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The RPS Advent Calendar 2023, December 6th

Congratulations on being number 1000!

A close up of Horace the Endless Bear looking at a big pile of presents with his name on, next to a plate of cookies with a glass of milk. It's the 2023 RPS Advent Calendar!
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun

Do you like robots and being given challenges? Then is the sixth door on this year's RPS Advent Calendar is for you!

It's time to get sort of concerned about what counts as a person, while also solving puzzles, in The Talos Principle 2!

A robot does a big thumbs up in front of a giant pyramid structure  in The Talos Principle 2
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Devolver Digital

Katharine: There are games that make you think, and games that make you really think. The Talos Principle 2 is one of the latter, chucking head-scratching, first-person puzzle arenas at you while also stuffing extra philosophical questions and conundrums into every nook and cranny. You know, just in case the puzzles weren't enough to give your brain cells a good work out already. The first game was much the same in this respect, but The Talos Principle 2 is an even glossier, more fully realised version of it. This isn't a puzzle game grafted onto some leftover Serious Sam assets anymore. This is a full-blown concrete world with giant megastructures to explore, and you've got a whole civilization of robot pals to help you navigate it. It's fab, and one of my favourite games this year.

You play as 1K, the one thousandth robot to be 'born' into the all-machine future society of New Jerusalem. Your birth marks the completion of New Jerusalem's entire purpose in life - to bring 1000 new robots into the world - so naturally, a lot of its residents are wondering, "Well, what now?" A reasonable question, given the circumstances, especially when a quantum projection of Greek god Prometheus suddenly turns up to both ruin your birthday party and deliver an ominous message about the future. Your fellow robot friends quickly trace the origin of this projection to a mysterious Toblerone-shaped mega pyramid on a nearby island, which also just so happens to be possibly the last known location of New Jerusalem's missing founder, Athena.

So begins your search for answers, both regarding the relationship between Athena, Prometheus and some other nosy Greek god projections that make an appearance, and of course how to get into this enormous Toblerone in the first place. To do this, you'll need to travel to the island's four cardinal points and solve lots of strange puzzle chambers in each location. These in turn will grant you access to that area's respective megastructure, all so you can turn on a big laser and fire it at one of the Toblerone's entry gates. It's a slightly silly premise when you lay it all out like that, admittedly, but the fact it all seems so plausible in the moment is a testament to both The Talos Principle 2's strong sense of place and the confidence with which it establishes its world and setting in its wider story.

A robot lies back in the snow in front of a huge mountain in The Talos Principle 2
A floating puzzle arena in The Talos Principle 2
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Devolver Digital

It helps that your accompanying robot explorers are such good fun to hang around with. Sure, they're utterly useless when it comes to helping you solve any of the actual puzzles, but hearing their spiky personalities chattering away over radio comms does help bring a welcome sense of life and vitality to this otherwise quite lonesome journey. The puzzles themselves are also top notch, delivering constant twists and surprises on well-worn concepts such as light beam puzzles, pressure pads and colour-coded door switches to great effect. Every new location has its own particular gimmick to get to grips with, but it's how The Talos Principle 2 then layers them all on top of one another in later levels that really make it sing. And sandwiched in the middle of all this is a very hearty dollop of existential pondering, with your robot friends constantly debating such things as 'What is the price of progress?' and 'Are we forever doomed to repeat the mistakes of our human creators as we strive to nurture this fragile new society into a humanless future?'

It's a real good egg, is what I'm saying, and gives you plenty to chew over as you tackle its clever puzzles. It also has an excellent photo mode with three poses dedicated entirely to 1K having a good time with a cat, so really, what's not to like? You don't worry if you haven't played the first game, either, as this can be enjoyed perfectly well as a standalone experience. So go forth, enjoy and impress your friends and family with your newfound intellectualism round the Christmas dinner table. You won't regret it.

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The Talos Principle 2

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The all-seeing eye of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, the voice of many-as-one.

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