Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara Nintendo Switch Review

The seas beckon for an adventure of grand size.

By JustAnotherJake, Posted 08 Aug 2023

Three-dimensional platforming games have recently made quite the comeback, to the point where the only games in the genre aren’t Mario-related. This is largely thanks to indie games like A Hat in Time or Yooka-Laylee, as well as the recent push for mascot platformers to make a return. This has left the door wide open for more people to come in and try out the genre, as well as the other door for more developers who want to test out their skills and make some new games. One of the most recent additions to the growing group of 3D platformers is Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara.

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, Nintendo, Switch, Review, Screenshots, 3D Platformer, Adventure

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is set on a map full of water with several levels scattered throughout the said map. The world map will start off small, but as the player explores the individual stages, they will uncover more of the world map leading to the world expanding and several other stages being unlocked. There are some bonus stages and some core stages that will lead to the progress of the story. The form the world map takes is that of a vast sea and one that can be explored quite greatly as soon as the map is filled out. In addition to the world map, there is also a hub island where a large majority of the NPCs and unlockables are located. This is an area that will be visited very frequently in between stages to expand the map, exchange currency for cosmetics, and a couple of other things.

In terms of the stages, which to many will probably be the most important aspect of the game, there is seemingly a fair variety. However, this isn’t fully the case, and to add insult to injury, the actual quality does differ quite greatly from stage to stage though. Most of the core stages are rather straightforward with a good handful of obstacles. These obstacles will definitely be turning up the heat in the later stages, however, there is a very large lack of enemies, and most of the stage hazards will go reused throughout the stages. This isn’t a huge problem for the most part, as the stages can still be a blast to go through; it just leaves a severe lack of variety in terms of challenging the player.

Visually most of the stages will look the same too, just with slight aesthetic changes or time of day appearances. Almost every non-gimmick stage will be set right around the surface of the water, or just above, with wooden platforms and stone objects. On the flip side, there are gimmick stages that will focus on things like dash panels or swimming underwater. These stages act as a bit of a change-up but don’t offer much in terms of challenge. There are also the boss stages that try to change things with elements like a race, an auto scroller, or even a chase sequence. These stages are the most obtuse with not a lot of checkpoints so even one slip-up will lead to a full restart of the stage. It's fair for the challenge but at the same time, it does stand out in a not-so-great way when the majority of the game is rather forgiving in this regard.


Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, Nintendo, Switch, Review, Screenshots, 3D Platformer, Adventure

The presentation in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is all over the place, but luckily it's at least pretty good in all regards. The main set of confusion for the presentation is the visuals. The game looks good in pretty much all aspects, but the actual gameplay differs quite greatly from the dialogue portraits, which also differs greatly from the art on the title screen. It is a very bizarre direction that the game has taken, and it leaves the protagonist Koa with three very different looks. At no point is this more than just a head-scratcher but it's just one of those things that will sit with a player as just strange, especially when some of the other presentational elements feel off. The main other element of the presentation that is a little off is the in the audio department. Most of the sounds all fit, but the music feels very bland, and it reuses the same tracks quite frequently.

There is a story to Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, but it really is a pretty generic story all things considered. By no means is it bad, but with the amount of dialogue present, it does seem to miss the mark it was going for by quite a bit. Most of the NPCs just feel bland and unremarkable, especially with the lack of attitudes from most of them. Most NPCs are either happy-go-lucky or just quirky enough to show something like frustration or anger. This really isn’t that important of an element to a 3D platformer but with the amount of unique dialogue sprites, it feels like the developers wanted the characters to shine way more than they had any opportunity to. Luckily, if a player sees the dialogue as nothing more than an intrusion into the gameplay, then it can be skipped rather quickly. In fact, most of it can be fully skipped and not just sped through, which is a great feature for a game like this. The only downside is there doesn’t seem to be an option for a log of any sort just in case dialogue was skipped, but that really isn’t going to be a huge issue for most players.

Going alongside how the game is presented, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara takes a while to get used to control-wise. Koa controls stiffly but yet at the same time quite smoothly. This is most apparent when turning Koa as it isn’t very snappy, but visually, the way she turns is very natural. It is a confusing element to explain and is more something players will have to experience to understand. Koa also moves at a rather slow pace, even when running. There is indeed a dash button to have Koa sprint along, but her movement speed doesn’t feel like enough of a boost. There is a slight workaround for this, and it is one of the elements that make this game much more fun to play. That being the combination of the roll and jump.


Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, Nintendo, Switch, Review, Screenshots, 3D Platformer, Adventure

In Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, there is a window of time where the player can begin rolling after landing from a jump. This rolling move can be used to break boxes as well as to build speed. Stringing together several rolls and jumps will have Koa moving at a much faster pace than she would if she were to simply run. This technique isn’t always the optimal way to traverse the stages, but in a way, that's what makes it fun. It allows for a more challenging experience, with the reward being great times for each stage. It does seem that the developers knew what they were doing here when adding this feature, as in the settings there are a couple of options for speedrunners with a quick reset and timer option available.

Each stage in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara will have a couple of times to beat to reward the player with a medal. While using the roll jump method, achieving the gold rank for each stage isn’t too difficult when the movement is finally mastered by the player. However, if speed isn’t a player's cup of tea, there are collectibles in the stages as well for the player to collect as well. These will often be in more difficult platforming sections or are hidden in corners of the stages. On top of the collectibles, there are the seashells that act as the game's currency. These shells are abundant in each stage, but if a player really wants a specific cosmetic, they are another thing to seek out. The collectibles will certainly feel a bit easier to collect than in some games of the same genre, but their presence is welcome as it offers a more replay value to the game.

What is already here in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara for the base playthrough is already a decent amount. Even without factoring in the replay content, the game is rather sizeable. By no means is it going to become the next big 50-hour-long game, but with most of the content being able to be explored in around 4 to 6 hours is plenty of time for what the game is. Of course, this game will probably be a bit longer for children or those who do go back for replay content, but it may also be shorter for those who are experienced with this sort of game or for those who don’t care for all of the dialogue, but that is on an experience to experience basis. Regardless of a player's preferred method of play, Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara has plenty to offer.

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara, Nintendo, Switch, Review, Screenshots, 3D Platformer, Adventure

The difficulty in Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara isn’t really a problem, at least for players who have a decent amount of platformer experience. That being said, it is pretty clear that the difficulty without factoring in the speedrunning options, is meant to best suit younger or newer players. But as it was mentioned prior, the speedrunning aspects with the roll jumping do offer a much quicker pace to be taken through the stages and does raise the difficulty a fair amount. Then on top of that, trying to go for every collectible can raise the difficulty as well as some of the collectibles are hidden rather well or are buried by decent challenges. These are all elements that are down to how the player wants to play the game, but that’s a great part of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara as it allows for that sort of approach to its gameplay.

The best elements of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara come from its decent play time, amount of content, and attention to movement options. The game isn’t super long but offers a good amount for what the game is. To add to that, there are different goals with collectibles and goal times for each stage. Then having the option to blaze through stages with the roll jump or take things more casually with the standard run allows for different play styles for different scenarios. It is this that makes the game stand out above some of the other indie-developed 3D platformers. It is this that the developers should take into the heart when making either more for this game or their next project, as they have a strong foot in the ground with Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara.

Jacob Cowsert (@TweetJAJ)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, PS5, XBSX, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Publisher(s): Chibig
Developer(s): Chibig, Talpa Games, Undercoders
Genres: 3D Platformer
Themes: Casual, Adventure
Release Date: 2023-07-27

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