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  5. Zero Time Dilemma (PlayStation 4) Review – No escape

Zero Time Dilemma (PlayStation 4) Review – No escape

Zero Time Dilemma (PlayStation 4) Review – No escape

The Nonary Games series was something of a cult for the Japanese scenario and western. From 9/9/9 through to Zero Time Dilemma, which we had previously reviewed, players found themselves solving puzzles as they had to make difficult moral choices to get to the end of a sadistic game. Everything was inserted within a complex apocalyptic plot that predicted the end of the world by a terrorist organization.

We therefore find ourselves a relive the Zero Time Dilemma experiences on PlayStation 4 through a graphically cleaner and more detailed version. This is precisely the last chapter of the Nonary trilogy produced by Spike Chunsoft, chronologically prior to Virtue’s Last Reward but practically a sequel to the latter. From this statement it is already possible to understand that, actually, to better appreciate Zero Time Dilemma it is necessary to have played the other two video games in the series.

My expectations regarding this game (and the series) have always been high and, once again, they have not been disappointed at all. both from the quality of the dialogues and from the difficulty of the puzzles (moral and otherwise) present in the title. Without further ado, let’s review this series again to see how it has held up to the move to PlayStation 4!

The game of decisions

Talking about the Zero Time Dilemma plot is more complex than it may seem. This is because, effectively, this is the chapter that represents the final act of the series and for this reason all the plots converge in a single great conclusive “Decision Game”. If I had to tell you the whole story of the Nonary Games from the beginning, I would probably run out of space available even just for the various premises. Therefore I will try to give you an overview of the background setting, leaving you the pleasure of discovery.

Started with 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, the “Zero Escape” series revolves around the same situation for each game: of people trapped in a closed and isolated environment who have to survive a sadistic and cruel game. The main theme is based on moral choices that involve the sacrifice of others for one’s own personal survival. The developers have in fact created stories that explore the darkest emotions of the human soul, giving rise to massacres and murders in favor of natural selfishness deriving from the instinct of preservation.

All the games are orchestrated by a shady figure who acts as a catalyst for the horrible situations that the players experience, trying to drive them to despair with lethal puzzles that put a strain on the sanity of those who have to solve them.

Zero Time Dilemma is no different from this trend, and in fact you will find yourself managing three groups of three people who must try to survive inside a nuclear bunker used as a “playground” by this surgeon named Zero Secondo. To get out of this captivity, six people will have to die in order to release useful passwords for the three who will still remain alive. Only by getting blood on your hands will it be possible to open the door to freedom. The problem lies precisely in the desire to become murderers in order to survive. Think of it as a kind of “Big Brother” splatter, the dream of many of the readers of this article.

Already from these few lines you can understand the great work of psychological construction behind the Zero Escape series, especially if you consider the amount of “alternative paths” that each choice can form. This allows us to observe every direction of the game and to actually discover the most suitable path to the truth. The latter is actually the real plot of the series, which is about on the action of a terrorist group that intends to destroy the world globally releasing a psychotropic viral agent. Of course, everything is much more complex than that and Zero Time Dilemma lets us glimpse something, explaining just the minimum necessary in relation to time travel, the alternative dimension and so on.

These notions are dispensed to players who have never touched the other titles precisely because the cast of this game is made up of people who appeared in the saga. A real party for longtime fans and totally indifferent to those who are new.

Playing it as “seasoned users”, you realize that the narrative sector is one of the best of the entire series. Not just because of the excellent cast characterization built over the three games, but also because the development team has really trodden hand with the moral impact and brutal of every element of the story.

You find yourself in a continuous crescendo that unravels between the three teams in a superb way, enticing the player to want to know more and more about what is happening in the other teams while, at the same time, he is given total control over them. This mechanic makes it possible for the story to unfold according to one’s personal choices and this is an essential element to make the consequences of one’s actions “real”. And trust me, many of them will be brutal. Of course, among the many endings, there is only one that is the “best possible” to save the world. It represents the real purpose of the game, the one to which one should aspire while enduring unspeakable cruelty.

Zero Time Dilemma reconfirms, once again where possible, the excellent writing skills of the creators behind the series. A worthy, clear and spectacular conclusion of a trilogy that has always maintained very high quality standards despite some very fierce competing titles.

Who in the puzzle hurts …

Of course, solving puzzles is the only real gameplay element in the title. The player will therefore find himself in closed rooms looking for a way to get out and survive if the nice Zero wants to kill you with some poison or the like.

To escape, you will need to explore the environment in search of clues, solve puzzles and unlock hidden compartments. In this mechanic porting from a portable console is evident, given that the controls used for these sections are quite bulky and the “field of view” rather narrow. It would have been better if the latter were wider in order to allow faster resolution with frames suitable for large screens.

The level of the puzzles is quite varied with fairly evident but not impossible peaks of difficulty. In fact, Zero Time Dilemma offers an experience suitable for everyone, learning a bit from those really tough levels of Virtue’s Last reward. The key lies in one’s observation skills, trying to understand the elements that can be used across the room.

The slightly more pronounced addition favors the interaction of decisions by the player. While earlier this feature was off the side of riddles, this time it has been made more centralized in them by actually taking part in the solving process of the riddle. This gives that feeling of being “powerless” against the tortures devised by Zero, despite its own resolving ability. The feeling is that of a stress test that involves both the cast and the players.

Fortunately, the exploratory component present in the previous chapters is missing. There are no excessively large rooms interspersed with small loads, rather there are isolated areas where you can safely carry out the task without getting lost in the corridors. In addition to eliminating a rather obvious flaw in the series, accentuates even more the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Bunker.

The “playful” side of Zero Time Dilemma is reduced to the bone as it is an experience more similar to visual novels than anything else. The narration is king, as well as the player’s decisions which represent the bulk of his influence in the course of events. This marginal function of the gameplay can be considered a defect by those who are not used to this type of video games strongly centered on the text. But, if you are able to resist, the quality of the game more than makes up for the shortcomings it has.

Same sadistic style

On the technical side we see the general style of the work unchanged. At the level of drawings, you can not complain at all thanks to the use of eccentric designs to the right point to make the cast one of a kind. Zero Time Dilemma features somewhat more normal characters than in the past, but at the same time increases the resources used in the rendering of emotions through facial animations.

Precisely for this reason there are decidedly disturbing and disturbing scenes, full of guts convulsions and more. The three-dimensional engine change allowed the development team a greater concentration in the yield of the psychological disturbances to which the poor unfortunate are subjected, making a pretty accurate picture of despair.

The environments and rooms, however, are decidedly subdued, especially on the big screen. While the characters have undergone a graphical upgrade, the rest of the elements have been left unchanged compared to the PlayStation Vita counterpart. Nothing exceptionally serious considering the general picture of the offer, but certainly we could do better in the conversion to a fixed console.

Coming to the sound we must sadly note the recycling of some passages from the past. Now, as much as we can appreciate the quality of these compositions, we had to leave room for new pieces suitable for the climax that is created in the script of Zero Time Dilemma. Instead, generally, the compositions are so forgettable that they are barely perceived in the course of the title.

Evidently the greatest resources have ended up in dubbing, which as usual is masterful in both languages. What I recommend is to use the original language, Japanese, just to experience the title as the creators wanted to make it happen. Not only does it gain more pathos in the scenes, but the involvement felt is certainly greater thanks to the enormous work of the Japanese voice actors.

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