Zero Escape

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Developer(s):  Chunsoft
Publisher(s):    Rising Star Games
Platforms:         PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS
Release Date:  US – October 23rd 2012, EU – November 23rd 2012[/wpspoiler]

I have to admit that I’ve not played a game quite like this before.  Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is a sequel to 999: Nine Hours.  It can be played on it’s own though as it tells a unique story and the narrative is a big draw here.

Virture’s Last Reward works in a similar way to the old adventure books where you will decide the path you take.  The game is split up into two sections, novel and escape rooms.  As you can guess the novel section is heavily story focused and these can feature extremely long text sections.  The dialogue is all in Japanese with English subtitles for the European version of the game.

Escape rooms are the meat of the gameplay, every now and then you’ll be put into one with two partners and forced to work out how to exit the room.  You’ll have to examine every object, press every button and combine every item you find to work out and solve the riddles and puzzles the game presents.  I’m happy to say that most of it is thought out quite well and should you need it you can revert to easy mode to get subtle hints but even then it can still be challenging.

The premise is that you have awoken in a room not knowing where you are or how you got there.  After escaping the opening room and meeting another person you soon discover you’re being made to participate in a game.

The prize of this game however is survival.  Each of the nine participants must work together to escape rooms and then earn enough points to escape.  Nine points are needed to go through the number nine door and leave this place but there’s a catch – to earn points you need to either ally or betray your partner who assisted you during an escape of a room.

If both parties Ally then both sides are awarded two points, if one betrays and the other allies then the betrayer receives three points while the person who chose ally loses two points.  Should both sides betray then no points are awarded.  The twist however is that should any participant get down to zero points – they die.

It’s a simple concept but one that winds so well into the narrative, the writing quality is fantastic throughout and despite the fact you won’t be interacting too much except for the escape rooms I was hooked.

The Japanese anime style if very affluent here.  Character models radiate off the screen delightfully and are full of colour and life in contrast to the more realistic looking environments.  A few of the female characters have some interesting clothing decisions but that comes with the anime territory.

It’s a good cast of characters each with they’re own motives and beliefs on how to play the game and interact with the group.  Alliances are quickly formed and naturally the group gets very argumentative.  But it keeps you on the edge of your seat, I have to admit a lot of what happened I never saw coming, this game keeps you at arm’s length a lot of the time and delivers the twist at just the right moment when your getting comfortable.  Not realising what path you might be led down is part of the fun here.

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward isn’t for everyone though, despite it’s appearance as a linear game at first the decisions you make and path you walk will vary differently for everyone.  Going back and altering your decision to see the different outcomes is what kept me coming back.

There were a few times when the game can get slightly dull and to get the most out of the game you will have to revisit certain sections and skip a lot of dialogue   But the reward was well worth skipping through reams of text for.

But is a heavy emphasis on story telling and point and click challenge rooms your thing?  If not then this isn’t the game for you.  The Japanese humour and art style may also be another negative but for me it works wonderfully with the visceral undertones that work it’s way throughout the game.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Virtue’s Last Reward and even after 20 hours I was still heavily invested in the plot and having fun with the escape rooms.  There’s a lengthy experience here that could last anything up to 40 hours and in my view it’s time well spent.

Craig is a third of Casually Addicted's origin crew and a keen lover of all things green and white. You can follow Craig on Google + and Twitter @CraigJShields.

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