One of the more surprising announcements in my inbox was that the Square Enix Collective would showcase games at Rezzed. I looked the titles over and liked what I saw enough to try them at the event.
I wasn’t disappointed.
The Square Enix Collective is a platform where developers can pitch their games to gamers directly. The community then judges the titles and those approved by the majority will get Square Enix’s support on its road to crowdfunding and eventual publishing. These games appear on crowdfunding sites as “Square Enix Collective Approved,” an endorsement that I think helps draw backers. Square Enix works with the developers, flexing its marketing muscles to drive the crowdfunding campaign as best they can.
It’s an unusual platform to be honest, but one that over the past few months I’ve grown to respect, as the Square Enix Collective doesn’t attempt to become a game’s publisher or even control the projects in any way. It’s their aim to have developers publish themselves and retain all creative control. They only help them on the way, with a small percentage of the Kickstarter campaign money as payment for their services.
The games they had on show were Goetia, Black – The Fall, Tokyo Dark, The Turing Test and Oh My Godheads. Of these, I had the chance to try out everything but Tokyo Dark and Oh My Godheads. While I hope to preview all these games in the following weeks, at this time I can’t talk about the games I didn’t play.
The Turing Test (Bulkhead Interactive) is most assuredly the best alpha version of a game I’ve ever played. I have never seen such level of polish on an alpha before. It’s frankly astonishing and I told the developers exactly that. Their response was, “thank you, we scrapped a lot of early prototypes to reach this stage.” If you’re heading to a major convention to show your work to gamers, Turing Test’s quality is what you should aim for, at least as much as you can.
The Turing Test is a first person puzzler in the same vein as Portal, The Talos Principle or the studio’s previous game: Pneuma. It stars Ava Turing as she explores the research station on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, delving deeper into its mysteries, locked behind a series of puzzles that only a human could solve, an effort by those inside the facility to stop the International Space Station’s AI to gain access.
The Rezzed build had the first round of test chambers, with puzzles all about diverting power from one system to another, sometimes taking the energy cubes directly from their sockets and plugging them in somewhere else. You also have a gun that can absorb and redirect energy spheres from these sockets. So the logic puzzles are all about figuring out where you need to plug the cubes, where you should fire off the energy spheres and in which order. They’re all beautiful logic puzzles and once I finished I just wanted to keep playing for more and more. I’m a big fan of this type of game and I honestly can’t wait for its release.
Black – The Fall (Sand Sailor Studio) is platform adventure game in the same vein as Flashback—the original one. You play as Black, a farmer ripped from his family’s arms and sent to a factory to work by the authoritarian regime. But before he becomes another mindless drone of the state, he manages to hide away and so begins his escape from the grim factory grounds.
Black – The Fall plays in 2.5D with your character always running left or right but the camera switching around to show new perspectives in the environment. Most of the challenges—because calling them puzzles seems odd here—are about timing your moves and jumps, knowing when and where to go and when to wait patiently for that turret to look the other way. You also get a laser pointer to direct the mindless drones where you want them to, such as to a switch or a bicycle.
Black – The Fall is all in black and white, adding to the grim and lifeless atmosphere of the factory, where no individuality or hope remains. It’s a stylistic choice I agree with wholeheartedly.
But what struck me the most during my playthrough was how they switch up the challenges. The one where I stopped playing was all in the darkness with some lethal steam vents. You have to pick up the sound and measure how close they are, so you don’t step in the path of the exhaust and die. We’re used to seeing everything in games, so responding to audio queues creates a completely new experience.
The fortunate thing is that even if you die, the respawn is instantaneous, so it’s never frustrating, something that I appreciated with the crowded and very noise room where I played.
Goetia (Sushee) is a unique point & click adventure game where you play as a ghost. You explore the mansion belonging to your family and try to figure out what happened there. Unlike other adventures where conversations drive the understanding of the plot, in Goetia, you discover things in a similar way to an exploration game, with journals, notes and other scraps of information.
What makes Goetia unique is that, as a ghost, you don’t have an inventory system but instead you possess items like a poltergeist and make them float. That way you drag them to where you need them to go. For example, a note I found in the mansion mentioned a white powder used to reveal invisible ink. So when I found a small box with white powder, and then found a suspiciously blank piece of paper, I knew what I had to do. The problem was they were on different floors and while I could pass through walls and ceilings, the objects couldn’t. So I opened the dumbbell, possessed the box, dropped it inside, sent it down and then once again took it for a nice flight up to the paper, revealing the hint to open a sealed vault with four strange altars.
Goetia is perhaps the best blend of the traditional point & click adventure genre and the new wave of exploration-heavy games. I’m excited to know more of this gothic story, to uncover the secrets of the manor and learn what happened to my spectre’s family.
But above all…I want to know how to pronounce Goetia, because not even the developers knew. When I asked Amy Graves, Community Manager for the Square Enix Collective she told me she asked them how to pronounce it and their reply was, “We’re not sure.”
So maybe I’ll unlock that mystery along with the rest.
The Square Enix Collective has tons of indie games right now for the community to weigh on, so why not head over to their site and check them out?