Capsule Review: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward

A game with alternating visual novel segments (where the plot is advanced as you interact with the other characters and sometimes make dialog choices) and escape-the-room puzzle segments.

You’re an ordinary college student who gets abducted and wakes up imprisoned with eight other abductees, and together you are forced to play “the nonary game” - you must work together to solve puzzles in order to progress through your prison to an ultimate promised escape. However, if you break any of the nonary game’s rules, you will be killed, and the nonary game is structured such that its players can screw each other over and get them killed - leading some to try to defend themselves pre-emptively. Your goal is to escape with your life as well as solve the mystery of who abducted you and why - and which of your fellow abductees can be trusted.

The tone is pretty dark and intense, though there is also humor, hope, and likeable characters. The Zero Escape games are possibly the most intelligent, mature, risk-taking visual novels I’ve played, dealing with a lot of interesting philosophical and ethical themes. They also play with the standard visual novel format in a few ways, acknowledging the branching stories that require replay to get the “true” ending with an in-game justification.

This second installment is both better and worse than its predecessor. It does more with the format and adds bonuses like solid voice acting and some nice conveniences (such as dialog scrollback and no need to replay puzzles). It also has good twists that keep you guessing through very plausible red herrings as well as solid hints and foreshadowing. But the pacing is arguably worse (though it’s hard to talk about pacing in games like these), the characters are less compelling on average, and the puzzles are less interesting and much more poorly integrated. It’s definitely still worth a play if you like this kind of game.

I Stopped Playing When: I finished the game and saw all endings.

Docprof's Rating:

Four Stars: Great. Not only did I finish the game, I probably played through the whole thing again and/or completed any optional objectives. It's an easy recommendation for any genre fan.

You can get it or learn more here.