May 05 2017

Late Zero Time Dilemma Review

This is the third and final installment in the Zero Escape trilogy. I can’t say I played the first game, I enjoyed that of what I played in the second title, though my 20-hour save file corrupted, but having got the gist of the story, was willing to give the third one a try. It’s certainly playable.

The Zero Escape series revolves around 9 “contestants” being locked in a facility, with no contact to the outside world as a psychopath carries out mind breaking experiments with the prisoners, tempting them with escape only if they kill the others off, forcing the characters to put any previous morales and sanity aside. Throughout the game, you will come to crossroads in which you decide the fate of others, voting to put someone to death, amidst their begging cries.

The thing with these crossroads though, is that you can later revisit them and change your decision, choosing for someone else and seeing what the different outcome will be. By constantly going back and altering the timeline, you learn a little more about each character, aswell as make shocking discoveries in relation to the plot, in which the new piece of information you’ve learnt, can now be used in an earlier incident to again change the outcome, during which the characters start to realise that they are experiencing some sort of deja vu, having felt like they’ve had this experience before, only this time they know what the outcome will be unless they do something different.

By completing all the timelines, we get to see the many gruesome deaths that each character has to experience, as well as finally unlocking the real reason why everyone was locked up in the first place.

The games are a mix of visual novel, reading the interactions between characters, though there are some animated 3D scenes during times and interspersed with puzzle solving, as during each chapter, you have to solve the puzzles and clues left deliberately lying around in the room that you’re trapped in to advance.

The puzzles are a mix of solving equations, decoding pictures, remembering sequences plus trial and error. By completing a puzzle, you are usually rewarded with an item or note that can be used to help solve the next puzzle in the room. The difficulty isn’t too hard, as long as you ensure to thoroughly scan a room first and investigate each of the objects lying around. There will be times though, when you will miss the smallest object in the game, usually as you didn’t click on the screen properly over the object, so you dismiss it as just a background prop and then spend hours looking around the room wondering why you’re struggling to solve the last remaining puzzle. I did have to refer to online guides a few times only to realise that it was a nothing but a simple oversight.

The action can be interesting as the tension rises throughout the chapter, with characters showing their true colours and betraying you at crucial times, usually resulting in someone dying the most obscene deaths, that it actually sometimes becomes laughable (unless that’s just the game making me psychotic…). Music composition is really good, perfect for setting a tense ambient vibe. The games do get repetitive though as some long drawn-out scenes are used over again, no matter how many times you’ve seen it and with no option to skip but to just endure. The action is similar in appearance to The Walking Dead Telltale series, with plenty of facial expressions which look amazing on the 3DS. Throughout the series, you learn of a viral catastrophe that is to commence in the near future that will wipe out most of the humanity, leaving behind a desolated Earth riddled with radiation caused by another madman who gained access to nukes to finish the job. When not having to worry about their own skins, the characters vow to prevent this.

I was first made aware of the series having received the second installment, Virtue’s Last Reward with my Playstation Plus subscription for the PS Vita. The game can be pretty much played stand alone, being able to pick up on the essence of the previous story. The greatest part of this game is the character, Zero, a cute, little anime rabbit with violent tendencies. This is only though a virtual representation of the nutter that’s got you locked up this time. I managed to get close to the end, with some of my characters having learnt that they could control their power to travel into their past bodies and alternative timeline versions, only for my save file to die, and I wasn’t going to replay the past 20 hours of choices all over again. I did check online how the game was supposed to end, and was happy with that.

3 years later and I’d forgotten most of the events that had transpired in Virtue’s Last Reward to understand what was clearly happening in the latest title I’ve just played through, Zero Time Dilemma. I did refer to the Internet again but couldn’t really make sense of what was going on, with this instalment actually being a prequel to Virtue’s Last Reward, though it feels more like a sequel somehow. So dependently, the returning characters and the player should now be weathered to the fact that they are locked up and probably going to die. This game felt maybe a little rushed, with not as much context or mystery as the previous installment I played. Many of the action scenes were definitely copied over from the previous game, so it felt even more repetitive than ever. Whilst the game and developers like to think their smartasses, quoting famous psychological, philosophical and mathematical problems that exists in the real world, they add so much fictional bullshit like teleporters to fill in the cracks, that the overall story loses credit for being original. The story and ending aren’t bad, being finally resolved in a full circle, but it’s certainly out there with aliens and magic plus the ‘it was all just a dream’ theme. I understand that the original writer of the series would be open to writing another sequel if the fans demanded it, but I think this story is as far as it can possibly go without it becoming too much of a drag and whimsical.

Overall, the games I played were certainly a good time filler, and the plot was interesting and sci-fi enough to keep me interested. They played amazingly well on both the PS Vita and 3DS, which is really a credit to the games as these consoles don’t really have the largest library of good games, so well done to the developers for making the most of these resources. I would say that these games are a contender against Professor Layton, a problem solving game that at times (even though the puzzles certainly didn’t feel like it) felt like it was for kids. Zero Escape on the other hand, is on the other side of the spectrum, with plenty of blood and back stabbing. It’s certainly got me hooked on the horror genre, and I’ll be looking at playing similar games on the 3DS system.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thelategamer.com/video-game-review/late-zero-time-dilemma-review/

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