Imagine waking up in a locked room that is filling up with water, having no recollection of how you got there. You now have to find your way out before it’s too late, and you have this mysterious bracelet with a number on it attached to your wrist! Upon escaping the room, you find there are other people – eight others in fact, in the same circumstances. You soon discover that you all have been abducted by some sinister psychopath known as Zero, forced to play for your life in a SAW-like game. You are cursed to live on a Titanic-like ship. You are given doors to pass through – nine in fact. Pass through the doors in the right sequence and no one gets killed. Pass through the wrong ones, and someone’s life gets cut short. Attempt to reach the ninth door to escape, and you have only nine hours to accomplish this as a team. Don’t make it in time? The ship sinks. It’s the game 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors’ disturbing plot and one I played last March on the Nintendo DS.
The game is heavily character-driven. You play as Junpei, a 20-something student. Junpei’s childhood friend, June was also abducted, as well as a cast with various histories, such as the exotic dancer, Lotus, or Clover and her blind brother, Snake. All must cooperate and work as a team to get through this game. As Junpei, you are tasked with trying to get everyone to get along. As the game progresses, you learn more about the characters, their past, and their personality. You also learn more about this mysterious Zero character who locked up the nine people, and why.
999 is a visual novel with elements of an adventure, hidden object and puzzle game. The game itself enraptures and frightens you, because it relies heavily on the decisions you make. The puzzles are not easy, and heavily incorporate math to solve them, which no doubt, can cause some anxiety when characters are relying on YOU to keep them alive, and you have suffered a math disability since you were a kid, like me. To that end, the game does have a math type application you can use to help you along the way.
There are several possible endings to the game, which are dependent on how you solve puzzles, what doors you have chosen, and what fates you have directed the characters should have. The ultimate ending is to find safety, but with many possible endings to this game, the odds are that you will be surprised with the ending you get. And, you are able to accomplish other endings, but only if you re-play the entire game again. Lucky for you, if you remember the outcome of puzzles and what doors you passed through the first time, you can get through the game fairly quickly, that is if you have the desire and patience for it.
That is what I hated the most about this game: the endings! The endings made me grumpy! I was surprised and – dare I say – frustrated and disappointed in how this game ended for me. Having to replay this game again seemed so unfair; like not only were the characters in this game being punished, but the gamer playing the game were being punished also. I replayed the game twice, hoping for the “right” ending, but I still didn’t get it. Sadly, I resorted to YouTube videos to see what the true ending was supposed to be just so I could move on [hangs head in shame]…My suggestion: keep a notepad handy, and write your results and choices down the first time. You’ll thank me later.
Regardless of my feelings about the multiple endings, 999 has an engrossing plot and challenging puzzles, and I recommend it.
P.S. 999 has a sequel – Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – that I plan to play soon.