Zero Time Dilemma (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 04.09.2017 3

Review for Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation 4

The Zero Escape series has become a cult favourite, with Chunsoft's previous two titles in the series delivering enthrallingly dark sci-fi tales and some superb puzzle sections. Each story told of a group of individuals brought together and forced to take part in a life or death Nonary Game, combining visual novel storytelling with escape room-style puzzle areas. This finale to the trilogy was originally released on Nintendo 3DS, PS Vita and PC back in June last year, and now it has hit PlayStation 4 for all those who picked up the remaster of the first two titles on the platform and PS Vita recently.

A warning is required right off the bat. Anyone who hasn't played Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward would be wise to do so before playing this. Not only are they absolutely fantastic games, but there are many story threads and elements here that call back to them. Much of the story of Zero Time Dilemma will be absolutely baffling to anyone who hasn't cleared both previous titles. In fact, even those who have played them, but have not done so in a very long time, would do well to have a refresher, as this dives straight into story elements off the back of those games.

This final instalment once again focuses on the same elements that did so well in the originals. There is a group of nine people and they'll all have to take part in life or death games if they want to escape from their mysterious masked captor. It's another dark sci-fi story, with potential time travel and multiple universe aspects to this engaging tale. The nine people this time are made up from some characters from the first two tiles combined with some brand-new characters.

Screenshot for Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation 4

They are in a bunker deep below the earth and get separated into three groups of three, then forced to kill each other should they wish to escape. Every death will give a password for the door to the bunker, and at least six passwords are needed for the door to open and the characters to escape. Saying much more would be a huge disservice to the story here. It's fascinating and captivating, and one that is worth experiencing first hand.

Zero Time Dilemma progresses in a non-linear, non-chronological manner. There is a huge overarching timeline that can be experienced piecemeal via snippets of the story. These snippets are split across the three teams and each usually has a branching path, often leading to a depressing ending filled with death, but it's essential to play through each to continue gathering pieces of this story. Players can choose to play through one team's story until they can progress no further, then switch to the others or switch freely to try and see every possible consequence of the actions as they are made by the other teams.

Screenshot for Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation 4

Regardless of in which order they're played and what choices are made, there is a requirement for plenty of backtracking to previously completed sections, either to utilise knowledge gained elsewhere or to make a different decision to experience every branch on each path, often requiring terrible decisions to be made.

The actual gameplay interactions are limited to two different types. The first is the visual novel element, making decisions during FMVs, which branch the story into alternate "endings," and game over scenes, all of which reveal a little more of the mystery. The second is the escape room sections, which give a room to explore, filled with puzzle after puzzle to solve. Anyone who has played one of the previous games in the series (and again, if you haven't, you shouldn't be playing this one!), or even better, anyone who has experienced them in real life, will know how addictive and enjoyable they are, and these latest are the best Chunsoft has come up with. There are a bunch of different rooms, and each has some truly smart puzzles that will perplex and bewilder even the most Sherlockian of players.

Screenshot for Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation 4

It's obvious this was originally developed for handhelds for a number of reasons, and the transition isn't the smoothest. For example, there's a system of scribbling notes in the escape room sections that works well with a touch screen, but not so well trying to draw or write letters with an analogue. It's definitely worth grabbing an old-fashioned pad and pen for this or making notes on a phone.

The presentation is pretty mixed, too. The series has always suffered from janky visuals, with the character models looking strange and their movements even stranger. This is greatly emphasised when now playing on the big screen. Characters look positively robotic in their movements, and facial expressions are comically bad. Outside of the characters, though, everything else looks just fine. It's a similar case with the audio, too, as the soundtrack is fine, but the English voice acting is really hit and miss. Thankfully, the Japanese audio is an option, which is significantly better.

Screenshot for Zero Time Dilemma on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A satisfying conclusion to this trilogy of breakout games. It brings the very best escape room experiences in the series along with tying together all of the story elements that have been set up in a fantastic finale. The storytelling in the entire Zero Escape franchise is a masterclass, and this latest instalment is the best yet. A brilliant, dark, twisted tale reminiscent of the phenomenal Steins;Gate, and one that will get players digging into every possible branching pathway to experience every facet of the story and finally understand the truth beneath this marvellous tale. This is far from the best possible version of the game, though; it feels like it was made for a point and click or touchscreen experience, so it is even better in handheld form.

Developer

Chime

Publisher

Aksys

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

I like to pretend this game doesn't exist. Got a very different opinion on this one!

Wow Smilie Totally contrasting opinion there! Although I think Rudy was also less harsh on it than you and I were, Az. Drew's is by far the most positive account, though.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Now going to be reading yours to see why not! I absolutely loved it! 

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