A while back,I wrote an article about the 3DS game 999: Nine Hours Nine Persons, Nine Doors. I had been pretty fresh off of finishing the cult classic and revving with tons of excitement and energy to dive into the rest of the series. 999 was a classic escape room game scenario with a hint of Battle Royale and a twist that doesn’t let you breathe until it’s all over.
Where 999 hits like a truck, Virtue’s Last Reward is like sinking into a wonderful quicksand.
The game follows standard writer Uchikoshi practices – lots of lore, lots of seemingly random but actually very integrated mythology, and sci-fi that makes your brain turn to mush. I actually started the game a while back, but after dragging my feet through some of the puzzles, I got pretty discouraged and put it down. Then, a few weeks ago with my handy-dandy guide in hand, I beat the game at 6am on a Sunday morning. And honestly? It was pretty worth it.
The puzzles are, as previously stated, not as fun as I found 999’s to be. For someone who has a hard time thinking things through without getting my hands dirty, a lot of it is luck, squinting, and most of all, frustration. Some of them seemed like they could be fun, but by that point, I was already set in using the guide that I didn’t try to solve them on my own.
The story was so impressive. I knew that Zero Escape was a series of games, but wasn’t entirely sure if there was a continuity between the three or that they all feature the same concept. As soon as I opened the game and met the characters, though, there were instantly people who I recognized either from the main cast of 999 and easter eggs that make you think “is that–no–is it?? It can’t be! …But is it?”
I will avoid going into too much detail because I think it is a game that is best experienced firsthand, but I will say that it keeps the overall Zero Escape series going without tiring you out on the same old mechanics. There are not nine doors, nine hours, and math problems to figure out what ending you will achieve, but rather colors and a point system. Everyone still has watches, but the watches now have different colored displays which they need to match up together to get into the according door. So, for example, a set of red and blue watches would need to pair up to get into the purple door.. Because pigmentally, red + blue = purple. The game goes beyond RGB and also delves into CMYK, which I thought was neat.
The numbers get dwindled by a voting system at the end of each round of escape rooms. The system is based on “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” – participants are sent into individual voting or AB Rooms and are asked whether they will “betray” or “ally” with the other party they explored the escape room with. Depending on what they answer, they could gain or lose paints, and once you reach 9, you can open the fabled number 9 door and exit the warehouse. But if you reach 0. It’s game over for you. I quite liked this aspect of the game, as it touched more on morality. If everyone were to trust each other the entire time and vote “Ally” every time, everyone could escape at the same time. However, how are you supposed to trust a room full of strangers so easily? And once one person chooses Betray, it gets harder and harder to trust each other.
Overall, I vote highly in favor of the second Zero Escape game. The series (as far as I can tell) is very successful in compiling all different sorts of theories and ideas about humanity and presenting them in a way that is a little intimidating but ultimately easy to digest (in all 12 endings). And most of all, it makes you think. Some of the sci-fi elements are a little too stretched for me, but the internal struggle that each character has to go through is so real. I played with the English dub, and the voice acting was pretty fair, with a handful of voices video game veterans will probably recognize.
What decisions will you make, and what secrets will you uncover? Let me know what you think!
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is available on Steam or the Nintendo 3DS systems now.