If you have played Esper 1 and you’re anything like me then you thought a few things as you were playing. One, everything is huge. Two, sometimes the controls make you want to gnaw your own face off. Three, in spite of these things, it’s still a great game with puzzles that can be really difficult at times and usually rewarding to complete. Esper 2 has improved in all of these areas. That said, if you didn’t play Esper 1 then you are going to miss out on a lot of the jokes. So play Esper 1.
Esper 2 has improved in all of these areas. That said, if you didn’t play Esper 1 then you are going to miss out on a lot of the jokes. So play Esper 1.
Esper 2 takes place sometime after the events of Esper 1. You take up the same role you played in the first game. Geoffry, the voice from the speaker in the first game, is back along with some others; namely a woman named Anna, a man named Ernie (who you will remember hearing about from the first game if you played it) and the man who will become your adversary and will remain nameless throughout this review to save from spoilers.
Esper 2 is a bigger and fuller experience than it’s predecessor. The story is deeper, the world is more developed, there are more characters and more locations. The first game was confined to a single office, but Esper 2 starts in what appears to be an underground bunker, finishes in outer space and travels to several interesting places in between. The first game looked quite good with my only real complaint being scale. Everything was enormous. Because the scale has been fixed and there are so many more locations, Esper 2 looks much better.
The first three chapters of the game involve doing tests similar to the first game where you move a ball and/or a cube through various obstacles and obfuscations that obscure your view of the objects. In Esper 2, however, each test is in it’s own room. As cool as it was to have the tubes come out of the walls and floor of the first game and rearrange themselves in front of you into new puzzles, it’s a welcome change to move about the facility for the various tests.
It’s a welcome change to move about the facility for the various tests.
If you are the sort who gets sick easily and you’re worried that movement could ruin this game for you then you don’t have to worry. Movement in this game is handled by a teleportation system. When you need to move you will see an icon of an open door floating where you need to go and you just look at it and tap the trackpad to teleport to where it is. As someone who doesn’t suffer from motion sickness I do wish that this were only an option that could be disabled in favour of standard movement, but this is the best option for people who suffer easily from sim sickness so it makes sense that if only one makes it in, it’s that one.
At the end of the third chapter you become a full agent of Esper and you are sent on a mission into the jungle to investigate a power anomaly. It’s here where you “meet up” with Ernie who is already on site. If Geoffry is Esper’s version of Cave Johnson then Ernie is Esper’s version of Wheatly. He is a sort of bumbling guide who is more about comic relief than being an actual help, though there are times where he does manage to help…sort of. I put “meet up” in quotes there because you never actually meet any of them. They are always voices coming out of a speaker, a tv set, or occasionally a fairly expressive camera.
When you reach the end of the jungle ruins you are about to grab hold of the prize when the villain of the story shows up and takes it from you. It’s here where the story really begins to take shape and you enter some of the game’s most interesting areas. It’s also here where I stop talking about the story so as not to give you the entire game in the review. Don’t worry, there is still a lot to go after this point. I do have to say that the conclusion of the story is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but considering how I’ve complained about the ending of previous games I have to give Coatsink top marks for putting some good effort into it.
Esper 2 is played in the same fashion as the first game. To pick up objects you look at them and tap the trackpad with your finger. You slide your finger forward on the trackpad to move the object away from you and backward to move it toward you. To throw objects you double tap the trackpad. This works better than the quick slide across the pad that the first game utilized, but it occasionally has it’s own hiccups, including the odd time that it doesn’t pick up the action or else when you throw the object only to catch it again right away. I am playing these games on the S6 Innovator Edition though so perhaps that is a hardware problem and not software. If you find that this is not a problem for you on you consumer version please let me know in the comments or through e-mail so I can add that information to the review.
Esper 2 is played in the same fashion as the first game.
While Esper 2 contains many, if not all of the gameplay features of the first game it also introduces a few new ones, most notably the mirror plates. Mirror plates are glowing pads that connect two balls or cubes together and then mirror their movement. When one goes left, the other goes right, etc. This is an interesting mechanic that adds a good deal of challenge to some of the puzzles. Sometimes that is because of the brain twisting you have to do to solve the puzzle and, unfortunately, sometimes it’s because it doesn’t work as smoothly as it should. There were times when the mirror ball just decided it wasn’t going to go any further. Not because something was blocking it from going further but, as far as I could tell, because something was wrong with the game. Thankfully this was a rare exception and not the rule.
Something I loved about many of the puzzles in this game was that it often took experimentation to solve them as if it were a real problem and I was looking around the room for anything that might help me. In a lot of games it’s pretty obvious what you’re supposed to do, but there were several times in Esper 2 where I solved a puzzle and was unsure that it was the way I was supposed to have solved it. In fact, there was a puzzle in the ancient ruins level that I went back to after beating the game and realized that I had done it the wrong way. I had gotten Esper 2 mixed up with Esper 1 and was trying to throw some weights by sliding quickly across the pad and it wasn’t working. I had been away from the game for a while at this point so I assumed maybe I hadn’t gotten the ability yet. I needed them moved to another room though so I ended up finding a way to do it without having to throw them by using other pieces from two different puzzles. Later when I realized what I was doing wrong I returned to that puzzle and it was so much easier to do it the right way, but I was impressed that it was possible to do it in a totally different way. There is also an achievement to be gotten on that puzzle that requires it to be beaten in a different way still than the two ways I knew about. That’s impressive.
Coatsink seems to have pulled out all the stops in the voice acting department. They’ve brought in some true British talent. Nick Frost, from such films as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Sean Pertwee, a.k.a Alfred Pennyworth from Gotham, and Lara Pulver from Da Vinci’s Demons and Edge of Tomorrow. They are all joining Eric Meyers who is returning as Geoffry and they do top notch work on the game.
Esper 2 takes what was great about Esper 1 and blows it out of the water, while at the same time solving a lot of the problems that were present in the first game. The puzzles are truly challenging and rewarding, even if there are rare occasions where they are frustrating. Esper 2 looks fantastic and has moved beyond the four walls of Geoffrey’s old office out into the wide world. If that’s not enough, they didn’t skimp on the voice work either, bringing in talented actors to bring the characters to life. Esper 2 is, no surprise, a must play game on the Gear VR.