Please do note this is a spoiler free review.
Zero Time Dilemma is the third and final game of Kotaro Uchikoshi’s in the Zero Escape visual novel series developed by Spike Chunsoft and published by Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. themselves. Players will take control of nine participants, that has been split into three teams. C Team – Carlos, Akane, and Junpei. Q Team – Q, Mira, and Eric; and finally D Team – Diana, Phi, and Sigma. You’ll have to play the Decision Game and put your life, and everyone lives on the line. Every choice has a consequences… Players will get to seek a way out of various puzzle rooms filled with mini games that may or may not crack your skull with their difficulty.
The puzzle rooms are an important element of the Zero Escape series in fact without them the game feels incomplete. I will be honest here that some of the puzzles are really tough in fact I hated a couple of them. Those type in particular where you would have to fit in all of them onto the board. Well as for that I only have myself to blame since I am not a fan of puzzle games and I do not like to use my brains that much.
I really love how there is no “enforced playing order”. The user interface is filled with memory fragments, and you can experience the story completely out of order at your own pace and choice. In the story after every 90 minutes, the participants will be injected with a drug from their bracelet that is attached on their left hands, putting them to sleep and causing them to forget everything of they have experienced in when they were awake. This means that every memory fragment you jump to it is essentially a new “story” because they have no clue about the events that just occurred before this, or how they even ended up there at that time. It can feel a little annoying in a sense that many things does not seem logical at all, but all the puzzle pieces fall into place as you continue on in the story and slowly discover the plot that ties everything together.
The mystery of who Zero really is, alongside with the reasons behind why these nine people have been chosen to play the Decision Game is well hidden and it keeps the reader hooked onto the story with the feeling of wanting more. Zero Time Dilemma is one of those games that will keep you reading through non stop once it gets hooked onto you. Well that is for my case.
To sum the story in 1 word I won’t say perfect but I would say it’s magnificent. It ties up loose ends from Virtue’s Last Reward answering most questions you provably have after completing Virtue’s Last Reward.
The writing in Zero Time Dilemma is top notch, it weaves perfectly between tense, logical debates about Alien Hand Syndrome, morphogenetic field theory, funyarinpa [reference to 999], and of course Phi’s chest size. I mean who does not love Phi? 😀
The new characters introduced in Zero Time Dilemma are very unique as each of them have quite a unique past before I start spewing out spoilers lets stop it there for now. When I first saw the new character Q, I honestly thought he is the evil character here for sure based on previous Zero Escape games but I was so wrong, Q ended up being one of my favorite characters in the cast after some mind-blowing reveals. Similarly with Eric, Mira and Carlos they all at first glance seems like stereotypes 1 would get from a typical game of life and death, but the story quickly changes the players view of them as the player learn more about them.
Some of you that have played 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward you would realize it follows more of a visual novel format where you have to click throughout the game to advance the story, Zero Time Dilemma takes a different approach that ditches clicking through text completely and presents its story in fully voiced 3D cut-scenes which I like. But 1 issue I had is that the animation is bad, well not bad to the point that it is unbearable but bad that some scenes looks really weird [in a funny way] and rough.
Some notable things I would like to also mention that Zero Time Dilemma is probably the darkest the series has ever been. 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward had their fair share of violent deaths and gore, but Zero Time Dilemma does all of that even more. I loved how the psychological elements comes into play and shows the true side of human nature.
Zero Time Dilemma isn’t afraid to show just how disgusting and depraved human beings can get when they’re being pushed into a corner and into despair.
The game’s soundtrack is absolutely awesome. Some old tracks came back, both in their original and remixed versions. Shinji Hosoe the composer also returns with a new tracks that fits in perfectly with the game’s puzzle rooms and narratives. Music to me is the most important aspect of any visual novel, and the soundtrack for Zero Time Dilemma is just perfect.
As for the port of PC mine runs smoothly at 60 FPS with no form of performance issue. I do not have much to say here other than the port is runs perfectly for me and I did not run into any bugs.
To Sum Up 9.5/10
Do I recommend Zero Time Dilemma? Yes definitely though I do recommend you to play through 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward first before Zero Time Dilemma. Zero Time Dilemma tells a compelling story and It knows when to be dark, when to be funny. It also shares some interesting theories which piqued my interest about time travel. Though the ending felt a little vague in my opinion as there are some questions still left unanswered for the Zero Escape Series in regards to Zero Time Dilemma ending.
Lastly I would like to thank Spike Chunsoft for providing me a review copy of this game.
Zero Time Dilemma steam store page