Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

Everything Is Numbered Here. The Monster Is Zero.

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward will consume your life.
Author: Aram Lecis
Published: November 11, 2012
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Whether my current handheld of choice is a Nintendo DS or a PlayStation Vita it gets the most use right before bedtime when I’m snuggled under the covers in the darkness bathed in the glow of a tiny screen. As you might expect, that isn’t the ideal situation for undertaking a huge action game or even something as simple as a sports game. It IS fantastic for RPGs and puzzle games though, so I’ve spent months upon months of nights plugging away at the likes of Professor Layton, Phoenix Wright, Hotel Dusk and Persona 3 Portable among others. Great games all of them, and unique in their own ways, but none as unique as a DS title known as Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (or more commonly, 999) that was part puzzle game and mostly a visual novel. I have no idea how many people were excited when the sequel to 999, known as Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward was announced for the Vita, but I know I was one of those folks.


Most of those games I listed above would fall into the “puzzle” category yet there is a lot of variation among them. The Layton games are heavy on the puzzle with a robust narrative than is none the less secondary to the puzzle solving. Phoenix Wright games tend to balance the two with a heavier emphasis on story and reading. Zero Escape takes the narrative to a whole new level, making the puzzles more of a secondary focus to break up a whole hell of a lot of reading. If you aim to see every ending and thus the entire story (and you really should) you’ll put 35 or more hours into the game, the vast majority of which are devoted to reading.

While it certainly isn’t a necessity to have played 999 before going through Zero Escape the stories are absolutely interconnected and you’ll have more “oh shit” moments if you are familiar with the old story. Either way, the story is so full of twists and turns that there isn’t any way you’ll figure it all out before getting the final ending. For those not aware of how the series works, the game starts out with you waking up in a room with one other occupant. After solving the initial puzzle you’ll escape that room to find out that you are trapped in a mysterious facility with 8 other strangers all of whom ostensibly have no idea what they are doing there either. Soon a mysterious lagomorph calling himself Zero the Third introduces himself on a video screen and the game proper begins.

Throughout the game you’ll be offered opportunities to team up with different parties and depending on who you select the path will branch from that point. There are also multiple times you’ll play the “Ambidex Game” where you can choose to betray or ally with your partners which, depending on their choice of allying or betraying YOU, will add or subtract “Bracelet Points”. You see, everyone has a bracelet on that lets them escape if they get more than 9 points or kills them if they fall to 0 or below. Also it kills you if you try and take it off, go through the wrong door or don’t play the game. If it sounds confusing already, don’t worry… it actually get WAY more confusing before it’s all over.

Between each of these decisions you’ll find yourself locked in one of 16 “puzzle rooms” that task you with solving 3 or 4 small (but often nefarious) puzzles to escape the room. The puzzles tend towards spatial reasoning with a little bit of math tossed in, and if at any time you find yourself stuck you can switch a room to “easy” which essentially solves the puzzle for you. Your first time through the game will probably only take you a couple hours, and you’ll very likely end up with a terrible ending that resolves nothing. You MIGHT get one of the nine “good” endings, but even those will just leave you with more questions.
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