Ever wanted cool mental powers like telekinesis like Eleven from Stranger Things? While I didn’t envy her the consequences, I did very much envy her powers. Luckily virtual reality allows us to live out our little fantasies, exactly like this one – but unfortunately it seems that, even in a virtual world, the government gets themselves mixed up with programs that want to exploit powers like these.
If you have a Gear VR or Oculus Rift, then you might already be familiar with Coatsink Software’s Esper and Esper 2 – both of which released back in 2015. The first title released on PSVR last month, and is finally making its way to HTC Vive as well today. So we decided to check the (by now) old title to see how it’s holding up and what it’s like playing Esper on the Vive.
So for those of you that haven’t played the game yet, Esper places you in the shoes of a person much like Eleven – one who has special telekinetic powers and who is now being tested by the government for this reason. The game is set against a 1970’s backdrop in a government facility that challenges people like you to complete various tests that get harder as the game progresses.
Check out my gameplay video:
So first-off, I have to once again say that I’m not particularly great at figuring out puzzles. I just don’t have the patience for them. So when things start getting frustrating, I usually just give up. However, on it’s launch, Esper was seen as one of the most inventive VR puzzle games on the market, which means that I had to check for myself whether that title has held up through the years.
While you may need mind-bending powers to play through the puzzles in Esper, the game itself isn’t too mind-bending. The earlier levels are fairly easy to complete and there might be a puzzle or three that has you scratching your head (as I did) later on, but for the most part the game progresses at a steady pace. Many puzzle games tend to struggle with pacing due to obscure or illogical puzzles that will have you fighting to progress every step of the way. What makes Esper so great, however, is that it doesn’t rely on strange clues or weird mental gymnastics (besides the telekinesis).
Instead, Esper relies on old-school brain teasers where you’re put in front of a desk and told to move various objects from one point to another, with ever-changing obstacles in-between. This works great in VR because the game taxes both your ability to solve a logic problem and your fine motor skills. The latter of which, is much harder to effectively incorporate in a game outside of VR. The story-arc and disembodied voice of Geoff, while not entirely engaging beyond getting the next puzzle out in front of you, do add to the overall enjoyment of the game.
Stand The Test Of Time
Coatsink is known for producing polished VR games and that’s no different here. Though since Esper was one of their first games, it does show it’s early roots. For instance, the game is an entirely seated experience and only takes place in one room. While there’s nothing wrong with this, and the story does provide a reason for the single setting – it does speak to taking a safer route in VR game development, which is a concept that most of the VR community is already starting to pass up for more exciting experiences.
That being said, Esper still holds up really well given the advancements made in VR gaming in the past three years. The experience it offers is still original and genuinely fun, which is made even better by the fact that it’s played with the Vive controllers. There’s no doubt the game was fun back when people were using their actual heads, but the exercise can become frustrating after a while, I’d imagine. Though that certainly made for a more immersive experience, of course.
So whether you’re a VR veteran that just didn’t have the chance to get your hands on Esper until now or a VR newbie looking for some fun games to ease you into the virtual reality experience – Esper is still a great choice. The game is available right now on Steam for $8.99 US, which isn’t a bad price for around 2 hours of entertainment. Depending on how long it takes you to complete the puzzles of course.