Title: Zero Escape 3: Zero Time Dilemma
Developer: Spike Chunsoft, Aksys Games (Publisher)
Platform: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita
Game Type: 3DS, Vita
Download: 1.0 GB
Block Size: 9,558
NA Availability: Digital Download | Retail
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes
Life is just unfair, don’t you think? These words bring forth a notion that many things in life aren’t fair to you, but it also brings forth a powerful theme for today’s review. There are lots of things that are simply unfair, and a lot of things in the game I’m about to review are completely unfair. Unfair to the characters in the plot. Unfair to the person playing the game. And, of course, unfair to handheld gamers that are locked in the question of whether to buy the 3DS or PS Vita version of the game.
What I bring to you today is a shed of light to this fairness. It would simply be unfair of me to give you coverage for only one version of a much-anticipated game like this, after all. To bring a little unfairness to a hard, unfair world for gamers, here is my very first cross-platform review, for the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita versions of Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma!
Zero Time Dilemma takes place between the events of 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward, the first two games of the Zero Escape series. 9 people are working on an experiment at a Mars Facility called Dcom when they suddenly find themselves awakening within prison cells. Their captor is a tall man who calls himself “Zero” and plunges them into a Decision Game, where they seemingly cannot survive unless 6 of them die.
There are two things I can say about the plot of the game. First, the plot is just as a Zero Escape fan would expect. It is filled with a lot of emotion and tension as the group goes through this “game” they’re forced into. Many of the endings toy with your heart-strings. A few were so twisted that I’m going to have nightmares about them for several nights now. Everything is done in the vein of the series and Zero Escape fans should be quite happy with it.
Second, they built the story around being able to be a continuation for Zero Escape fans but also a standalone game for newcomers. There are a slot of areas where the previous games are explained to you, so you don’t necessarily have to have played 999 and Virtue’s Last Reward to understand the story of Zero Time Dilemma.
Zero Time Dilemma is what you’d consider an adventure and puzzle game. The game progresses with story as a major focus, pushing you through the plot, but also has a large focus on puzzle-solving, as the series is best known for. It’s kind of an Adventure and Puzzle game all in one.
The plot progresses in story paths. You are separated into three different groups of people, and there are several different story branches and paths you will take in your attempt to escape. The way this works is similar to how previous games did it. You have different paths that represent different timelines. One path is canon, while many of the others are “what if” situations with different outcomes to the events of the plot. Doing all of these is key to gaining information for others and to eventually succeed in getting the True Ending paths.
The main way you dictate path changes is a new choice system built into the game as “The Decision Game”. You will often be presented with choices with very little time to choose. Each choice will lead you down a different path, be it opening new story paths or showing you a brutal death that gives you a Game Over, which normally requires you to go back and choose a different option. The more of these paths you finish, the more paths unlock, and the closer you get to the end.
The second primary progression element is the return of Escape Rooms, an element brought back from the previous two games. These have your group trapped inside a room, requiring you to search around to find items and interact-able objects to solve puzzles and eventually unlock the door needed to leave the room. These are all in first-person and are somewhat similar to the first-person manner of the investigation elements from the Danganronpa series.
The main idea is that you find items that you use in combination with other items to solve puzzles. A puzzle could be as simple as using a screwdriver to remove a panel to restart power in a room, or could be an actual mind-bending puzzle like figuring out an algorithm for a foreign language. There will be a lot of balancing between the two.
This raises the difficulty of the game. Zero Time Dilemma is not a cakewalk. A lot of the puzzles will be mind-bending and you’ll need to reference a lot of notes you find to be able to do each puzzle correctly. Once you get into the flow, it won’t be that hard to do. Some of the puzzles are very tricky in their own right, but the game gives you everything you need to solve them without an abnormal amount of trouble. In many cases if you fail too many times, one of your characters will give you a hint on how to solve it or reference a note or part of the room that contains a clue.
The one thing I like about this method of progression is that there is a clear path shown to you for what is the true ending, but you’re required to go through all of the other paths with the brutal endings in order to find the information you need for the True End path. Despite the True path unlocking early in the game, you can’t actually finish that path until everything else is done. The game’s way of keeping you from missing the more emotionally-stressful parts that the weak of heart don’t want to see.
As far as time is concerned, it was once claimed that Zero Time Dilemma takes roughly 24 hours to complete and I can get behind that. It took me around 22 hours to get to the True End and effectively have everything done.
Controlling the game isn’t all that different between the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita. First thing to note is that both use touch controls and in some areas can only use touch controls. This is primarily for moving the camera and doing puzzles in the Escape Rooms. Some puzzles have button controls. Some do not. It’s also worth noting that the Vita version’s PSTV Compatibility will activate next week on release day, so I’ll have more to add regarding that when my video review happens then.
On the 3DS, you use the Circle Pad to be able to move your cursor around the Escape Rooms to look around and select various objects. You can also use the touch screen for this, which I highly recommend you doing if you’re playing the Vita version. Even on the higher sensitivity levels, the cursor movement with the buttons feel really stiff and laggy, which is surprisingly smooth when you play on the 3DS, possibly due to the smaller screen size, as the interactions are done with the touch screen on the 3DS.
The rest of the 3DS controls are similar to the Vita. You use the L and R buttons to rotate the camera or swap sections in the menu and the D-Pad can change menus to show different information, like the log for dialogue or your files for hints. Then with the face buttons, the A button selects objects and B cancels out of menus while X brings up your item menu while in an Escape Room and Y brings up the larger menu with all different options, from files and logs to saving and settings.
The PlayStation Vita version is almost exactly the same as the 3DS as far as controls go. The only difference is that on the PS Vita, you have X and Circle buttons be a little flipped. X selects objects and Circle cancels them, being in completely opposite locations on the Vita versus how the A and B buttons are displayed on the 3DS.
Here is where we really get extensive with this cross-platform stuff. Visually, the games look the same bit different. The PS Vita version has much more detailed and crisper visuals in the 3D Cel-Shading scenes. When you look on the 3DS, there are a lot more jagged edges on the models, there’s less detail on the models, and the color shades look very washed out compared to the same models on the Vita.
Then we have the volume issue on the 3DS. When you play the game on the Vita, there is an obvious difference in how Zero’s voice is compared to everything else. It’s not as loud and sometimes you need to tweak the voice volume to hear him correctly. Along with this, the voice is strangely low in the 3DS version compared to the Vita version. Even with the voice volume all the way up and the system volume cranked all the way up, I had a hard time hearing what he was saying even when I was in a silent room.
Finally, we have performance. The Load Times are the first things I’ll talk about. Loading sequences for the game aren’t bad. The Vita version maybe has you waiting 5-6 seconds for a screen to load while the 3DS will have you waiting 2-3 seconds. The 3DS does have faster load times, but neither is really worth getting down about. You’re not going to be waiting long no matter which version you’re playing.
As far as frame drops are concerned, these are more noticeable on the PS Vita. There are many times where you will see the frames slow down in scenes, in the same way they do when you use physical buttons to move the cursor in escape rooms.
That’s about it for performance. Really, on this, a handheld gamer would basically decide between a couple factors. The 3DS has degraded visuals and volume, but better performance with frame rate and load times. Vita has crisper visuals but slightly weaker performance. That’s what you’d need to be considering when you purchase.