Review by fenrir1985
"Plot! You are drunk, go home."
Virtue's last reward is the part of the Zero Escape series (not a typo) and is the sequel to Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. The series as a whole revolve around nine person being abducted and force to play The Nonary game. In it, the protagonist must resolve puzzle while figuring out how escape and play along with total strangers. The penalty for not following the rules are death. This one is no exception. The gameplay is broken into two part, the story (Novel) and the puzzle (Escape).
You play as Sigma, a man abducted on Christmas eve to participate in this game. You awoke from your kidnapping next to the second lead character, a enigmatic girl name Phi. After an Escape portion, you also meet up with the general anime cast: The kid, The old man, The weirdly dress evil man, The underage lolita character with barely some clothes on, A man in a robot suit, The incredibly shy women, The women with enormous (Stay classy, Japan). Each characters have a bracelet with four syringes fill with a lethal dose of a drug to penalize them if needed. The participant are separated by colour and assignment. Players with Pair on their bracelet need to stick with together with their assign partner while Solos are free to choose their with who they go. The colour determine not only who's a pair partner is, but also who they can join as each door need a specific colour to open. To win, you need to get nine points which are gain in a prisoner dilemma type game, where you choose to either betray or ally with who you escape with. Judging by what the characters choose, point goes up or down. When they go into the negative, that character get penalized.
The gameplay is standard fare. You use the stylus (3ds) or the touch screen (Vita) to move around the room and interact with the environment. The touch screen on the vita is a bit finicky to work with but is serviceable. The stylus is more precise but the screens are small and is easy to miss your mark. The puzzle are pretty challenging without being overly frustrating. The game also have a easy mode for each puzzle which give you more hints to solve a room. This is easily the best part of this game. There's also files that you can acquire by playing a cleverly hidden puzzle. They are a blast to play through. Each of them can be review at any time in the file menu. You also get a Note menu which you can use to draw or keep vital information. The note section is also transparent which allow you to view your hints or files as you write them. Unfortunately once you completely solved a room, there's no incentive to go back. You can also use the Flow mechanic to return to any part of the story, altering your vote or room you go to. Some of those thread are usually lock and end on a cliffhanger. To unlock the rest of the story, you need to reach another point in another timeline.
The graphic are decent. The character model during conversation look really good. During close up, they often look blocky. Every character have four or five pose that they take depending on their emotion. It's a bit jarring at time when they do not match the tone of the story. It's pretty apparent that the Vita version is just a port of the 3DS when the Vita have way better graphic capability then what shown here. The voice acting is hit and miss. Some character have decent actor playing their part while other seem to phone it in. It doesn't detract at all from the game. For the anime fan, there's also the option to play the game with the original Japanese voice cast.
The game most glaring flaw is the story. Every plots twist in the game is pretty much telegraph in advance and there's little surprise to be had. The character have little to no development and have mostly the stereotypical personality base on their appearance. Some of the character are returning from Nine hours which the game seem to beg you to buy while the story is pretty self-contained. Each character have a different ending that is only unlock after you use the Flow mechanic. The problem is that you need to progress every thread at the same time, otherwise you will not unlock the next part of the story in any of the following thread. It make it easy to forgot what thread does what and where you were at if you leave the game for a while. It's explain why during a story portion but it's extremely frustrating to be stuck in a cliffhanger only to have to do all the other path to get the resolution. The ending is the worst I have experienced. You don't get closure, and any plot thread that seem interesting are cast aside. The story also negate itself at the end. Mass Effect 3 original ending was better written.
When the story make 80% of the game, you need to have a decent story and intriguing characters. This game fail to engage me in any ways. The ending wasn't worth the effort of sitting through the story. The puzzle are fun and sometime challenging but with only nine room and no puzzle variation, there isn't any replayability to be found here. I do not recommend this to anyone. Not when there's game like Brain Age, Professor Layton and Phoenix Wright on the DS who excel where Virtue failed.
Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 01/08/13
Game Release: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward (US, 10/23/12)
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