I Expect You to Die 2: The Spy and the Liar is a wonderful love letter to the spy genre.
For your VR eyes only, it shows players there’s more in espionage apart from having a license to kill. Instead, the game plays on a popular trope of spies outsmarting their captors. This puts players into a small serving of escape rooms which are delightfully fun to solve. I Expect You to Die 2 seamlessly blends a globe-trotting narrative that gives every puzzle a purpose. Every solution rewards players with a juicy world-building detail. Sadly, the game runs out of creative roads after a few hours—leaving players wanting more after the credits roll.
As a sequel, the game outdoes the original in almost every way. 2016’s I Expect You to Die felt more like an experiment for Schell Games, known for fun-ducational experiences in schools and theme parks. Things took a turn for single-player action in Until You Fall. The game mixed a mysterious world-building plot and roguelike action. It’s clear Schell Games has matured since, giving I Expect You to Die a breath of fresh air.
Schell Games also continues to flex their skills for 4D attractions available for VR players at home. Here, players in VR are fully seated in a number of standalone escape rooms. The original I Expect You to Die touched on the spy genre with its Cold War-era setting and James Bond inspired traps. This combination worked to bring themed escape rooms into VR. But players could still feel the novelty of a VR party game.
This sequel feels like a full-on AAA production which embraces its wacky universe. The game benefits from Schell Games’ experience for cinematic thrill rides. Players are pulled into their roles as secret agents through clever fourth-wall breaks. Levels also change while players power through the game’s deadly traps. Like a real spy, the stakes can instantly ramp up with one mistake.
More importantly, I Expect You to Die 2 now includes a fixed storyline. It’s incredibly cool to see Schell Games blend a single player narrative with a traditional puzzler. The game’s six levels are interconnected with a conspiracy plot. An evil organization called Zoraxis returns from the original game with a brand-new plan for world domination. It’s a simple addition which vastly overhauls the puzzle genre, for better or for worse. But it’s story also improves the core gameplay. It takes advantage of the universe and characters for solutions. Players are pulled deeper into every level by reading leftover manuals, eavesdropping on enemy agents and anticipating traps.
Though I Expect You to Die 2 drips with Hollywood cinematics, Schell Games has stayed focused on its puzzles. This is an intelligently baked serving of escape rooms. Players are dropped into a seemingly normal setting. Little to no notes are given about the environment, which hide a few key items needed. Puzzles like unlocking doors, rewiring panels and blowing open an escape are some of the game’s skilled trades. Luckily, the game is enjoyable with some top-notch VR controls.
Under the 1:1 scale, players in VR are seated for a comfortable and motion sick free adventure. It benefits more from precise hand physics, which lets players accurately manipulate objects. Wine bottles, screwdrivers and cigars are incredibly fun to fiddle with. Players also rely on telekinesis, which feels incredibly handy for handling dangerous objects from a distance. Later on, it’s cleverly used to solve puzzles while being held up by enemies. Schell Games is clearly capable of creating a comfortable VR world that’s easy on the stomach.
“You won’t only live twice in I Expect You to Die 2, as respawning is an actual mechanic.”
But every room is a death trap. Players will carelessly spring all kinds of fatal hazards. Schell dances with death through the many ways players can experience it. The game masterfully surprises the living daylights out of players, through a creative blend of level design and thinking under pressure. Just when a puzzle unlocks, players don’t have time to sigh as the stakes ramp up. You won’t only live twice in I Expect You to Die 2, as respawning is an actual mechanic.
Yes, the game indeed lives up to its name. On a first run, it’s nearly impossible to survive. It makes restarting levels fun. It encourages players to try again, armed with new knowledge. This stretched playtime significantly but kept me addicted. Of course, it was still fun to see myself get burned, lasered, drowned, zapped, combusted, shot and poisoned across the campaign. Schell Games manages to turn this concept of death into a mechanic itself. As a result, it’s hard not to crack a smile after dying before starting over. But the repetition is key to countering the traps later on. In other words, Schell Games has blended Dark Souls with I Spy. The result? A tasty VR smoothie that massages the brain.
“Replaying levels feels like jumping back into your wildest James Bond dreams.”
Here’s where the game gives players plenty of options to go off script. Ironically, trying (or dying) out everything is the key to beating levels. It’s amazing to see the amount of layers Schell Games has put on the surface. Hints are hiding in plain sight across opera halls, a private airplane, elevator and wine cellars. All the solutions play in their respective elements. I had to change my thinking for every level, which had an incredible amount of depth. Finding one solution would open up several new hints. Without instructions, it was engaging to see where each lead went. Under a time limit, there was just no time to die.
The story does wonders for players on their first run. Dying suddenly comes with a bigger impact. Missions have bigger stakes, much to the urgent chatter of characters. Stakes also ramp up the tension as players struggle to defuse doomsday bombs or have seconds to survive a gassing. Replaying levels feels like jumping back into your wildest James Bond dreams.
Echoing spy movies, the levels feel more like action set pieces. The aforementioned levels, like the theatre hall, airplane and elevator are some of my favourites. Each one felt inspired by a Bond or Mission Impossible film. This made me live through each scene as they would. It’s incredibly nice to see Schell Games keep players focused on the story as they solve puzzles.
I Expect You to Die 2 is an absolute masterclass in level design with its evolving levels. Solving your way through half of a level could unlock an entirely new setting. Presented in transitions, the story does a great job of literally world-building around players and moving things along. For instance, I started off a level on top of a laser grid. After surviving the first trap, the level would take place below the grid and into an enemy’s workshop. Hacking an elevator would take me across several different floors in an enemy base.
“I Expect You to Die 2 is an absolute masterclass in level design with its evolving levels.”
I especially loved the addition of enemies. Zoraxis goons are a new threat players have to counter as they survive. Only this time, agents have a few resources to fight back against them. In levels like the theatre stage, VR players were pulled deeper into their roles as they blocked poison darts (and sent them back to assailants). This spy vs. spy mechanic is fitting under the War of Espionage. It also shakes things up when players have only seconds to avoid detection or set traps of their own.
The original game’s levels took place in one spot entirely. This time, players will be surprised by peeling back these layers. Players will have about three rounds of puzzles to solve, while seemingly normal rooms will look unrecognizable by the end. Schell Games uses this trick to add variety. Like a movie spy, players feel incredibly witty by sabotaging Zoraxis’ diabolical plans. All from the comfort of their own chair.
I Expect You to Die 2’s universe is built around its stellar voice cast. Players are accompanied by the same handler as the original. Collected and even more caring than ever, he’s a sole ally, providing some much-needed comfort. The extended voice cast now includes a bit of star power from actor Wil Wheaton. It’s abundantly clear that Wheaton had some fun as John Juniper, a high profile actor players are assigned to protect.
Of course, not all is as it seems in this world of espionage. Juniper easily carries much of the story with a charismatic presence. Players also get to meet various staff working in each of the set pieces. Agents are undercover and occasionally receive hints from the Zoraxis goons. Schell Games walks a tightrope by breaking past simplicity. But the added story comes with AAA voice acting that’s enjoyable to listen to. There’s a nice level of detail with the cast, particularly when players go off script. It was hilarious to hear various reactions when Zoraxis goons needed something – upping the replay value just for giggles.
And who can forget about I Expect You to Die’s opening intro? Impressively shot for VR and even catchier than a Bond song, players are getting another hit. The new animated intro is inspired by stage theatres, with enough cheesy death metaphors to set the mood. Players in VR are taken through the inner workings of a Bond intro, which celebrates the musical cliché from a new perspective. I couldn’t help but replay the intro a few times to catch every handcrafted detail.
“The added story comes with AAA voice acting that’s enjoyable to listen to.”
Diamonds are forever. But video games are too short. I Expect You to Die 2’s biggest death is the length itself. The game unfortunately runs out of road too quickly. Low expectations make it easier to appreciate the game’s two-hour length. It’s significantly longer than the first. Though Schell Games has added layers to their levels, it still ends too briefly.
Hurting the length is its replay value. The game is a treat for first time VR players. But its solutions are the same. Players can find some value by speedrunning all six levels for achievements. Sadly, I Expect You to Die 2 doesn’t make an effort to shuffle solutions or ramp up the difficulty. Here’s where Schell Games’ sequel could be beat in under fifteen minutes or less on future playthroughs. This comes without the magic of discovery or tricks after VR players have uncovered all the solutions.
Schell Games relies a bit too much on its story, which is geared to moving things along. Quite literally, the world is not enough. The game suffers from linearity, which takes VR players from point A to point B. It would have been a nice opportunity to add multiple endings to a level, given the range of solutions.
The cinematic moments are sparing, particularly in one segment where players revisit the tutorial room. Schell Games could have done more with substance in each mission. Particularly when two smaller levels are packed into one. Of course, the studio isn’t a stranger to creating DLC and players of the original could die another day. It won’t surprise me to see I Expect You to Die 2 release a bonus level or two, significantly adding more content to an already fantastic experience.
I Expect You to Die 2 is one of VR’s best spy games to date. Schell Games turns the small puzzle genre into a fully blown Hollywood film. It’s a pleasure to survive (and fail) through six bombastic levels, all celebrating their source material with clever detail. Schell Games’ biggest strength lies in its storytelling, but often slips a hint too many for solutions. The unique roguelike structure helps players peel back layers behind some impressively baked escape rooms. All with a memorable and explosive conclusion that leaves players craving more content. It’s sad that I Expect You to Die 2 runs out of steam early, because Schell’s universe is a view to kill for.