Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma - PS4 Review

A series full of mysteries, murder, twists and intrigue comes to its conclusion in the third title from the “Zero Escape” series, Zero Time Dilemma. All the questions that have been left answered and the fates of the characters MAY come to a head in this final game of life and death, provided you can manage to muddle through the convoluted plot line(s), occasionally poor voice acting, and some of the annoying necessary steps for making it through some of the decisions in-game.

Zero Time Dilemma is the third installment in the series, following after 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, and unfortunately it’s probably the least impressive in the series. If you haven’t played any of the previous games, expect a fair amount of confusion with, well, many aspects and terms that are brought up, not to mention some of the more obscure plot points that were mostly dealt with in the second game.

The games in general play like a visual novel combined with a “room escape” style of puzzle solving. There’s a large chunk of text, maybe a choice, and then you solve puzzles to get out of a room, and then usually some more text. The basic principle is that you actually want/need to have to view most of the routes in order to progress to the true route. Zero Time Dilemma takes a bit of a different approach from the other games. Originally, your choices will determine which story branch you will go down, and each subsequent choice will further “branch” the story. Now, however, each room and its associated story are all considered as “fragments”, and all the branches are included in that one fragment.

Additionally, all the characters are split into three distinct teams, so you mostly only see characters interacting with a very restricted cast. While this set-up does make it more “concise” for checking branches and separating the puzzle rooms, it makes for a very disjointed feeling, as all the different paths will flow through most of the teams, so it gets confusing if you don’t realize what is going on, because you can go from one puzzle where one team is dead, then another where the other team is dead, and you’ll be going back and forth between them with no idea which fragments correspond to which choice route until you’ve already played through it, which I found really broke the immersion.

For the puzzle solving aspect, the rooms can be summarized primarily as “rather simple”. Unlike in the first two games, there was only once where I got “stuck” on a puzzle, and that was because a code was supposed to appear, but just plain didn’t until I ‘re-met’ the requirements for it to appear. A lot of the rooms I finished while thinking: “Is this it? Was that actually the whole puzzle?”. Unlike in the previous games where I spent a while on each room, my average time per room was maybe five to ten minutes, which was a little disappointing. Even after viewing all the cutscenes and endings and getting the platinum trophy (this was for the PS4 version), I clocked in at just under 15 hours total, so it was a relatively short game, although play time will differ depending on your puzzle solving skills.

In terms of the newly updated graphics, Zero Time Dilemma uses more 3D character models and environments. While the environments look nice, the character models look really, well, weird. All the characters look like they have permanently wide eyes like they just stubbed their toes. During the puzzles segments, non-voiced text boxes appear to describe the stuff you’re looking at, but based on the character icon it’s very difficult to determine who’s talking. The game does have some very nice arterial splatter, however. The voice acting is also pretty solid, for everything that isn’t a scream of pain or death. Or most screaming, really.

A couple of gripes I have to do with the choices the game makes you go through. A lot of these are fairly self evident results, but some are actually randomized. Like the Monty Hall problem. Which I lost 12 times in a row, so screw you probability. The ability to make memos, while generally useful, is actually a little awkward to do on console, as the other available systems have touch controls, and the PC has a mouse. It would have been nice if the PS4 controller touchpad was usable, as I generally just found myself with a pencil paper nearby.

Overall, Zero Time Dilemma has an interesting, albeit confusing, storyline, some interesting puzzles and an array of choices that really makes you consider what you want to do. While not the best in the series, Zero Time Dilemma is certainly a solid conclusion to the series. The story is really well written, uncommon terms are explained, and it never felt like the story segments went on longer than I would have liked.

Game Information

PlayStation 4
Spike Chunsoft Co.
Aksys Games
Visual Novel
Single Player
Other Platform(s):
Nintendo 3DS
PlayStation Vita

Provided by Publisher

Article by Richard


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