Oniri Islands Preview

Edit: The Kickstarter is now live at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1265508847/oniri-islands
I was first introduced to Oniri Islands as a cooperative mobile board game for kids at GDC. I’m not sure if I agree that it is a board game, but I do think it is a great cooperative kids game with loosely related board game elements.

In Oniri Islands, two players take on the roles of Mina and Tim; a sister and brother lost on the mysterious island. In order to find their way home, they must cooperate to solve puzzles together. The app uses 2 smart toys like player pawns to move the characters on screen. The toys also come with a variety of masks that when placed on the toy will activate different powers such as the Falcon mask which lets you fly or shark mask which lets you swim.

One of the things that stands out for me in Oniri Islands is that, for a kids game, it does not hold your hand. The game gives you a short introduction of the two children being pulled into this magical world and are told you need to work together, but it does not give you a tutorial on how to find clues or pick up objects. You need to figure it out together.
When I say Oniri Islands has board game-like elements I mean that not only do you get player pawns that allow you to move around a board, but you also have the critical thinking that cooperative board games tend to provoke. As the game requires both pawns to work, players will need to learn to move together, discuss their ideas, and solve problems as a unit. You also come at the app from a top down perspective mimicking a board that players move the pieces on.

Moving the two pawns around the board you can explore the island you are on and discover the items you need. To pick them up, both pawns must move to the object and move together to carry it. The idea is simple and yet, as an adult, it took me a minute to figure the game out. I think Oniri Islands is great for kids as it creates situations that make them think and experiment. I think the physical element of the pawns combined with the removable masks is very neat. I could see some mini-reliant board games adopting similar ideas with attachable items or armor.

The game is very pretty and the art reminds me of hand illustrated animations.I had a lot of fun just exploring the map with my partner. As an adult I was able to enjoy the charming storyline and found some of the puzzles were challenging enough to keep me engaged. In the end, while I don’t think Oniri Islands really counts as a board game per se, it is a really great mobile game for kids and it has the potential to teach them lessons about cooperation which could carry over to board games. The game is interesting enough for adults to enjoy with their children and the art is really beautiful.

Tourmaline Studio will be Kickstarting Oniri Islands starting tomorrow, March 16th. It is scheduled to release in Q4 2017 $35.00. The game will come with the two figurines, 5 masks, and the free app download. You can learn more about the project at: www.oniri-game.com

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