I liked it. A shorthand version is, what if Professor Layton were much, much darker? The basic premise of both games is this: Nine people are locked up someplace, and need to solve puzzles to escape… and survive. There are sudoku puzzles, math problems, logic puzzles, finding certain items and putting them together, the list goes on. I guess in a way, it’s also like Ace Attorney in that you have to search around in order to obtain items in order to solve the puzzles.
Since I liked Virtue’s Last Reward so much, I went backward and decided to play 999. (Zero Escape 3 is in development, and is due to be released next summer.)
They’re both great games, though to me, it’s obvious that Virtue’s Last Reward has some improvements that I definitely missed in 999.
For example, in both games, you need to run though the events of the game multiple times, in order to try multiple paths. Think of “Choose Your Own Adventure;” if you get to a page that says you’ve died, you start the book over and make different choices. This is basically what you have to do in order to get all the possible endings in Zero Escape games. Now, since you’re going back through stuff you’ve already done, there is a lot of repetition. In 999, there’s really no skipping. You can speed up the story dialogue somewhat if you’ve been through it before, but you have to go through almost all of the steps in order to complete the puzzles needed to escape the rooms. In VLR, you have to obtain keys in order to escape the rooms, and those keys are contained in safes. If you know the code to the safe from the first time around, you can bypass the data/item collecting phases, and just enter the code in order to get the keys and unlock the doors. They also sped up the dialogue skipping, which is great, because VLR has more endings than 999.
VLR is also available on PS Vita, which probably means improved graphics. (I played the 3DS version.)
I can’t really go too much more into the game without spoiling it for those who might be interested in playing it, so I’ll just say two more things:
1. You might not want to play this right before sleeping, or with young children. We’re talking about extremely gory content. There are unavoidable, and extremely bloody, deaths.
2. If you wish you could do an escape-the-room type experience without the risk of death, you’re in luck! Many cities actually have Escape the Room games, in which you and your friends have a certain time limit to solve the puzzles of the room. The Escape Room Directory has a list of worldwide locations.