After a stint working with PopCap, Plants Vs Zombies/To The Moon songwriter Laura Shigihara is indie once again. And for the last year she’s been working on Project Rakuen, a game she describes as “like a mix between Maniac Mansion, To the Moon, and The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (though without battles or fighting).” Set in a mysterious hospital, it’s a story of how a young boy uses his imagination to understand the world, and indeed other patients, around him.
With what sounds like a good dose of the Wizard Of Oz, this young hospitalised boy asks his mother if he can enter the fantasy world of his favourite story, and she says he can. Mums have more powers than I realised. He also learns about the patients in his ward, exploring themes of empathy, hope and “coming to terms with your own story”.
That fantasy world is described by the game’s site thusly,
“A tribal child living in a fantasy world called “Morizora’s Forest.” One day the child wakes up to find that everyone in his tribe has disappeared. He soon learns that in order to escape danger, his tribe sailed away to a paradise isle called “Rakuen.”
Alone but determined, the young child sets off on a journey to reach the Guardian of the Forest, “Morizora.” After overcoming many challenges to reach him, Morizora grants the courageous child one request: a ride on his magical ship. The child sails away, finally reuniting with his tribe and all those he loved, in the beautiful world of Rakuen.”
The game is to feature no fighting, but instead exploration and puzzles. And of course the music of Shigihara, a great deal of which you can already listen to here. Shigihara is also writing, programming, and creating the pixel art, with Emmy Toyonaga creating the concept art. They’re aiming to release it early next year, on PC.