Review: Virtue's Last Reward

Ahead of the arrival of Zero Time Dilemma, I thought I'd duck back in to Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward. Firstly as I was shocked I hadn't put up a review before and secondly, because I'm diving into all the little bits I'd missed first time that make it so much fun. If "fun" is the word you use for murder, chemical warfare and general bitchiness.

The game starts with two people locked in a cell, you are Sigma, a man gassed and kidnapped from his car and Phi, a feisty young lady. A couple of simple puzzles later and that soon becomes nine people locked in a massive facility, all dragged in to play the Nonary game. These poor unfortunates have to partner up based on the colour of the funky watches bolted to their wrists. These contain lethal drugs that will be injected if they don't follow the rules.
Throughout the entire game, no one questions this woman's attire!
Behind all this villainy is a character called Zero and his sidekick puppet AI Zero Jr, a slightly buzzed rabbit. He appears from time to time to keep the plot rolling like the worst kind of TV host. Given the largely static visuals, simple animations and effects, it is really the characters, the relationships between them and their choices that drive the game.

Each set of rooms offers a series of simple or fiendish puzzles, depending on the setting (easy or hard) and your general approach to puzzles. Getting out of each room sees you being fed the next bit of the story, sometimes you die horribly, or are left to rot. At that point you can jump back in time timeline and try a different branch in the story. Whatever you do, use the same save game to keep all your progress, guess what I did once!
Most twists come from the secondary part of the game, Ambidex votes, where you can decide to Ally or Betray the people you solved the last room with. This results in points being added or deducted to everyone's score, with the aim to get nine points to escape the facility. Generally, if you see someone else approaching nine points, then you need to thwart them, but the pleasure of the game is partially derived from finding out just who you can, and can't trust.

Each puzzle room or area requires the party to open up a safe, and there are several levels of access, One provides the key to exit the room and passes for the next level, plus bits of information while solving harder puzzles gives you secret files that reveal a bit more of the back story. Some puzzles require a little logic, others hunting down some clues, but most things you find have an obvious purpose.
The story rattles along, especially when you skip previous tracts of text, although I could with skipping the annoying map and door transition scenes too! Along the way, you'll find extra bodies, plot twists galore and new puzzles. The only problem is it all gets a touch depressing with the same deaths lived over and over again, And the final ending drags on pretty much forever, which is appropriate given the outcome.

Perhaps future tales will have more nuanced story telling where you can bend the plot more subtly, or access to alternate endings will be more spaced out so you're not running very similar variants of the story one after another. Either way, most endings are sad, tragic or heart breaking, so don't get your hopes up.

Score 9/10
More reviews
Price £24.99
Publisher Aksys (US) Rising Star Games (EU)
Progress: Platinum Trophy