Short Trip is an interactive illustration in which you drive a tram for cats as it rumbles up and down the hand-drawn mountains. It’s a peaceful and lovingly designed experience that only lasts a few minutes, yet the attention to detail, from the sound to the sketched trees and turning windmills, is transporting.
Why cats? Australian artist Alexander Perrin was inspired both by his mother’s passion for cats, and his own feline companion in sketching the characters that populate Short Trip.
“I started making video games with my cat as the lead protagonist a few years ago as a tribute to her, and for whatever reason I’ve kept her in that position ever since,” Perrin told Hyperallergic. “Why she would take to driving trams, I can’t say I know, but ever since I visited the Hakone Tozan Mountain Railway in Japan I’ve been set on creating an experience which would emulate the crafted form and feel of that journey with her paws at the helm.”
A cat with control of a train is less terrifying than expected in Short Trip, with keyboard arrows (and a space bar to ring the bell) peacefully guiding the tram along. I may have given the upright-walking cat passengers whiplash as I got the hang of starting and stopping, though, and some of the pedestrians milling about at markets and churches fled the approaching car. Overall, it’s a meditative ride, and elegantly animates graphite drawings without losing that handmade touch.
“I’ve often found that the use of physical mediums in digital contexts is seemingly done for novelty’s sake, and not in any meaningful or convincing way.” Perrin said. “They have very different affordances and qualities which I feel should be acknowledged when being smooshed together.”
Short Trip is planned to be the first by Perrin in a collection of interactive illustrations. This inaugural edition is available to play for free (donations are welcome) on both his site and Itch.io. With all the stress in the world, it is a respite of calm, with birds chirping in the background as the cats leisurely prowl their scenic environment. As Perrin stated, “I suppose cats feel right to support the tramway as they never seem to have a necessary destination, they just move to wherever seems pleasant at the time.”