Esper is not only a super stylish puzzler that has a healthy sprinkle of Portal vibes, but it’s also got bags of charm thanks to the excellent narration skills of Eric Meyers.
Set solely within the confines of an office, you are at the centre of the narrator’s attention. Evidently having telekinetic powers is a bone of contention for the government and so they are testing everyone exhibiting these powers to see if they are a threat to our society.
The stylish visuals of your cell office are merely the outer shell to a machine that protrudes robotic arms from the walls and ceiling to create the different maze-like tests – you are the mouse in a lab. The goal of each test is to place objects into their correct pot, which is done so by using your mind or rather by aiming and gripping objects with the trigger of the motion controller. There are other methods of control – head tracking and DualShock – but I found that the motion controller worked best.
I say best, there were moments when I couldn’t get enough of a grip on the various objects, with them slipping from my grasp at the most inconvenient moments. This wasn’t much of an issue during the early levels but became a real pain during the more tricky scenarios that require that little bit more finesse.
This was made harder by the fact you are seated behind a desk. Your telekinetic powers have limitations, like not being able to manipulate objects through certain materials – the desk included – so when a level is full of obstacles and you need every bit of space to work, the desk can be a real pain in the ass, severing your connecting to an object.
Manipulating the move controller – you only need one – at times was also tricky and during a particular level, this gave an added frustration that led me to my first road bock. Chapter 6:1 was the level in question and I just couldn’t fathom a solution, which was made even more frustrating by the controls seemingly working against me.
Up until this point I had only fallen victim to the odd glitch in physics, where an object that should have slotted neatly into position misaligned and the level wouldn’t complete, resulting in me having to hit the reset button to start the puzzle over.
The worst part about level 6:1 wasn’t the fact the controls were awkward; it was because I overcomplicated the solution. A short break and the answer was there as clear as day and that’s the beauty of Esper. Often the solution was so deviously simple that I looked too hard for a complex solution – well played Coatsink Software.
Not enough praise can be lorded over the narration. Meyers delivers his lines as perfectly as Portal’s Wheatley. His lines are clever and on occasion even made me chuckle, serving as a great scene setter to what is going on and leaving the game with the perfect precursor to a sequel.
Despite the minor irritations I had, the game is so charming – minus level 6:1 – that I couldn’t stay mad at it for long. Creating and pitching a puzzle game at the right difficulty is no easy feat but developer Coatsink Software have nailed it and also brought an extra flourish of exquisite narration to sweeten the deal. Here’s hoping they also release Esper 2 for PSVR.
I beat the game in around 2 hours – plus another 20-30 minutes mopping up the trophies I had missed – making it a fairly short experience albeit an extremely fun one. If you like VR puzzlers like Statik, Tumble and I Expect You To Die, then you should certainly pick up Esper, especially as it’s only £6.49.