Review: Esper 2


Clever puzzles with a side of Nick Frost

Those who are on the fence with virtual reality typically cite a dissonance between the actual state of a real-life subject compared to the actions taking place in-game. In other words, outside of the HTC Vive, most VR headsets skew towards having the player sit down and use a traditional controller, which can be jarring if you're running around in-game.

Esper 2 cleverly finds a loophole for this problem by perpetually placing the player character in a chair, and giving them telekinetic abilities to justify the lack of tactile feedback.

Esper 2 (PC [reviewed with an Oculus Rift])
Developer: Coatsink
Publisher: Coatsink
Released: March 28, 2016
MSRP: $9.99

Much like Jazzpunk, Esper 2 kicks off in an unconventional and mysterious office setting. The main menu is actually your desk, where players can manipulate any object at will, discover Easter eggs, or access the main menu on an in-game PC.

Playing the role of a telekinetic savant of sorts, your job is to gallivant across the world to take down villains as part of the ESPR organization. Within the first 10 minutes, I was sold because of the charming way the development team sells it -- almost like a spiritual successor to Carmen Sandiego with a little bit of Myst added in for good measure. 

Esper 2 playfully breaks the fourth wall every so often, but it does it in a way that isn't overly annoying, partially due to the delightfully dry delivery from the voice cast, which includes Nick Frost of Three Flavours Cornetto fame. The dialogue isn't typically laugh-out-loud funny, but I was grinning the entire time because it augmented the puzzles so well.

Like several other Oculus launch titles, Esper 2 justifies the use of VR mostly by way of offering up new perspectives. The elongated training sequence provides puzzles that involve picking up or throwing objects into "goals" of sorts, but not everything is what it seems at first glance. This is especially true once the puzzles graduate to logic sequences or "escape the room" style teasers.

While there may be a pane of glass in the way or a pesky object obfuscating your view, there's usually a solution that involves physically peeking around the landscape to find a new approach. This works out in the game's favor because the solution isn't always right in front of your face. Players have to work out puzzles step by step, whether it's stacking boxes or something similar, without having to frustratingly "pixel hunt."

Clocking in at several hours, the pacing is spot on. Puzzles aren't overly obtuse or simplistic, and strike a great balance that encourages players to press on. A lot of little things also pop up every 30 minutes or so -- for example, the Oculus' gyroscope function is used in addition to the traditional Xbox controller to respond to inquiries by shaking your head "yes" or "no." These gimmicks aren't overdone or annoying, which is refreshing to see with a launch title for a new platform.

Esper 2 constantly reminded me of a bygone era and the future of VR at the same time. It borrows a lot of inspiration from classic PC adventure games, but also manages to inject some of its own signature humor in and usher us into the new dawn of virtual reality without feeling like a tech demo -- even if the experience itself is fleeting.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Esper 2 reviewed by Chris Carter



Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures



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