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Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara - Review - Xbox

I have been wanting to write my review of Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara for a while now. Unfortunately I was loving the game so much I was waiting until I 100% completed the game before I got started. So before I get into the nitty gritty I just wanted to say that I usually flit about between a handful of games at once, but with Koa I was enjoying my time so much I sat and played it from start to finish.

The game is set in the same universe as Summer in Mara and Stories of Mara, so if you have played either of these games before you will be instantly familiar to the characters and locales on offer. This game takes the universe and sends it to a new genre, this time a fast paced, time chasing 3D platformer - and I love it.

The pirates of Mara, bored in times of peace, decide to take action and bring an ancient tradition: the Pirates Race. Only the bravest and most courageous sea wolfs will be able to face the dangers that have been prepared for them in an intense gymkhana across the ocean. The goal: to appoint the next pirate king. Kao is chosen to undertake the trials and sets off across the ocean in a bid to rebid the town that has been plundered in order to build the race.

Graphically the game boasts some absolutely great visuals in terms of style, with cute chibi style characters, bright colours that pop from the screen and a wide variety of chunky environments to explore.

The soundtrack is composed by Adrian Berenguer, an independent musician from Alicante, Spain. He has previously worked on the past Mara games and the tracks in five pirates are fantastic. I loved the upbeat, energy driven sounds that really connect well with the speed run aspect of the game.

The game features 8 different islands to play through, each with a variety of levels leading up to a boss battle. These boss battles vary from races to old school platforming battles and whilst easy enough to complete, they are all unique with different gameplay mechanics.

The core gameplay loop is a time attack run from start to finish, with different medals being awarded depending how quickly you complete each level. You can take a couple of hits before dying so if you happen to catch a trap you wont die instantly. There is also an accessibility mode that adds extra checkpoints throughout each level to make it slightly easier. There are also multiple collectables on each level that can be found by heading off the beaten track. Grabbing these collectables usually causes you to take longer than needed to get the gold medal, so I found myself playing through most levels at least twice. Once to get the collectables, then a replay to beat the time. Obviously you don't have to do this if you just want to experience the story, but for competitions its necessary.

The islands on offer also vary too, each of them stands out with their theming, from a volcano to an army base. I loved the variety between all of them, and the way each island has it's own pirate who you have to face off against as the story progressed was interesting too. Getting to each island is done by sailing your little boat around an overworld. It's not as enjoyable as Wind Wakers boating but it gets the job done and breaks up the platforming sections. There are even whales and barrels to hunt down too.

Outside of completing the story driving levels there are handful of other things to keep you busy. Pirate races will see you revisiting previously completed levels but this time racing against your pirate friends to get to the end of each level first. There are also some mini challenge levels and treasure diving sections that can be completed to get more collectables too. Collect enough of each type of collectable and you will be able to visit the shops on the main island to buy new costumes, bags, ship upgrades and town repairs. Whilst none of these bar the ship upgrades really make a difference to how the game plays, it's always nice to change your look up now and again and also they will need to be purchased to unlock all of the achievements in the game. The game itself isn't too long, with the story being completed in a few hours, but replaying the levels to get all the collectables, as well as completing all the extra activities will see you keep busy for about 6 hours of total playtime all in.

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara is a short, but extremely enjoyable platformer. It's not the most challenging game in the genre, but it's a great choice for gamers of all ages who are looking for a lighthearted and charming adventure. One of my favourite games of 2023 so far and I loved chasing the completion!


  • Cute art style and Soundtrack

  • Variety of levels to explore

  • Plenty of challenges to overcome

  • Koa controls well

  • Optional collectables to find


  • Story is a bit simplistic

  • A few platforming sections can be frustrating

  • Underwater levels can be slow and tedious TOTAL SCORE: 9/10

Koa and the Five Pirates of Mara was released onto the Xbox store on the 27th July 2023. The game is playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S consoles and is optimised for Xbox Series X/S consoles with 4K resolution and 60fps. The game is priced at £16.74 and can be purchased HERE.

A copy of the game was provided for this review. A huge thank you for that.

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