When Square Enix announced plans to publish indie games through Collective (opens in new tab), back in 2013, we had some questions (opens in new tab). Now that Collective has successfully launched a steady stream of interesting, off-beat indie games, we're starting to see the kinds of games that Collective is bringing to the world. In short: we're excited.
Cast your mind back to September 2017, when Collective released Tokyo Dark (opens in new tab), an interactive novel and psychological thriller. Jody celebrated how the game made Tokyo feel like a real place (opens in new tab) as seen by a tourist. On release day, Luke thought that Tokyo Dark (opens in new tab)'s addition of Western adventure-game exploration to Japanese interactive novel storytelling shifted how he thinks about both genres (opens in new tab). That's not too bad for the first time out.
Collective wasn't afraid to get weird for its next game, Deadbeat Heroes, a brawler set in 1970s London featuring superheroes without powers. It's true that "a superhero except he sucks" is the best possible hook for a game, but aside from that the game's lovely sense of style struck us. As we learned from our interview with the developers (opens in new tab), Deadbeat Heroes is soaked in the Adam West–era ethos of golden age comics: the sense of joy, humor, and a total lack of ironic detachment. It also looks great (opens in new tab), and that doesn't hurt at all.
It's interesting that just like Deadbeat Heroes, Collective's next game, Oh My Godheads, focuses so much on local couch co-op (opens in new tab). Local co-op games were hard to find for a few years, but maybe crowdfunding is a new factor that is revitalizing communal gaming. Oh My Godheads is that old familiar story: you're out playing Capture the Flag with friends, but the flag is a physical manifestation of an angry god, and it hates you (opens in new tab). Carrying the statue-like god totems angers the god, and they perform mischief like reversing players' controls or calling down a giant foot to stomp on people.
The most recent Collective game to catch our eye is Battalion 1944, a throwback multiplayer shooter purposely designed to capture the pace and feel of early-2000s games like Call of Duty 2. Battalion had a really rocky launch (opens in new tab) that we later found out was due to overwhelming demand—the devs told us they expected 3,000 players and got 19,000 (opens in new tab). Things have settled down a bit now and the developer is focused on having lots of conversations with its community, a focus that is probably natural for a crowdfunded game.
Coming up, two Collective alumni on our radar are Octahedron and Forgotton Anne, and they continue Collective's trend of highlighting very different games. Octahedron, launching on March 20, is a psychedelic platformer that we describe as "a neon nightclub that wants to kill you." (opens in new tab) Octahedron focuses on bright colors and twisting, unlikely three-dimensional puzzles, but Forgotton Anne (opens in new tab), the next Collective game we're watching, is an adventure game focused on smooth, Ghibli-like animation and settings.
An interactive novel, a brawler, a capture-the-flag game, an old-school WW2 shooter, a platformer, and an adventure game. Collective seems intent on proving that it doesn't have a specific type or style of game in mind—the only thing its first six games have in common is that they're taking something familiar and giving it an unexpected twist. We weren't sure how Square Enix was going to make this work, but so far they're putting out games in the finest spirit of indy gaming: surprising, inventive, and willing to take risks in the pursuit of something new. Taking a risk doesn't always payoff, but it's nice to see new developers and new ideas get a chance to prove themselves.