Venturing out into the tall grass just North of Pallet Town with my trusty new Squirtle at my side was my first taste of the sense of adventure offered through video games. The hours and hours I spent exploring the Kanto region in Pokemon Blue are some of my fondest memories as both a child and a gamer.
The game features a pixel art style available in greenscale, grayscale,simple color, and full color, as well as a chiptune soundtrack reminiscent of the original Pokemon games.
When compared to their more polished successors Pokemon Red & Blue have a very unique characteristic which The Layabouts rather aptly define as a “raw strangeness and sense of mystery that was sort of smoothed over when it became an international sensation.”
At first glance the game may (at worst) look and sound like a Pokemon rip-off, or (at best) a homage to Pokemon’s humble beginnings, but while Collectems makes no attempt to hide its connection to Pokemon Red & Blue, the developers promise to bring tons of new gameplay elements to make Collectems a very unique (and legally distinct) experience.
Much like the Pokemon game series, Collectems asks players to explore an unknown region, called the Tamota Peninsula, in order to capture and train “strange mutant creatures [which] have ravaged the natural ecosystem and captured the hearts of millions.”
However, in Collectems you won’t be venturing out into the world and collecting gym badges in hopes of becoming the ultimate Collectems Master. Instead, players are tasked with paying off a “lifetime of debt” left behind by your missing father.
At least in Pokemon when your father abandoned you he paid enough child support for that sweet house in Pallet Town.
Players will collect, research, and battle Collectems to support a business, and according to the game’s website “paying off debt milestones will result in new opportunities for expansion and, in turn, provide new outlets for team customization.” Players can use money obtained from battles to invest in things like breeding centers, eugenics research, item manufacturing, and training facilities with other possible businesses to be announced later.
The game will feature a non-linear world where the layout of environments and the locations of species, opponents, and loot will be different every time – ensuring that no two playthroughs will be exactly the same. Players will be able to unlock “new routes of travel” through “various navigational tools.” The team also promises that players will be free to choose where to go and what to do at any given time.
Collectems’ battle system is built on an AP system, meaning you wont have to choose between things like attacking enemies or healing your Collectems. Instead, all of your possible actions are budgeted by a number of action points. A blog post published by The Layabouts last week gives a detailed breakdown on how the team currently envisions the AP battle system to play out.
“Typing,” as Pokemon fans know it (fire beats grass, water beats fire, you know the story), is also fundamentally different. The first three types the player will be introduced to are hard, soft, and sharp. The team explains that types were chosen early in development when Collectems was “much more of a straight parody of Pokémon and other older Game Boy games” based on the classic Rock-Paper-Scissors formula and also because the team found it “hilarious.” The team ultimately decided to keep the types because they are, as they describe them, “very simple physical attributes that could be shared between a wide variety of species. You’d never confuse sharp qualities for hard or soft ones, and we’d like to keep this fact consistent for all other types.”
Another twist on the classic formula is that Collectems which fall in combat die permanently. Players will then be able to infuse the DNA of fallen Collectems with new monsters – passing on moves, traits, and special abilities. You can also intentionally “junk” a Collectem to pass on any aspect of that monster (excluding creature type, gender, and species).
If the idea of permanent death for your Collectems sounds too harsh for your tastes, don’t worry – the game will allow you to disable the function entirely. This, along with several other customizable difficulty options such as penalizing yourself for healing, instituting economic inflation, and removing all logic from the randomization of the world, will allow players to highly customize each playthrough at their own will.
If the modern gameplay elements, the nostalgia soaked art direction, and the tweaks to the classic Pokemon formula interest you and you’re eager to know exactly when you can get your hands on Collectems, you’ll be disappointed to hear that The Layabouts only had the following to say on the matter:
“We have absolutely no idea at this point. The game is very early in development. We’ll let you know as soon as we can, but it won’t be any time soon.”
What is known is the game’s currently being developed for PC, Mac, Linux and Sony products, but the team has expressed interest in Collectems coming to as many platforms as possible.
“We’d love to see the game on Nintendo platforms and mobile devices.”
It’s worth noting that the game’s website shows logos for PS4, PS Vita, and PSN, which means the game may likely also appear on PS3, Sony Mobile Devices, or even Sony Smart TVs.
I for one am incredibly excited by the prospect of a game that attempts to recapture the spirit and tone of my earliest adventure as a gamer. If The Layabouts can deliver on their vision of bringing those qualities into the future while also creating its own identity in the process Collectems is guaranteed to stay high on my radar.