When I first saw the trailer for Vesper the first thing that stood out to me was the atmosphere. The game has you playing on an alien planet as an android that is in constant danger. The visuals in particular looked stunning. Outside of the visuals though, I was intrigued by the gameplay as well. As a huge fan of puzzle games, the puzzle mechanic of using the gun to solve puzzles and even control enemies intrigued me. Even the platforming mechanics looked fun. Vesper is a fun mesh of different game mechanics in a stunning atmosphere that is let down a little by its story.
In Vesper you play as Seven. Seven is a small android stuck on an abandoned planet that was once inhabited by an ancient civilization. The planet is filled with dangerous creatures and other perils. Can Seven take control of its own destiny and decide the fate of its race?
If I were to describe the gameplay of Vesper it actually feels like a combination of a number of different genres. Probably the main element of the game is the 2D exploration platforming. Most of the gameplay entails exploring the environment and jumping over gaps. The game gives you a single jump, but if your character is able to grab a ledge they can pull themselves up. Usually you can take your time while jumping, but the game also has quite a few sections where you have to keep moving as some threat is chasing you.
As you advance in the game things become a little more complex. You eventually acquire the Drive Gun. This gun allows you absorb lights from the area and use them in other ways. These lights are used to activate switches, turn on and off lights, and even control the enemies that were once pursuing you. This introduces two new elements to the game. Instead of just running away from every threat, the game has a sort of stealth element where you can hide in the shadows to avoid enemies. The bigger element that it adds is a puzzle element as you figure out how to move lights around to activate switches and even use enemies to help you progress forward.
Vesper feels like a combination of a bunch of different mechanics, and yet the gameplay still works really well. I think the game works because the various elements feed off of one another. Seven by themselves is weak and cannot survive on their own. You need to use the platforming skills to get across gaps and put barriers between you and enemies. You sometimes need to use stealth in order to sneak past enemies. Finally you need to use the puzzle elements to open a path forward while keeping yourself safe. There are sections of the game that I thought were better than others, but I thought the gameplay was quite fun overall.
In particular the platforming and puzzle elements were pretty fun. I will say that it is sometimes hard to tell when you have to jump in order to be able to grab the ledge on the other side of a gap. This is somewhat due to the graphics as you can’t quite tell where a platform ends and begins. Sometimes your character will also grab a ledge when you don’t think they should be able to, and other times they won’t. The good news is that outside of waiting for the level to reload, your punishment for missing a jump is minimal. Otherwise the platforming is pretty fun. Nothing about it is particularly original, but the platforms are placed where it is still quite satisfying. This is especially true in the chase sequences as the game does a great job timing things where you don’t need perfect timing, but also presses you enough where it feels like you are really being chased.
The puzzle elements are also quite satisfying. As you progress in the game, the power of the Drive Gun expands giving you more things that you can do with it. Most of the puzzle mechanics revolve around taking lights from one area and moving them to another in order to activate a switch to open up a path forward. The ability to take control of the enemies is quite interesting as well. This is done to use them to destroy other enemies in your way, and even have them activate switches for you. Being able to take control over your enemies to have them do your bidding is quite fun. I wouldn’t consider the puzzles to be particularly challenging, but they are still well designed that puzzle fans should enjoy them.
On top of the fun gameplay, Vesper’s overall atmosphere is fantastic as well. The game is 2D, but the designers do a great job creating an interesting world to explore. The visuals in particular are really well done. The game does a great job taking you to an alien world that feels unique. The art style is fantastic as some of the scenes are truly stunning. The game’s soundtrack also supports the atmosphere really well. The overall atmosphere of the game is really well done which really helps support the gameplay.
This is why I found it a little disappointing that the story was sort of a letdown. Now don’t get me wrong, the story is not bad. I think more could have been done with it though. The story isn’t going to ruin your enjoyment of Vesper, but if you are looking for a game with a great story it may not be for you. Vesper is one of those type of games where the story is mostly told through background elements. The game doesn’t come right out and give you the story. You have to search it out yourself. A lot of it is told through things displayed in the background and more importantly secret logs you find throughout your journey. I think this might be the story’s biggest issue. Basically if you don’t find a lot of the secret logs you likely are going to have a hard time following the story as most of it is told through these logs.
This normally wouldn’t be a huge problem as the game is rewarding you for going out of your way to find the hidden logs. The problem is that finding these logs is not as easy as you might initially expect. Generally speaking I am pretty good at finding hidden items in video games. This is mostly because I am the type of player that will purposely go down a path that I know will be a dead end just hoping to find the secret collectibles. This really only took me so far in Vesper though. Maybe I was just missing the subtle clues pointing out the locations of hidden logs. Some of it is due to the fact that the game regularly gives you two paths that you can follow. One path progresses the story forward and the other hides the hidden logs. Normally when games do this it is pretty easy to tell which path is which. This wasn’t so easy in Vesper for me though as I was genuinely just guessing most of the time. This is compounded by the fact that in many cases the paths have a point where you can’t go back and choose the other option. This lead to me not being able to go back once I noticed that I was on the path that was progressing the game forward. This wouldn’t have been a big issue except for the fact that much of the story is told through these hidden logs which lead to me missing out on some of the story. The game seems to have been designed in this way somewhat to get players to play through it a second time. It can be a little frustrating for those who like to find all of the collectibles knowing that they will sometimes miss them and have no real way of going back to get them outside of playing the level again.
Speaking of replay value, I thought Vesper’s length was solid. This will somewhat depend on the player as I actively tried to find most of the hidden logs even though I only ended up finding about half of them. With this in mind the game took me around 5-5.5 hours to complete. If you rush through the game it will likely take less time. If you are able to find all or most of the hidden logs though it will likely take longer. I am not going to get into specifics but the game also encourages you to play through the game for a second time. Those that do will obviously get more out of the game as well. While Vesper is not a super long game, I am not disappointed by its length. I probably would have liked another chapter, but the game proceeds smoothly where it doesn’t feel like the game is rushed or is strung out too long to pad the length.
Ultimately I enjoyed my time with Vesper. The game might not really entail any highly original mechanics, but it still succeeds at creating a fun and engaging experience that I had fun with. In a way the game feels like a combination of a number of game genres. The game has platforming, puzzle, adventure, and stealth elements. These different elements actually work surprisingly well together. The Drive Gun creates some fun and creative puzzles even if they might not be the most challenging. The platforming is pretty fun as well especially during the chase sequences. This is all topped off by the game’s atmosphere which can be stunning at times. This is why I was a little disappointed by the story as it isn’t bad, but it is kind of hard to follow if you don’t find most of the hidden logs. This is easier said than done as it is easy to miss them while actively searching for them.
My recommendation for Vesper mostly comes down to your interest in the game’s premise. If the gameplay and theme don’t really appeal to you, Vesper probably won’t be for you. Those that think the game sounds interesting though, should enjoy it and consider picking up Vesper.
Buy Vesper online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Cordens Interactive and Deck13 for the review copy of Vesper used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.