Zero Time Dilemma is a narrative-driven Adventure game developed by Chime for the 3DS, PS Vita, and PC. It’s the third game in the Zero Escape series. The game is published by Aksys Games.
The story is about 9 people being kidnapped by a killer and forced to make difficult life-or-death situations to survive through something called a Decision Game. There are many story paths and many endings to see. It explores the many-worlds theory when dealing with the decision-making that the player can do in the game, meaning that each decision ends up creating it’s own reality.
The graphics looks like an up-scaled Vita game, and that’s basically what they are. The character animations can look a bit limited at times, but it actually works out surprisingly well in spite of these shortcomings. Nothing ever actually looks bad or awkward in an immersion breaking way, so despite the dated looking visuals, it still works. The music is very well-done and lends itself extremely well to the atmosphere of the game, too. It gives off a creepy vibe, and reminds me of a lot of the great psychological horror anime that I’ve enjoyed over the years.
The story is the main draw of the game, and this is where things get a little hit or miss. While the initial premise is interesting, the game often has characters going on awkward tangents or outright monologues during the game’s cut-scenes, which is the majority of the game. This tend to have less impact on the overall game than I would like, and can last for far too long. the characters also tend to act like they know more than the player actually knows, which causes more confusion than it should. While these things will eventually sort themselves out, it definitely hurts the pacing of the game and makes it hard to stay engaged.
The other problem with the game is the pacing between story and game play. While the game is described as an Adventure game, there isn’t too much Adventure game play to be had. You often need to, for example, sit through 15 minutes of story and dialogue to actually get to a single choice. And while this makes the choice feel important, it doesn’t always feel that way when you see all possible outcomes. Often times, the dead-end options feel more like they are forcing characters to do things to make a narrative point than it feels like these characters are actually doing these things for any reason. And, this is a problem when the intentions of characters are being explored elsewhere in the game. As I actively think about the psychology of the characters, the developers clearly were not. It broke my immersion on quite a few occasions.
That being said, the story, overall, is still an interesting one. There is also still some game play outside of choices, like rooms that you have to solve a series of puzzles to escape. And these can be quite fun, if a little long-winded.
The PC port of the game is done very well. You control the game exclusively with the mouse, and it feels great. I never once felt confused by the controls. It felt like a game designed for PC all along. In addition, you get options for both English and Japanese voice acting, which is great for fans of either to enjoy. I personally played with the Japanese voice acting, and it was fantastic all the way through.
Overall, the game is an enjoyable experience. While it isn’t the best story in the genre, and it isn’t the best story-driven game out there, it is interesting enough to keep players engaged for the time it takes to finish. Fans will thoroughly enjoy it, and newcomers will find it enjoyable as well. A few major details, like the game’s pacing and story’s tangents, left me wishing a little bit more care had been taken with the story as a whole.
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