Game: Vesper: Zero Light Edition
Genre: Adventure, Platformer, Puzzle, Action
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows))
Developers | Publishers: Cordens Interactive
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US E10+
Price: EU € 7,99 | USD $9.99 | UK £7.99
Release Date: May 12th, 2022
Review code used, with many thanks to Cordens Interactive.
Vesper: Zero Light Edition communicates a lot through its marvellous visuals. Like so many other artistically striking games, (Journey, The Great Escape, and Abzu, to name a few), Vesper is a feast for the eyes. It lures you in with beautifully bleak landscapes, promising a mysterious and worthwhile journey—but does it live up to that promise?
Sneaking, Puzzling, Jumping
Despite being a relatively short game, it’s a slow burn, with each area functioning as a puzzle. Mechanics gradually build on one another. Simple button presses, panels, and teleportation platforms layer into stealth sequences, which gain even more complexity once you obtain a Drive Gun. This device transforms gameplay from stealth to action. It allows you to momentarily possess and control enemies. For the first hour or so, I was impressed by how intuitively mechanics built upon one another, though now I’m not sure whether these puzzles amount to more than the sum of their parts. They start to feel tedious rather than rewarding about midway through the game, especially when paired with the controls.
Slow and Unsteady
Vesper: Zero Light Edition is not always as crisp or responsive as I would’ve liked. The main character feels heavy, even a little clunky. While this makes enemy encounters more dramatic, it also adds frustration. The action button (Y) does not always register, which is a pity when you’re hurriedly trying to activate a teleportation platform, only to meet death in the jaws of a mechanical beast. Your Drive Gun is finicky, too, requiring the right joystick to aim. While it’s possible that some of these woes will be addressed in a patch, controls will likely be divisive for players who desire quicker, lighter, and snappier responses. Despite drawbacks, slowness also encourages a more meditative pace, lessening stress and emphasizing atmosphere.
A Vivid Wonderland
Vesper: Zero Light Edition has atmosphere galore! The saturated backgrounds look hand-painted, lending every area a feeling of wonderment. You will travel through a landscape teeming with empty towns, windmills, patches of flowers, and ominous enemies. The color palette gradually shifts from rich cobalt to radiation green to infernal red. Background music is scarce, at times almost nonexistent. You will hear creaks and whooshes as you activate buttons and occasional orchestral swells when you are spotted by an enemy. Vesper is musically understated, creating a feeling of post-apocalyptic loneliness. As the game progresses, you will encounter increasingly bizarre landmarks, including hulking sculptures, vacant bars, and abandoned theatres where old movies flicker across the screen. This art direction succeeds in being both breathtaking and eerie, making it suitable for its equally eerie story.
Piecing Together the Past
The story progresses through a number of enigmatic cutscenes and logs scattered throughout each level. You can choose to peruse logs or ignore them entirely. They offer a cryptic story about a fallen civilization, a thing called Corruption, and human memories stored within machine bodies. While the writing is strong, at times even emotionally stirring, I question the efficacy of logs as a storytelling device; they provide exposition without altering gameplay. After two hours of stealth and environmental puzzles, I began hoping for a more dramatic change, but each area remained predictable, functioning as yet another puzzle in a long gameplay loop. I’m disappointed that such stylish writing takes a backseat. Even with multiple endings, logs, and secrets, I’m left wanting more.
Conclusion: Playing a Painting
I feel conflicted after roughly five hours with Vesper: Zero Light Edition. I won’t soon forget its gorgeous backdrops and searing colors, but I also wasn’t hooked by its gameplay loop. This could be exactly what you are looking for, for those who enjoy stealth games. As for me, I will remember it less for its mechanics and more as if it were a painting.
Final Verdict: I Like it.