Reader Review: Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma (PS4)

Recently I got a review code for Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma on PS4.  I don’t really know much about the series, and it didn’t really interest me at all, so I thought I’d change things up a bit and have one of my younger brothers, Benjamin Woodham, review the game for me.  He even changed things up a bit more and wrote the Kid Factor first instead of last.  But sometimes it’s good to change things up a bit so we’re going to keep it that way this one time!  Anyway, be sure to click here and check out his review!  –Cary

Puzzles… Darkly

First off, let me get this right out of the way so no one is wondering…

Kid Factor – Mature 17+ (Preferably older than that if possible). Bloody, Gory, Violent Deaths are frequent and upsetting… and include women and children. F and S bombs are dropped causally. Sexual innuendos are rare but explicit in nature. I can think of at least three times in the game where they happened if not more. Motives of the characters range the gambit morally. Subjects of good and evil are explored and the entire fabric of morality itself is explored in depth. High emotions and murderous intent are frequent situations the characters encounter. Characters are forced to make extreme decisions ALL THE TIME. It is a very disturbing and upsetting game.

Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma is a very dark game that explores the darkest and bloodiest outcomes of human decision making that the creators could possibly think of.

This is a narrative driven game, much in the vein of Telltale’s signature puzzle solving style. However, this game offers something unique. The gimmick that I speak of is something called SHIFTing. And yes, it has to be in all caps. Every so often, the game will force you to make a decision. If you choose one way or another, there will be a split in the timeline, and you can go back to that decision and make the choice you did not make at first and explore that possibility almost immediately.

This gives the writers the creative license to explore the worst outcomes imaginable with no consequences. So as you can imagine, every character gets to die at least three or four times depending on who they are.

What I found the most disturbing about this game is that some of the characters are very kind in some timelines, while in other timelines, they become chainsaw wielding murderous psychopaths. The message seems to be that every character in the game is only one bad day away from a psychotic break.

Beyond the dark theme, there are puzzles, locked room puzzles to be specific, and they are some of the best puzzles I’ve ever solved. I am reminded of the puzzles I used to play during the glory days of Humongous Entertainment. The point and click nature of these puzzles reminded me of Pajama Sam, Spy Fox, Putt Putt, and Freddy Fishes adventures. This was by far my favorite part of the game and made me yearn for a more light-hearted game with puzzles that good.

Some of these puzzles are very difficult however. You need to explore EVERY possibility in order to beat the game and unlock every situation… and that can be a little unintuitive in some situations. Specifically, one of the first decisions you have to make will falsely mark every possibility as completed, but you need to go through and do it again even though it is marked as completed. I found this to be the biggest flaw in the game because that doesn’t seem like it was done on purpose.

I will say though, I only had to look up solutions to situations and never the locked room puzzles and it only happened a couple of times. If you can, do not use a strategy guide on this game. It is a lot more rewarding if you do not.

The story of the game is a lot to take in. The entire thrust of the game is about multiverse theory, so it can be a bit difficult to understand what is going on at some points. Sometimes in the story, you might get too far ahead and have no idea what is going on. This is a good thing though because it makes you explore other areas of the story more and pay attention to details you otherwise would not. In this way, the entire story is one giant puzzle you need to solve.

After completing the game, I find the overall experience to be very rewarding. I would give this game a 9/10 if you are mature enough to handle it. The reason it does not get a 10 from me is because I felt many of the deaths were unnecessarily violent, some of the choices weren’t really choices, and the issue I had an issue where one of the scenes would not unlock forced me to go online to find a solution. Give this game a try if you like puzzles, horror movies, and science fiction, and you’ll have a great time and you’ll get to experience one of the better narrative driven games ever created.  –Benjamin Woodham

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