A Gentleman sits in a luxurious office. He draws lazily on a cigar, the smoke gathering under the brim of his hat, his eyes surveying the room like a hawk. The giant bear statue stares menacingly across the room, seemingly anticipating The Gentleman’s next move. Suddenly, smoothly, swiftly, like a snake, seemingly of its own accord, a bottle of whiskey falls off a shelf. ‘Bugger’ comes the almost unintelligible mutterings of The Gentleman. As the inevitable alarm sounds, and poison gas fills the room, The Gentleman fiddles in vain with the newly materialised control panel, desperately trying to vent the room. As his visions turns red before finally fading, one final, solitary thought goes through his head: ‘do I really have to f**king do that all again?’
Taken from the infamous line in 1963s “Goldfinger”, I Expect You To Die is a humorous parody/homage to the familiar spy movie genre. If not exactly unique (it feels very Austin Powers), it is nonetheless an enjoyable romp through several cliched (meant positively here) spy movie staples. It parodies the genre without feeling cheap or derivative. You undertake several missions, wherein your character is stationary and interacts with the environment through some briefly explained psychic powers (the game does make it clear the origin of these powers is unimportant and boring and should not be considered relevant in any way).
An overly detailed and intricate plot is not what you’re here for though. Take it as read that you are a spy with superpowers, you are here to solve a mystery, and manipulating everything from the shadows is a mysterious villain hell bent on world domination, likely with a giant laser. Obviously. You work for the mysterious ‘Agency’ and have a boss, ‘Q’, who serves as the games narrator over your own voiceless protagonist. The humour of the game is, as mentioned, very Austin Powers, and Q is essentially Basil Exposition in all but name. I probably wouldn’t say it’s anything to write home about, but it’s well written and there are definitely enough laughs along the way to keep you going.
The graphical style is decent on the Quest, showing off a realistic palette with slightly cartoonish overtones, which fits the theme of the game to a tee in my humble opinion, and makes for a pleasant environment.
That’s the bones, the meat here are the puzzles. Although challenging, they are quite rewarding when completed, and there is enough variety that each one feels unique. There are a couple of different ways in which to complete individual tasks in each room, but largely the routine is the same. There are a few standout moments where time is a factor and you end up frantically waving your hands about trying to plug a leak/turn off the gas/defuse a bomb, sometimes all at once. However, this does require a bit of practice…
This does bring me to my first gripe though, which is that it seems to be designed for failure. I do not think you could get through this game the first time without dying at least once, I would wager 20+ times. This is simply due to the fact that many objects seem innocuous until triggered, but once triggered there is no way of stopping it. An example involves opening a cupboard booby trapped with a grenade: there are no clues as to what is inside, and you must complete a separate, seemingly unrelated task to disarm it before opening. Thus, the player must have opened the box and died previously to understand what was happening. Although I am not opposed to this, I do feel it could have been integrated into the gameplay. As it stands, the only basis for comparison across the levels is the time of your final run, which after dying multiple times and getting each task down to a tee, is often an unfair representation of how well you actually did. Having a death count would offer an additional set of bragging rights in an otherwise non competitive game.
All that being said, this game is still very fun, and I had an absolute blast playing through it. It does require dying several times to complete each puzzle, but all that means is on your last run you move like a man possessed, displaying superhuman levels of dexterity and incredibly quick thinking. There is a small amount of variety in how you solve the puzzles, but this is usually limited to, for example, cutting a string with scissors, or burning it: the overall flow of the level remains unaffected.
A nice feature I enjoyed is the role playing/messing about, wherein there are interactive objects around that add nothing to the game but are simply there for you to immerse yourself in. You can absolutely put on a hat, lean back puffing on a cigar before pouring out a glass of whiskey. It adds absolutely nothing to the game, but there are definitely points where it’s used to good effect. There are hidden items and actions in each level, which will get Q to comment on what you are doing, and I will say that these comments do a good job of feeling natural, rather than a scripted response.
There are also points where I feel the game is more than adequate, but could easily have done better. There is enough content that it feels well worth the price tag, so no complaining there from me. However, I feel like the official playtime, rather than just messing about, could have been extended pretty simply by adding collectibles and/or additional hidden features. There are time trials, and commentary to unlock for each level, but this doesn’t really appeal to me. There are bundles of money lying around each level that serve 0 purpose, but my immediate thought was that these were collectibles to find. There are also achievements/trophies to get, but due to a (very weird) limitation of the Quest, you can’t see them. My understanding is that PSVR and Steam VR versions don’t have this limitation, and the achievement lists are the same so you can just look at achievement lists for those platforms, but there’s no way of knowing which achievements you already have. I should stress this is an Oculus issue rather than a developer one.
To sum up, IEYTD is a thoroughly enjoyable 5-6 hour romp through a well designed and thought out world, but you can definitely get more playtime if you’re happy to replay sections. Interaction is simple and intuitive, and the default seated positioning gives a decent sense of immersion. Although it does feel like it could be longer or have additional features, I would be happy to describe this criticism more as ‘wishful thinking’. As VR games go it’s decent for the price, and although it does leave you wanting more, I’d say that’s more to do with the quality of the game, and just being sad it’s over. And let’s face it, if you’re happy a game is over, it probably wasn’t that good.
I Expect You To Die
The game is a well enjoyed length but more fun could be had, if you’re willing to grind for it. As VR games go, it goes in the good pile as it’s a good experience but does leave you wanting more.
- Enjoyable and humorous narration
- Unique interaction
- Fun, challenging, and satisfying puzzles
- Occasional puzzles that don’t really fit
- Little motivation to replay levels
- Crying out for additional features
- Graphics 0%
- Gameplay 0%
- Narrative 0%
- Audio 0%
- Technical 0%