Alina Constantin and Sarah Bauer forged a friendship while pressing and patting houses out of Earth’s natural molding substance: clay. Excuse me while I get a bit capital R “romantic,” but I imagine that as the wet bricks hardened up under the heat, it provided a fitting visual metaphor for the pair’s solidifying relationship.
Ever creative, the pair has more recently teamed up with a few other friends—including Knytt Stories developer, Nicklas Nygren—to develop Shrug Island. No, it’s not an apathetic holiday resort; it’s a game about a group of friends peering into and interacting with nature’s resources in order to travel across the titular clump of land to reunite during the “seasonal reawakening of a powerful dream,” all of it illustrated with watercolors.
There’s more behind Shrug Island than just an imaginarium turned digital interaction. It stems from Alina’s 2009 animated short Shrug (which you can watch below).
“The whole project kept receiving very personal responses, from all ages and places. This supported my reason to make art in the first place; to create fantasy as bridge between your imagination, mine, and something larger than us both,” Alina says.
But as we all know, dreams are something we can easily hold dear, while making them a reality is often a lifetime’s pursuit. Unless, that is, you’re clear of mind and have the guts to stand upon an internet pedestal and beckon people to fund your project on Kickstarter. And that’s exactly what Alina is doing.
So, while Shrug Island is currently in the figurative form of squidgy clay between the fingers of the friends, there is a demo called Shrug Song that offers a quick “feel” of what is planned for Shrug Island.
As the shapeshifting Shri—one of the playable friends in Shrug Island—you learn a song to open a grand gate by interacting with nature and forming friendships, just as Alina and Sarah did. You raise curved pillars of rock to create a slide for one island native, use a glow-bug to knock a tasty treat into another’s hungry mouth, and lure out a hiding leaf-fellow carrying a flute with the song of the surrounding flowers.
Shrug Song is soothing. Combining slow breaths from wind instruments, and the gentle pluck of a guitar, with the soft blues, oranges, and yellows of the water color formations is equivalent to a bedtime lullaby. Yet, you want to stay awake for curiosity’s sake; the child-like playfulness and pleasant plumage of the natives is a fascinating treat.
There’s a sense of liveliness, comfort, which (miraculously) isn’t muddied by the obscure puzzles or exhaustive item searching of many of its peers in the adventure genre. Let’s just hope that this is carried over to Shrug Island. I could happily slouch in my chair for a few hours, flitting through pastel colors and igniting age-old rituals.