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Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Review

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Review

Back in 2010, Aksys Games released 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors on the Nintendo DS. Being a text-based adventure game mixed with puzzles, to most it seemed like it would be a small niche release outside Japan. However, following a number of rave reviews and positive word-of-mouth, it turned out to be an acclaimed hit and triggered a follow-up title: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. With expectations at an all-time high following 999, was developer Chunsoft able to meet and even exceed expectations?

Just like in 999, an unknown assailant kidnaps nine unsuspecting strangers and traps them inside an unknown building with only one way out - a door with the number 9. To get out, the "players" are forced to play in the new "Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition", which features not just the "escape" sequences found in 999, but also new voting sequences where the players choose to either ally or betray with the player (or players) they joined up with previously.

If both teams cooperate they'll both gain BP, but if one chooses to betray the other and the other chooses to ally, the betrayer gains BP and the betrayed loses BP. If you get 9 BP you can escape, but if you lose all your BP you'll die as each participant has a watch attached to them which will kill them if this occurs. And to add to things, the AI running the show, Zero III, purports that his creator Zero is among one of the nine, causing distrust to run rampant from the outset - something which only keeps growing as the unwilling participants do whatever they can to survive.

This opening premise leads into the "choose your own adventure" style gameplay that was executed so excellently in 999. Like in 999, you have to pick your teammates. Whether you escape or die over the course of the Nonary Game depends on some seemingly small, but critical choices as each decision creates a branching point that can be seen in the flowchart available in-game via the menu.

After picking your teams and going through some dialogue, you'll end up in the "escape" portion of the game. Similar to 999, each of these rooms has one giant puzzle made up of a number of smaller puzzles. To give an example, one of the initial puzzles involves a room with pieces of a globe and various types of liqueur. On their own neither seem to relate much to each other. However, after putting together the globe and figuring out some other smaller puzzles the game gives a hint as to how to mix together the liqueurs together, allowing you to solve the puzzle and gain access to the pattern that unlocks the safe that holds the key to move onto the next room.

The puzzles ramp up in difficulty later on, as expected, but they never feel too complex where you need to resort to a guide. And for the completionists out there, there's also a secondary puzzle that gives extra background information.

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