I really enjoy and appreciate a good puzzle game. There’s nothing quite like being presented with a conundrum and then slowly but surely uncovering all the pieces needed and fitting them in place to bring about the solution. So naturally I jumped at the chance to try out Zero Time Dilemma, the third and final entry in the Zero Escape series. The game is presented like a visual novel, but the bulk of the gameplay is in the puzzles that the players must solve in order to escape various situations in which they find themselves trapped in locked rooms.
The first thing I noticed about Zero Time Dilemma was how desolate and creepy its atmosphere was. I am by no means a fan of the horror genre, but I couldn’t help but draw parallels between the game and the “Saw” movie franchise. The premises are, at face value, incredibly similar. A group of people discover that they are trapped in a remote location, at the mercy of some strange, enigmatic figure who promises them their freedom so long as they partake in his decision game.
In the beginning, however, the game starts off a bit slow. There is a lot of dialogue before you actually get to the first puzzle challenge. Nonetheless, this all has its place to set up the atmosphere and really drive home the severity of the predicament the cast of characters have found themselves in.
As I progressed into the early chapters of the game, Zero Time Dilemma’s non-linear approach to storytelling became quite evident. The game doesn’t follow a set advancement through its plot points. A small assortment of chapters are available to each of the three teams at the beginning, and you can start from whichever of the points that is available to you, no matter where they fall in the timeline. This non-linearity is supported by the fact that, every ninety minutes, the characters are put into an induced sleep and their memories wiped clean, leaving them with no recollection of the previous events with each awakening. This disjointed approach might come across as a bit jarring and disorienting to some, but I thought it helped to add even more sense of mystery to the plot.
The fact that the three teams are isolated from each other further enhances this sensation. As you progress with one team, you never know how the others are faring, or even if they are still alive, until each period of ninety minutes is up.
While the beginning of Zero Time Dilemma starts off a bit slow and incoherent at times, it really picks up once you progress and the puzzle-solving and decision-making aspects are fully introduced.
Zero Time Dilemma will release for the PlayStation Vita and Nintendo 3DS in North America and Europe on June 28th, and in Japan on June 30th. The PC version for Windows will release worldwide on June 30th.