Kickstarter Alert: ‘Oniri Islands’

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Oniri Islands

If you like mixing digital and analog play, here’s a Kickstarter project worth checking out: Oniri Islands.

Developed by Tourmaline Studio in Switzerland, Oniri Islands is a cooperative adventure game for 2 players (ages 6 and up) that uses toys to control the characters on screen as they make their way through a mysterious world. The story is a little bizarre: Mina and Tim, while drawing a bath for their mom, get sucked into the bubbles and transported to an island on Oniri, a magical river. They’re guided by the voice of their Granny, who tells them that their shadows have been stolen—they must hurry to find a way off the island.

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The base pledge for a copy is 30 Francs (about $30 USD), which will include the figurines, some stickers, and a digital copy of the artbook. There are higher pledge levels as well with extra goodies. (There’s even a tier where you can get customized figurines by picking the hair color, eye color, clothing, and so on.) The app itself will be free for iOS and Android. I was sent some prototypes and beta access to the app to give it a try.

Oniri Islands prototype
The prototype figurines weren’t fully painted, but you can see the black conductive paint. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

The toys themselves remind me a little of the Cars Appmates and Hasbro’s Zapped line of toys. The toys themselves use conductive paint so that when you hold the toy on the tablet screen, the tablet thinks you are touching a particular pattern (in this case, 3 dots). Oniri Islands distinguishes between the two figurines because the arrangement of dots is slightly different, and it can recognize which direction the figurines are facing. As with the Cars figures and Hasbro toys, the toys themselves don’t require any batteries or anything—it’s basically just a conduit for your fingers. (I have noticed, though, that if my hands are very dry, the conductivity doesn’t always work quite as well.)

Oniri Islands figurine base
The base of the figurine has a pattern of dots, letting the app know which character it is. (Prototype shown) Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Each player takes one of the figurines, and together you can move around to explore the world, which is shown from a top-down perspective, so the characters are standing on the tablet. When both characters are on the same edge of the screen, the world scrolls in that direction (with little temporary footprints appearing behind you). There are various things you can interact with if you approach them—some things you can pick up and carry. There are some things you may need to work together to carry. There are things that you can uncover by brushing the screen with the figurines, and there are puzzles that require logic and others that require a little bit of dexterity.

Oniri Islands
Oniri Islands toys and masks. Image: Tourmaline Studio

During the first chapter the two children are given animal masks, which give them the animal abilities—the shark lets you swim, and the falcon lets you fly. The toys themselves also have masks that will fit on them, though the app doesn’t actually know whether the figurine is wearing the mask or not. That is mostly just an added toy effect. Based on the Kickstarter page, there are a few other masks included as well, so I’m sure there will be other animals and powers later in the game. (The beta version of the app only included the first chapter.)

The look of the game is lovely, though there is this underlying creepiness to it—the children’s shadows are stolen when they arrive on the island, and Granny warns that they’ll turn into statues if they don’t get away. Sure enough, as you explore the island, you’ll find other kids and animals who have been turned to stone. It does look like something from a children’s picture book, and there are some cut scenes interspersed with the gameplay.

I don’t know if the narration in the beta version is final, but the voice acting left something to be desired: it sounded like somebody just reading lines rather than expressing any emotion about the wondrous or scary things happening in the game. I’m hoping it’s just a placeholder.

This particular type of toy-as-controller isn’t a totally new concept to me, but it’s still pretty fun to control an app using a little toy, and I like the cooperative nature of Oniri Islands. I don’t know how long the finished game will be, because that would figure into whether it’s satisfying enough to justify the price tag. But it’s certainly really adorable, and the toys could be used for imaginative play even outside of the app itself.

For more information, visit the Oniri Islands Kickstarter page!

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