One of my reasons to buy games is in the hope that the game challenges my mind. One such game was Catherine. The story for the game was a little bit explicit for younger gamers, but I enjoyed the gameplay and would say that the escape-the-room genre is on my list of challenging games to tackle. The escape genre seems to be overlooked nowadays. Chunsoft tried and successfully revived the genre by making 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors for Nintendo DS (Or better known as Zero Escape: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors). In late 2012, Aksys Games, the publisher of said game, released the sequel for the game dubbed as Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.
In Virtue’s Last Reward there are two sections of the game: a novel section and an escape portion. Novel is, as one would expect, the portion where the game’s story is told. In the escape section, players take control as Sigma, the main protagonist, who, along with Pi, Alice, Clover, Luna, Dio, Tenmyouji, Quark and K must solve the game’s main puzzle, which is dubbed as the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition, which include several rooms that you need to escape, all of which is orchestrated by a man called Zero. To escape the facility, players must get 9 points on their bracelets, after which a door to the outside world will open. The catch is the door can only be opened once. The game starts with 3 points for every player. After players solve a puzzle, you and your partner must play against an opposing team and depending on certain actions in the game, you may lose or gain a point(s) by choosing either to betray or ally with the opposing team. While playing the game, strange things happen. Who to trust in this predicament? Can the group uncover by themselves who Zero really is?
If you played the previous game, you have an idea as to where the plot leads. The puzzles vary depending on the route the player takes. As there are multiple routes to be taken, there’s bound to be a bad ending, as well as a good ending. If a player faces a bad ending in any route, the player can simply go back to the timeline and select any of the other routes or pick the same route but alter the decisions prior to the ending, a feature that the previous game lacked. But that’s when the game got a bit predictable.
Depend on the bracelet within the game world, Sigma may be a “Solo” or “Pair” with a particular color. To get to the next puzzle room, you have to be paired with a combination color that is equal to the room’s door color. For example, to get to a red door, players simply need a color combination that will equal red. After solving the puzzle within the room, which again varies in difficulty, this is where the bracelet comes into play. If you are stated to be a “Solo”, you have to go against the two persons that you’re paired with. If the bracelet is a “Pair”, you and your partner will go against a “Solo” in your group. Then you vote either to ally with or betray your opponent, ala “Prisoner’s Dilemma”. To add to the tension, before voting, the game always find a way to influence you to vote either “ally” or “betray” by letting out a few words as to why Sigma needs to pick a certain choice. Not to spoil the game, but most of the time you take either ally or betray, your opponent picks a different option, with the exception of a few characters.
To get to the specific character’s ending, it isn’t simply just going one route as players have to fulfill a prerequisite to get through a locked novel section. Players also have to literally remember every password a character gives to Sigma in order to proceed in Virtue’s Last Reward. Luckily, if the player doesn’t remember any of them, they can revisit the moment where a character gives Sigma the password. Given how the story is told in the game, Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward may sometimes confuse a player as the plot is rather complicated with things like quantum physics and so on.
The game drags on its storytelling portion of the game. Thankfully, if you already watched the scene before, players can skip it. Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward chronologically is fourth nonary game in the list with Zero Escape: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors being the second game in the line. Expect Zero Escape 3, which depicts the third nonary game, to be released later on which follows this game’s true ending. Just like the name implies, maybe virtue is what we need in order to finish the game. Before I forget, the in-game jokes and puns, although lame, are fun at the same time.
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