Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Review No Escaping…the Text Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Playstation Vita | Chunsoft | October 23, 2012 Also available for Nintendo 3DS Zero Escape is classified as a videogame in the loosest sense. It is played on handhelds using the same motions you would expect, but at its core, ZE is a novel with some interactive moments. Players ‘control’ Sigma as he escapes from room to room and interacts with eight NPC’s that have been kidnapped and forced to play the “game”. After each escape, and an hour of talking heads, players will choose to betray or ally with the other characters in a prisoner’s dilemma situation. Only a few can escape. After deciding, players will go through another round of reading as everyone analyzes the decisions and the impact on survival. The game has over 20 endings that require Sigma to jump around the timeline to reveal the entire events. There are sixteen puzzles throughout ZE that range from simple matching to compounded conclusions that will require pen and pad to solve. The only true gameplay mechanics involve the escape rooms where players can interact with objects, combine items, read archives with red herrings or clues, and ask the NPC for hints. The first puzzle is simple and can be solved without asking for assistance but the difficulty will quickly escalate. Some escape rooms are multiple areas strung together, a hint from section one will be required to pass section three. At times the context clues, hint system and ingenuity are enough to succeed. Other times I was randomly trying combinations, punching arbitrary commands to move forward or consulting a walkthrough. Even within escape rooms, NPCs will not stop talking about the significance of a coaster or the fact that they can’t escape. The dialogue is dense. Characters tell you everything they are thinking about doing, how they will do it, why they did it, the ramifications of their actions and then someone will interrupt with their thoughts on the situation. The overall plot points are interesting but it takes everyone forever to reach them. For example, there is a color system in place that rotates between the trapped denizens. After every escape the colors switch and the game will tell you what this means, even though it is kind of obvious. When backtracking and replaying sections, Sigma will encounter dialogue that is near identical to a previous section…but because it is slightly different it can’t be skipped. This forces a constant déjà vu sensation. The branching paths of the story do offer surprising twists and a variety of endings, but they don’t really feel like they mean anything. A character dies a tragic death…simply rewind to where they were alive and try again. The sci-fi tropes are interesting by themselves if reading a Wikipedia entry but are too convoluted for the story’s own good. ZE is trying to be a complex and crazy world that makes you question reality, like The Matrix, but ultimately it ends up being just weird for the sake of being different, like Resident Evil: Afterlife. ZE is a competent puzzle game that fans of text heavy adventures could enjoy. If the player is interested in clever concepts and can look past the lack of character progression, plausible explanations or repeated scenes then this could be worth a try. Score: 4.0 /10 + Puzzles that Require Thought + Interesting Sci-fi Elements – Characters are Talking Heads – Hours of Text per Puzzle – Scenes are Reruns of Each other – Supernatural Adds no Substance Level Up, Friends!