Part of what made Steins;Gate so enjoyable is that it goes in unpredictable directions. So much of the story hinges in explaining new concepts and things, that figuring out where the story is going to go is challenging. The same isn’t quite true for survival game stories like Saw or Zero Escape. They tend to have twists and turns, but the core is relatively the same. With Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma we have another story about trusting others and solving a mystery, but is the end worth the journey or is it an underwhelming continuation?
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma starts with the ever popular set up. The mysterious Zero have captured nine people, who need to complete various tasks/games, in order to escape. The catch? Only one team of three can escape, meaning at least nine people will need to die before that happens. It’s a simple set up, one that works, but it’s filled with the same familiar genre tropes.
One reason why I choose to call attention to Steins;Gate in the opening, is so much of Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma’s first hour or so is about fleshing out the set up. This is important, as it needs to be somewhat realistic, but it makes these scenes feel perfunctory.
Obviously these people need to ask why they’re there and the mysterious Zero has to explain, at least the basic rules, since they act as the stories guiding force. People need to die, there is no escape and you get the point. The first act follows a similar story arc.
Each team needs to pick one of the other teams to die and any team with two votes is killed. Naturally, one of the nine people realize if everyone votes for a different team, they’ll all be safe and then they work on getting the information out there. From there, the other teams basically know what that team is going to do and it becomes a question of faith.
Since the original team has no reason to lie, because changing it establishes they’re not to be trusted, the other teams grapple with whether or not they should follow orders. Needless to say, the idea of swapping their vote to progress forward is always considered, just like following the plan to see is delaying things will work out, but this predictable story arc makes Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma hard to get into.
There isn’t much of a hook, unless you really enjoy these stories, ultimately resulting in the twists being more important. In some ways Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma delivers and in other ways it doesn’t. The question comes down to how invested you’re in the Zero Escape series. If you want to know more about the universe and find out some things, then it’ll likely be a good journey, where as casual fans might be underwhelmed.
Beyond that, the story is told through more of an interactive movie. Characters move, talk and interact, with occasional choices. Most lead to different paths, with other choices opening more paths. The ability to change directions and see everything is well done, so don’t worry about making multiple save points, writing them down or any of that.
In addition to the interactive scenes, there are also a number of puzzles. These are your standard cryptic puzzle with hints/clues hidden in obvious, but not too obvious, locations, making a solid experience. Since this is port of a popular game, anyone who doesn’t want to solve the puzzles or are bad with this sort of thing can easily find the solutions if need be. This can be helpful, as these can be easy to mess up, but also fun if you like overcoming something you just don’t get.
Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma might not be the best in the series, but it does offer a lot of closure. The familiar premise and situation might turn some people off or make the opening slow, but overtime the puzzles and twists will excite fans and newcomers alike. The new interactive movie approach also makes the scenes a lot easier to digest and the improved way to go about alternate paths make seeing the full story easier. In the end, if you’re a fan of the series or genre, you’ll likely enjoy Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma, where as casual fans or people expecting a new experience will likely be disappointed.
[Editor’s Note: Zero Escape: Zero Dilemma was reviewed on the PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]