PLAN YOUR ESCAPE...Aksys Games and Spike Chunsoft proudly present the next entry in the Zero Escape series, Zero Escape 3! Building on the success of its predecessors, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, and Virtue's Last Reward, series mastermind Kotaro Uchikoshi has pulled out all the stops to deliver the most compelling and mind-bending gaming experience ever seen on a handheld platform. Choice is your only method of salvation and your only means of escape. How much of your humanity will you sacrifice to earn your freedom? As a new age of ruin looms large on the horizon, you must make impossible decisions and weather unimaginable consequences as you straddle the line between absolution and damnation. At what cost freedom? Find out summer 2016!
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Zero Time Dilemma
A Mind-bending Adventure Through A Maze Of Death And Heartbreak
by Javy Gwaltney
Escape booby-trapped rooms and make hard decisions in this conclusion to the cult-favorite Zero Escape series
Character animations and environments are impressive, though clothing textures on characters are muddled
The superb voice acting is often drowned out by loud background music on default settings, but you can tweak that with the volume slider
The interface for the escape the room segments is easy to use, but puzzles can get taxing when you have to search every inch of a room for a necessary item
Difficult puzzles and a bold, non-linear story structure will challenge your mind, and difficult moral decisions will test your heart
The Zero Escape series has earned a reputation for inflicting mental anguish on players, combining the torturous mind games of Saw with Choose Your Own Adventure books to create an experience that puts players through the wringer. They are strange games, obstinate in their cruel difficulty and thematic oddities. They tackle complex theories about the paranormal and time travel and refuse to break them down for easy understanding, but the challenge and peculiarities have attracted a cult following. Zero Time Dilemma, the third and supposedly final entry, retains those two key pillars while also serving as a more inviting and standalone title thanks to its focus on characters and its impressive non-linear structure, resulting in a game that's not only the zenith of its series but also one of the boldest narrative-focused titles of the last few years.
Zero Time Dilemma's accessibility is not immediately apparent. The intro sequence quickly reveals the setup: the villain Zero, decked out in plague-doctor apparel, is keen on making his nine prisoners (divided into three teams of three) play twisted games to earn their survival. The prisoners are wearing bracelets that inject them with a drug that puts them to sleep and erases the last 90 minutes of their memory. Zero informs everyone that to escape, six of them must die. Each death reveals a passcode, and the final three survivors can use the passcodes to leave the facility, creating a scenario where it's in the best interest of these teams to kill each other. This creates an enjoyable tense situation that forces you to choose how each team leader is going to react to the situation: will they be benevolent and see the best in people, or will they be hardened survivalists who'll sacrifice everyone to live?
From there, the narrative plays out in non-linear fashion, with you selecting a team and then a random snapshot from a “fragments” menu in order to play out a scene from somewhere in the game that features that team. You can't tell where in the timeline you might be before you select that fragment and complete it. Fragments are usually composed of two stages: the escape phase has you trying to escape a room by solving intricate puzzles with objects that have been placed in the area, while the decision phase has you making a critical choice that results in a branch in the narrative. Your character might pull a lever causing the entire team to plummet to their deaths, resulting in an ending for that team. If you refrain from pulling the lever, maybe you are allowed to leave the room. The whole game is like this, with you jumping back and forth between teams and playing sections out of order.