Review: Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward for Vita

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Title: Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward
Price: $39.99
System(s): Vita (Also on 3DS)
Release Date: October 23, 2012
Publisher (Developer): Aksys (Spike Chunsoft)
ESRB Rating: “Mature” for Blood, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language and Violence
Pros: Thought-provoking puzzles, two difficulty levels for puzzles, can earn supplemental silver or gold files in each challenge, 24 different endings, good voice acting in both Japanese and English, fantastic translation and script, lots of twists and plenty of replay value. Can skip seen dialogue. Can jump to any scene segment in the story flow chart. Touch screen controls work well.
Cons: Need to play at least three times to even begin to understand the story. Only three save file slots are available. The memo section is hard to use on the Vita. Scrolling through some areas on the Vita (like the generator room) can be tedious.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up, 95/100, A, * * * * 1/2 out of 5

999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons 9 Doors is a DS classic. It’s the little adventure game that could. It’s blend of a Saw-style situation with fiendish puzzles, an engaging story and multiple endings made it a unique property and thankfully gamers recognized it for the diamond it is. Its success means the story doesn’t have to end and that Aksys was able to show its love for us yet again by bringing over Spike Chunsoft’s sequel, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. Rest assured that it is more of the same and in this case, that’s exactly what we want.

Get ready for the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition!

You wake up in an elevator. It’s completely unfamiliar and you aren’t sure how you got there. You’ve never seen it before. It’s empty, aside from one other, surly woman who’s also a stranger to you. You look down and there’s a strange bracelet around your wrist that looks like a watch, but isn’t, and won’t come off. The last thing you remember is being drugged and abducted from your car. Worst of all, a strange rabbit appeared on the only screen in the elevator to tell you that if you don’t escape this locked elevator before time runs out, you’ll die.

Welcome to the worst day of your life.

That’s exactly what Sigma is going through. He’s a college student who was abducted from his university to take part in the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition with eight other people named Phi, Alice, Clover, K, Luna, Quark, Tenmyouji and Dio. They are all locked in a warehouse with one exit – the 9 door. You need 9 points to go through the 9 door and escape. Each player starts the game with a bracelet that has 3 Bracelet Points. They must break into teams of three to pass through various doors in the warehouse to obtain cards to enter the polling rooms. Once in the polling room, they vote with or against the person they just worked with in an attempt to earn points.

It’s the Prisoner’s Dilemna. Each pair works with a single. The person or pair must choose ally or betray. If both choose ally, each person gets 2 BP. If both choose betray, nobody gets any BP. If one chooses ally and the other betray, the person who picked betray gets 3BP and the one who picked ally gets 2BP. The 9 door only opens once, and only people with 9 BP can go through. People with less than 9 who try to escape will die. Not to mention people whose BP drop to 0 die too.

Players’ goals depend on what kind of ending one might like to see. Perhaps one time, it’d be best to try and reach the most favorable outcome where the most people possible will survive and pass through the 9 door. Maybe it’s time to be selfish and think only of how to get Sigma through the 9 door while leaving everyone else behind. Just remember to take the other “players” motives into consideration, or Sigma could end up dead.

Each playthrough enhances both the story and players’ appreciation of Zero Escape

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is divided up into two parts. It’s half visual novel and half point-and-click adventure game. This means you’ll see a novel segment where people learn more about Sigma, the other players and the latest iteration of the Nonary Game and then make decisions that influence the ending and which path is seen during that playthrough. The point-and-click segments begin whenever Sigma find himself tasked with escaping a room or finding the keycards so he and the other players can take part in the polling. When you’re searching for keycards, you have to explore the area to uncover the visual password to open a rather obvious safe hidden in each room. It’s nearly identical to the formula used in 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and people who are familiar with adventure games should feel quite comfortable.

While players will spend most of your time on the first playthrough completing the challenges in the puzzle segments, the most time will be spent during the visual novel segments in which players will learn more about the cast, their predicament and the motives behind the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition. What’s fantastic is that this is a suspenseful thriller with not only plenty of drama and truly surprising twists, but also humor. The original script is fantastic and, on top of that, Aksys’ localization is superb. It’s as though you’re reading through a best selling, interactive version of a major novel and I would definitely count both 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward among the best adventure games released over the past five years. It’s an example of exemplary storytelling, especially since each time one players, something new is discovered.

What makes Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward so successful is that both the writing and puzzles don’t talk down or pander to the player. This is a thoughtful game filled with provoking challenges that make you think. Granted, once you learn the trick for each of the rooms, it’s no trouble to breeze through them later in the quest for acquiring supplemental silver and gold files to unlock optimal endings, but the first encounter with each room is always memorable and the sense of satisfaction that comes from finding every secret in each one is something to savor. There’s this lightbulb moment that comes once you realize the result the accumulated clues point to that makes all the time spent solving each challenge, whether it was five minutes or half an hour, feel worthwhile.

As fantastic as Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is, the Vita version does have a few quirks that don’t hamper gameplay or players enjoyment in any way, but do keep the game from being absolutely perfect. A good example is the exploration element during the point-and-click segments. Scrolling around to see every area in larger rooms, like the generator room, can be a tad tedious. While I usually preferred to play Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward with the touch screen, moving was often actually easier with the analog stick. The memo system is also poorly executed, as it’s difficult to jot down pertinent information accurately when writing with your finger. I still had to resort to using a separate pen and paper to figure out some math problems or jot down clues.

Each layer of Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward is tastier than the next

I have never felt smarter or stupider than I have when playing Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward. In fact, a single puzzle was able to evoke both feelings at once. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m sure anyone who encounters the rainbow tree root will understand my situation. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward will challenge players and make them question their own intelligence, then reward them with more of a twisting and intense story and a feeling of superiority that can only come from managing to complete a challenge that a friend had to turn to an online walkthrough to overcome. In short, it’s a fantastic game that is well worth the initial investment, especially since one playthrough is never enough. No one can compete in just one round of the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition. The lure of additional rounds and complete understanding is too strong to resist.

Site [Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward]

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