It doesn’t take much to see that I’m a fairly cynical and bitter person. It’s not something I’m proud of, but at this point in my life it’s definitely who I am. Surprising as it may seem to anyone who has known me for a while, I haven’t always been this way. As a child I was an incredibly idealist thing. I believed in the beauty and power of nature, the indomitable spirit of the human race, and the potential that magic, in some form at least, was a real thing. I believed in the inherent goodness and joy of the human experience. I had a touch of the brooding nature that would make itself apparent later in life, but for the most part I was a happy, inquisitive and carefree child. I often think back on those days with a twinge of sadness for that time long gone, but every so often something is able to rekindle the spark and, at least for a moment, allow me to relive those wonderful feelings. This week’s whimsical, beautiful Kickstarter game takes me back to my childhood and the person I once was. Shrug Island is a hand-drawn point-and-click puzzle adventure game with an ambient world, a rich race, and a mystical story of hope.
While the art design may be the first thing you notice about Shrug Island, the next thing to grab your attention will be the fascinating creatures known as “Shrugs” and the peculiar world in which they live. The island and its people are the main characters of this game–with the island itself having just as much prominence as the Shrugs! The island is not just a rock in the sea, but rather something of a living thing. It speaks to its inhabitants through music and undergoes massive changes with the seasons. An award-winning short film called Shrug delves deeper into the relationship between the shrugs and their island. It’s a gorgeous little film and is hopefully a good indication of what Shrug Island will be like.
Shrug Island takes place after the Shrugs return home from their migratory season. The children of the island are eager to get back together and continue where their adventures left off, but to do so they must first find one another. The island has been asleep since they left, and in order to find their way to each other Li and Shri must learn the island’s language to awaken it. You play as these two children (and others in later chapters) and use their unique abilities to complete puzzles and uncover the mysteries of the great island.
Shrug Island is a point-and-click adventure with the core gameplay being puzzles and the different mechanics offered by the different playable characters. Music is important as it is the language of the island, but characters have other abilities as well. Some Shrugs can shape shift and change the environment while others are great at finding things and communicating with the living world around them.
The art design is clearly something that sets this game apart. Entirely hand-drawn it has something of a watercolor look to it which is breathtaking and whimsical and so perfectly fitting for a world of this nature. Everything about the Shrugs and their world appears to be so smooth and perfect–nothing seems particularly out of place. While so many game devs strive to give you the most “realistic” world they can muster, it’s refreshing to see devs like Amazu Media embrace the more artistic side of the medium. I love this art style and it’s a big part of the appeal. It is also what called to what’s left of my inner child. I can’t quite describe it but there is something so beautifully innocent–so serene–about this game.
There are a couple of music samples on the website, and of course you can hear the entire score in the short film. I love the music–love, love, LOVE. Like the Shrugs and like the art design, the music is sweet and enchanting. It feels a bit tribal, a bit folksy and it incorporates the sound of nature into it. The sound of waves crashing upon the shore fit in with the instruments as though the music itself was part of the natural soundscape. Which, of course, it is. Since the Shrugs communicate musically, music has been given a lot of attention and it shows.
In a world of violent shooters, gritty RPGs and sometimes dark and difficult stories, Shrug Island is a much needed change from it all. It appeals to me in a way that no other game has and I am very eager to give it a go. The concept looks so delightful for children and adults alike. The game currently has 19 days to go and they have raised almost $7,000 out of their $25,000 goal. I highly encourage you to check them out and drop them a donation if you’re able to!