials to become a pirate — or, more importantly, save Qälis. Start back at your humble beginnings as you work your way through the various worlds whilst trying to do so with the fastest time possible.
You'll start from the beginning and work your way up through iconic areas of the Summer in Mara titles, but you don't really need to know about this strange world to get started. Against my best efforts, I've yet to be able to enjoy the original title, but this sequel is a self-contained experience that doesn't need you to know anything about the others... partly because the narrative is pretty much non-existent. You arrive at a broken Qälis after a warning of pirates and partake in their trials, but aside from that, some characters appear here and there (a few who I recognised from the time I spent playing the original), but the dialogue mostly consists of silly jokes and characters telling you to do X or Y to complete your next trial.
The platforming works surprisingly well, though I must say that at first, it doesn't feel very fluid at all. The gameplay feels a bit heavy for a game that asks you to beat it quickly, but thankfully, Chibig thought ahead of the potential struggles, and Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is relatively simple... albeit likely a bit too much for some.
You start off with all of the abilities you will need: your run, jump, roll, and long jump options to get through all of the levels. The times you need to get to hit Gold aren't particularly difficult, though that might be because I'm addicted to platformers (guilty as charged). It is nice and relaxing to be able to play through the levels without worries or fear (or maybe I've been playing too much Mr. Run and Jump and Celeste to remember how a non-hectic platformer feels), though I fear it might be too easy for most.
While difficulty should barely ever be the main focus of a game, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara takes it to the other side by offering very few ideas that are unique to the genre. This isn't to say that following the genre standard is bad at all, but the game follows typical tropes that aren't uncommon or groundbreaking. It doesn't need to bring anything new to the table to be a good title, however, and it definitely accomplishes to be so.
Most of the time, you'll spend your run finishing it twice: once to get as many sea shells and collectibles as you can, while the second will be platforming through the world as fast as possible to get a great time and get a Gold medal. It's a simple gameplay loop that isn't groundbreaking, but it's enjoyable nonetheless due to its fast-paced platforming that works surprisingly well for an indie title.
If you don't like speedrunning, then it shouldn't be a deal-breaker right off the bat — Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is definitely built with speedrunning roots, and it excels at being a fast-paced platformer rather than a collect-a-thon, but doing things fast is never mandatory. You can enable the Relaxed mode to get more checkpoints and safely ignore the recommended times and medals, as those only serve the purpose of unlocking further cosmetics, not gating your process. Even the minigames you will encounter throughout the world are relatively simple, and button mashing will often just be the road ahead to finish it.
That said, although the gameplay is fantastic in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, I do have two major complaints: the price and length of the game. Despite the fact that I don't believe we should judge games too much by their price-to-length ratio, the three-hour runtime to complete the game or five-hour 100% isn't excellent when compared to a £16.75 price tag. The game runs relatively short despite having so many levels to complete and things to collect, as every stage can really take you around a minute, with many being even faster than that.
This isn't to say that it isn't worth your money — Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a platformer I thoroughly enjoyed playing through, and if you like platformers or the world, you'll likely find something to love here. But, considering the five hours I managed to get from my experience, unless you love the genre or the franchise, it might seem a bit too steep an entry price.
Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a very enjoyable speedrun-focused platformer with plenty of collectibles and genre clichés. It isn't revolutionary to platformers, and it runs very short, but if you don't mind the price tag, it's well worth a try.