Capsule Review: Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma

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.

Unlike the first two games, you play as a few different members of a group of nine people who’ve been imprisoned and forced to play “the decision game” - sometimes there’s a way out without killing anyone and sometimes there isn’t. Your goal is usually 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 third and presumably final installment is structurally similar to the second, though it feels like you spend a while playing through isolated vignettes designed to teach you philosophical concepts before you get to the real meat of the story. The puzzles are back to being well-executed and well-integrated, and most of the characters (including several familiar faces) are likeable, if shallow and not always consistent. There are some great twists in the late game, but also some contradictions to prior games and the ending doesn’t really live up to the promises the series has made (though it’s not clear that anything could have). If you played the first two and didn’t hate them, you won’t regret playing this one and finishing out the trilogy.

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.