I’ve got a lot of love for Esper. Besides being one of the first virtual reality titles I actually got to play when I saw it at EGX a few years back, its simple style of puzzling just resonated with me. I mean, who doesn’t want telekinetic powers, right?
Now, a few years after its initial release, PlayStation VR gamers finally have the opportunity to tackle Esper’s mind-bending puzzles. It’s the first time I got to see the game through to its conclusion, and whilst it might’ve been a shorter experience than I’d hoped for, it was definitely a thoroughly entertaining one.
Esper puts you in the shoes of a civilian who’s been called into a testing centre to find out more about their telekinetic powers from the comfort of a desk in an office. It’s a quirky place where you’re led through a bunch of simple exams by a peculiar (but enthusiastic) bloke, though it doesn’t take long before the strength of your powers are really revealed and more gruelling tests are sent your way.
It’s a quirky little setup, but it works well. It’s almost like Portal in a way, with a somewhat enigmatic voice leading you through a bunch of different trials, but with the player having no idea of what the end goal really is. It’s entertaining throughout though and well-written, so you can definitely expect to be entertained by the funny observations of your tester as much as the puzzles themselves.
The puzzles are all based around moving objects around the environment with your telekinetic abilities. This might mean guiding a ball through tubes, moving a box across an obstacle course, or even just launching tennis balls around the office – if it’s not stuck to the ground, nine times out of ten you can move it with your mind.
Of course, it’s never as simple as just moving things around. There are a few different things that factor into each puzzle – you can’t use your powers through reinforced glass for example, whilst heavier objects can only be dragged around and can’t be lifted into the air. The game is split up into six different chapters, with each one introducing a new gameplay mechanic that’ll force you to think a little differently if you want to progress. My favourite puzzles were probably the ones set in water, where you don’t only have to use your mind to move objects around but also take advantage of their weight too.
No matter what puzzle type you’re tackling though, you’re always going to have a ton of fun. Esper’s puzzles can be real head-scratchers, but you’ll never be frustrated wondering what to do or left completely stumped – the solution is right in front of you and all it takes is a bit of tinkering and quick-thinking to solve. They’re all carefully designed to balance out difficulty with ingenuity, and it makes for a really fun puzzling experience.
You can control Esper by either using the DualShock controller as a pointer to grab the objects around you or by moving your head around, though I’d definitely recommend the latter – not only does it seem more fitting giving the telekinetic nature of the game, but it’s a lot easier to control too. You’ll still have to use the DualShock controller since the face buttons and triggers deal with the manipulation of each object as you send them back and fore around the office or launch them around, but using your head as a basis of control is definitely the most enjoyable way to play.
I did stumble across a couple of issues with the controls mind, primarily when moving each object to and from me with the analogue stick. Rather than move towards me they’d instead stay in one place, which is a pain when trying to carefully manoeuvre through one of the game’s little obstacle courses. All you have to do is drop the object and pick it back up again to get it working, but it was still an annoying bug.
I managed to complete Esper in around an hour, so it’s an easy game to get through in just one sitting. I know this sort of thing would typically bother some players, but seeing as you can purchase the game for a low price anyway I think you get more than enough bang for your buck. It’s just one of those games where you wished it lasted longer because you’re enjoying it so much, and less because you feel you’ve been ripped off by a short experience.
Outside of playing the puzzles again and unlocking trophies though, there’s not much to come back for. It’s one of those games where you’ll only really have fun with it the first time you play it, with subsequent playthroughs not offering anything that you wouldn’t have seen or solved the first time around. But hey, at least it’s simple enough that it’ll appeal to just about anyone – my non-game playing other half saw me playing Esper, and had to try it herself. It’s definitely the sort of title that just about anyone could pick up and play.
Esper is a short but sweet puzzler that’ll keep you entertained throughout thanks to its enjoyable range of well-designed enigmas and quirky premise. Leading balls and boxes through tunnels and miniature obstacle courses might not sound like the most thrilling gameplay experience, but Coatsink have managed to make it a whole lot of fun and satisfying for players with their charming virtual reality title.
Now, here’s hoping we’ll see the game’s follow up on PlayStation VR soon too…
Release Date: Out Now
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift