Review – Zero Time Dilemma (PS4)

Zero Time

“There are moments when a single snail can make a world go extinct.”

Zero Time Dilemma is the third entry in the Zero Escape series. Originally it was released last year by Aksys Games for the Nintendo 3DS and Playstation Vita with Spike Chunsoft handling the PC version. It is now being released for the Playstation 4 following this year’s earlier release of The Nonary Games, a compilation of the first 2 entries in the series 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Virtue’s Last Reward.

For those that would like, you can find my review of the original release here. http://fanboynation.com/review-zero-escape-zero-time-dilemma-3dsvita/

For those that would like to not subject themselves to my past self’s terrible writing, Zero Time Dilemma is an escape room game. Each gameplay section is basically a room with a series of puzzles you must solve in order to escape from said room. Seems simple enough to understand, right? The other portion of the game is the cinema sections. Where 999 and VLR were visual novels, Zero Time Dilemma ’s story sections are played out as intricately crafted cutscenes, edited as if you were watching a television show. This change in presentation helps, to me personally, to bring you more into the story as there isn’t one central protagonist, but three. It is sort of like how Game of Thrones jumps between it’s main characters.

Being the third entry in the series, you really shouldn’t play this game without playing the others as it is a direct continuation of VLR’s story. Be warned, there might also be some spoilers for 999 and VLR ahead. Zero Time Dilemma is the story of nine people, isolated from everyone else, in order to participate in an experiment to simulate a Mars exploration program. These nine, however, were taken captive by a mysterious person known as Zero, separated into three groups and forced to participate in a game known as “The Decision Game.” In VLR, you find out that events at a Mars testing facility resulted in the deaths of over 6 billion people. This is that Mars testing facility. This is where Old Sigma’s consciousness jumps to at the beginning of VLR. Also returning from previous games are Junpei and Akane from 999 and Phi from VLR.

Now that the story synopsis is out of the way, each of the three team leaders are, as you may have guessed, the three protagonists. Each of the three teams are separately played stories that don’t intersect for the most part. I felt this was the best way to go for this game, as the character’s are given more time to develop as characters and allows you to take in the enormity of the story. Each team’s story sections are presented as non linear, disjointed, story fragments. The reasoning for this plays into the fact that every 90 minutes, the characters are injected with a sleep and an amnesia drug, not allowing them to remember when exactly they are or what has previously happened. At certain points in the cinema sections, your team leader is forced to make a decision that will change the course of the story, similar to VLR’s AB game. These decisions can either further the story or lead to one of the game’s many endings.

I don’t know if it is because I fully played through the game on the Nintendo 3DS, or if it is because I’m not super hyped for the game since I played it when it came out, but the animations seem…off. The animations at times seem unnaturally smooth and their movements make them look like they are Disneyland animatronics. It could be because it is running on higher end hardware and the low end hardware of the 3DS just masked them, but it is weird at times. Audio-wise, the one issue I had with the 3DS release was Zero’s dialogue was hard to hear at points, making it so you had to mess with the audio controls. Zero in the PS4 version comes in loud and clear, so there is no need to mess with the settings. The only issue this time is that the voice tracks are not synced with the character’s mouth movements.

Zero Time Dilemma on the PS4, for me at least, is the definitive way to play the game. Since it moves away from the series’ visual novel roots to a more cinematic storytelling style, it plays out better on a large screen then an interactive book would. Although now, playing it on the PS4 makes me want an actual tv show.

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