Seven is an android lost and alone on a post-apocalyptic planet. The original inhabitants are amiss, the result of the mysterious Vesper Protocol. The secrets of this world can be found through text logs dotted about the landscape, but the more immediate problem is the armed patrols and lythe mechanical dogs that stand between Seven and a resolution to this predicament. Welcome to the world of Vesper: Zero Light Edition.
Viewed in 2D, Vesper’s landscape is presented both through side-scrolling and flip-screen moments, the latter of which can be a little disorientating initially. The scale of Seven and its surroundings pan in and out for dramatic effect much like Metroid Dread, although this is not a Metroidvania game. The early portion of the game is spent avoiding the enemy as you have no means of dealing with them until you acquire the Drive Gun. The weapon’s arrival can seem a little belated, but once it has been acquired the additional puzzle element that it provides forms the bulk of the gameplay. Subsequent upgrades also add to the mix.
The Drive Gun can absorb light from nearby sources, before redirecting it into activation points that initiate doors and lifts. It’s also useful for stripping an area of light to create a dark spot to hide, or the light can be used to inject enemy androids, allowing you to take control of them for a limited distance. These mechanical foes will lock onto you if spotted, but you can conceal yourself in the undergrowth, watch their patrol route, and wait for the ideal moment to slip past. (There’s an element of familiarity here for anyone that has played Horizon Zero Dawn on the PlayStation.)
The screen is devoid of a UI — there’s no health bar or high score to divert your attention here — which allows Vesper to flaunt its stunning visuals. This is a beautiful game, with a palette of vibrant colours that juxtapose perfectly against the blackness of the foreboding world that Seven inhabits. Silhouettes are used to masterful effect. Indeed, it’s impossible to play without stabbing at the screenshot button on your Switch to capture the moment.
The outstanding visuals are complemented by a cinematic soundtrack that adds atmosphere, whilst the sounds of nature and industry also pervade the environment (in a nice touch, when you hide in the undergrowth, these sounds mute a little). As an example of visual and sonic immersion then, Vesper: Zero Light Edition triumphs.
The radiance fades a little however when it comes to the gameplay. Vesper was originally a PC release, and the Switch version adds enhancements and gameplay tweaks, however, it’s still not quite enough. The pace feels a little too slow initially, and it’s hard to become enthralled, despite the spectacular view. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, with a first-run taking around five hours, and if you become invested in Seven’s plight, a second playthrough will shine further light on the story. The sense of threat gains urgency further into the story and the dynamic of using light (and dark) to your advantage is a satisfying mechanic that prevents Vesper from fizzling out.
Vesper: Zero Light Edition Review £7.99
Vesper: Zero Light Edition combines stealth platforming with light/dark puzzles in a visually arresting landscape. There’s a lot to like (light?) here, but the core gameplay isn’t quite as compelling as the beautiful presentation. Nevertheless, Vesper is worth investigating.