Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma is the third in the Nonary Games trilogy, following 9 Persons, 9 Doors, 9 Hours and Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. I tried Virtue's Last Reward when it became a Playstation Plus title. I only played it for an hour. It's a puzzle game, and playing that game was what cemented my feelings on puzzle games...mainly that I don't like them.
So why review this? Well, if I'm given a code/copy, I will do my best to play and review it. So, I booted it up, watched the opening cut scene, and then had a choice...which side of the coin landed up? I guessed, and it was correct! Game over, credits rolled, review over!
I do like that such a thing can happen, but later found out that it's supposed to. No matter what you choose the first time, this is the outcome. Ugh. Well, at least it's better than the 0.05~% "choice".
That aside, Zero Time Dilemma, like the first two Nonary Games, has a great premise. Nine people are trapped in a location by a mysterious madman, and forced to solve puzzles to survive. Well, only some of them. To actually escape, several of the others must die. This time, the story is presented differently than the others. Well, at least different from the previous game, as I have not played the first.
There are three groups of three people that work together and escape the different rooms, while finding clues as to what is going on and who is behind the deadly game. I like that you can switch between all three groups at many points in the story. It's cool to see all of the struggles each group goes through. Plus, you can also sabotage certain groups, which lets you see all of the branching story paths. There is a fairly helpful chart that shows the paths and outcomes that you have done, making finding the alternates very easy.
However, there is a huge downside to the story. Each story block and subsequent choice or puzzle is a fragment of what happens to a group. After the starting hour or so, many of these finally open for all surviving groups. Once you complete a section, you see where it fits into the timeline, but not before. This makes the story told in a disjointed and jumbled manner. Since half of the game is like a visual novel, the story is important. Having it told in random order is just a bad idea. Yes, they explain it in the story, but I don't like it. Would you like reading random chapters of a book, or in the correct order so it can be followed and understood?
As a puzzle game, the playtime is variable. Some people will quickly solve some puzzles, which will stump other players. Those first people will then be stuck on some problem that others figure out immediately. That's just the way it goes. If you know the solutions, it will be a much faster game, but it will likely take newer players 30 or more hours to finish. Thankfully, there are solutions online
If you like puzzle games with story, or played and enjoyed the other Nonary Games, then I'm sure you will enjoy Zero Time Dilemma. If you are not a fan of puzzle games, or like coherent and well-told stories, then I'd recommend skipping it.
A competent puzzle game that fans of the first two games should enjoy.
Telling the story of a story-based game in a random order is a bad idea.
Seriously, the 3 snakes eyes thing is crazy, luckily you only have to try 3 times.
(Review code for Zero Time Dilemma was provided by the publisher)