Details: Beat it in about seventeen hours on the Nintendo 3DS. More information can be found at http://zerotimedilemma.com/
Zero Time Dilemma is the conclusion to the trilogy known as the Zero Escape franchise. The story in the prior game, Virtue’s Last Reward, is still superior in my opinion, but this game is leaps and bounds better on a technical level.
Zero Time Dilemma is a visual novel, though the technical advancements push this more towards being an adventure game rather than a visual novel. The story in this genre of video game is the main draw, so I won’t spoil anything by talking too much about it. Suffice it to say that many familiar faces from the prior games show up and take part in the story.
Gameplay is essentially divided in two part: puzzle stages and story stages. Puzzle stages are simply “Escape the Room” situations where you are trapped in a room and need to discover objects and solve a series of puzzles in order to escape. The story portions are essentially cinematics where the player will be prompted to make a decision or enter a password.
In Zero Escape games, there are multiple plots with multiple endings. The primary goal in these games is to simply see every potential outcome and it is clear that this is also the creator’s intent for players.
The biggest issue with this game is the how confusing finishing the plot lines are compared to the prior games. In past games, you could easily follow a plot line in chronological order before going back to a branching pathway and playing through the other potential outcome. You could do that here in theory, but the game actively tries to bounce the player around unrelated plot points in such a way that the story is somewhat difficult to follow. There are narrative reasons for this, but any subsequent plot payoff does not overcome the initial confusion players may have during the first two thirds of the game.
The puzzles… are puzzles. I don’t love puzzles, but the story was good enough to motivate me to get through them. They are still annoying though if you don’t like puzzles.
Visually, the game is the best looking in the series. The game has abandoned the static dialogue scenes in lieu of fully animated cinematics with 3D models. For a Nintendo 3DS game, it looks damn good.
The voice acting and music are top notch. I certainly recognized some familiar voice actors, which means they likely spent some time and budget on the acting talent. Thank goodness they did because adventures rely mostly on the story and acting.
Overall, this was a fun experience. There were plenty of twists and turns and I appreciated that this game was shorter than the prior games. Adventure games do not need to be as long or as epic as a Japanese role playing game. There were still some cheap twists though and that is why I feel the story in Virtue’s Last Reward is still superior.