Schell Games’ latest is a worthy follow-up to a VR great. Read more in our I Expect You To Die 2 review.
If there was ever a game to point to as an example of why details matter in VR game design, I Expect You To Die 2: The Spy And The Liar is it.
The sequel from Schell Games delivers you to six locales that are both richly realized and wildly varying, all of them textured with details that breathe life into your surroundings and draw you deeply into its puzzles. There’s the dust that seems to puff off a rope as you pull it or the markings on the back of a clipboard. There’s the music emanating from radios, the playful voice acting of Ready Player One’s OASIS Vice President Wil Wheaton and the change of volume to the ambient sound as you raise a heavy curtain to your left. There’s a locked drawer you can open just a smidge to see an object hidden inside and the bright rays of a flashlight casting down from above to cause you panic. It goes on and on.
In many virtual worlds it is easy to get the sense your surroundings are paper-thin cardboard creations, but I Expect You To Die 2’s details push that notion entirely out of its reality to provide a rock-solid sense of total transportation.
Nearly five years after the release of the original game, it is easy to see I Expect You To Die 2 as more like an expansion. Jamie Feltham wrote as much in his original hands-on early this summer after playing a tiny slice of the game. Now, after completing all its puzzles and seeing the credits roll, it’s clear he had the right idea. Like the original, this is a seated experience and you have a bit of telekinesis to grab and manipulate far away objects. You’re still a secret agent trying to stop a nefarious plot by trial-and-erroring your way through puzzles that will, inevitably, lead you to die and try again.
And I wrote last month after playing half the game, that the developers “have a remarkable knack for puzzles that can be both frustrating and rewarding, requiring you to think creatively about your surroundings and alternating between periods of long contemplation and suddenly rushed panic.” But the six levels also hold together as a quality narrative and Wheaton’s character, the world-renowned actor John Juniper, makes for one of VR’s most fully developed foils to a protagonist. There’s a full story arc and its levels took me several hours to get through with a conclusion that felt satisfying and left me looking forward to I Expect You To Die 3.
It’s certainly maddening to spend an hour or more on a single level that, once the path is fully understood, can be beaten in only four minutes. That means you can expect to spend a considerable amount of time looking around at your surroundings and critically thinking through the clues and tools at your disposal, becoming ever more frustrated at dying over and over again. But each time I eventually found the solution in I Expect You To Die 2, I realized that the idea had occurred to me a few minutes before as a half-formed thought I just didn’t give myself a chance to fully realize. That’s the mark of a quality puzzle.
So I Expect You To Die 2 is a game best played one level at a time with appointments made over the course of days to progress through its story. And if you approach the game that way, with each mission as an episode in a spy-themed James Bond-esque story, then the game amounts to one of VR’s best episodic titles and a fully developed sequel to a foundational VR puzzler.
I Expect You To Die 2 – Final Impressions
I Expect You To Die 2: The Spy And The Liar is a great puzzle game that falls just short of essential given that not all players are going to find a fit with its trial-and-error style of intentionally designed frustration. But this is bigger, better and more richly developed than its predecessor, with escape room-like puzzles that are an absolute joy to unlock one at a time. If you liked the first game, you’ll love the sequel and the added detail is a joy to behold. We can’t wait to see what Schell Games does with this franchise in the future.
For more on how we arrived at this rating, read our review guidelines. What did you make of our I Expect You To Die 2 review? Let us know in the comments below!