July 30, 2021
I’m a huge fan of some good old fashioned 2D platforming. Like most people of my generation, my gaming childhood was spent guiding colourful characters over pits and spikes to save the world or princess. Requiring split second reactions and total control of your character, millions of people have fallen in love with one of gaming’s earliest genres. A fast pace is definitely not a requirement in the world of platformers though, with games like Braid and the Oddworld series showing that solving puzzles can be just as entertaining as stomping Goombas. Vesper is ready to follow in these footsteps, with its alien story and gorgeous silhouette art style.
Small and defenseless android Seven may not look like much of a hero. But he’s determined to survive on the unknown decaying planet he finds himself on. Full of ancient architecture and aggressive machines, this world isn’t really the place for a robot with no weapons. Everything is deliberately mysterious in Vesper. So I won’t spoil any story beats you might uncover in hidden logs you find as you go. I will say that this game isn’t set in a world without humans though.
Vesper: run and hide
Since you are so defenseless (at the start of the game) you’ll be doing a lot of running away and stealthing. Any enemy that sees you will attack first and ask questions later. And since one touch will render Seven broken and battered you’ll need to keep your distance one way or another. Patches of grass offer the perfect hiding spot, and enemies have very obvious pathing to ensure your safety as long as you’re sensible.
Not all situations can be overcome with stealth though, and sometimes you’ll just need to leg it. I was expecting these moments to feel rather tense, but enemies are so slow that it takes them a good few screens to even get close to taking you down. It’s disappointing, but since you die in one hit they do still take you down occasionally.
The drive gun
After dodging enough enemies, you’ll soon get access to an actual weapon. The Drive Gun can be used to absorb light, and inject it into other objects or enemies. Once you’ve got this weird weapon, there’s a pretty big gameplay shift. When you put your light into a machine it’ll activate, which you can then use to your advantage. Maybe you’ll activate a barrier to stop an enemy from reaching you? Or perhaps you’ll activate a trap to kill them altogether.
You can also be more direct, and just shove your light in the baddies. When you do this you’ll gain control of them, bringing more of that Oddworld flavour to Vesper. This is a great way to dispatch an irritating foe by simply chucking them off a cliff. That said, a machine that respawns them will usually be just around the corner. You’ll also need to use possession to press switches and open the way forward.
Vesper: Incredible looking
All of these elements could really add up to create something special, but Vesper never quite lives up to that potential. The puzzles never really ramp up past “put this light there”, and the pacing of the game is close to glacial. Between each puzzle it feels like there’s a few empty screens too many, and as good as the game looks it was never enough to hold my attention.
Vesper really is an incredible looking game though. The silhouette based art style is really unique, and a joy to look at. Alongside the detailed shadowy characters, the backdrops feature beautiful bold colours and sinister architecture. I can’t think of another game that looks quite like it.
Vesper looks lovely and has some great ideas, but unfortunately isn’t that fun to play. The puzzles are always just a bit too simple, and the pace of the game is far too slow. It’s undeniably pretty and the story is certainly intriguing, but I found it hard to see it through to the end of its 6 hour runtime.
Absolutely breathtaking to look at
Has some good ideas
Story is interesting
Far too slow paced
Puzzles are too simple
Being chased by foes isn't tense enough
It's a truly beautiful game to look at, but with slow pacing and puzzles that never really hit the mark it's hard to recommend Vesper.