Every October, I like to pick a horror game to work on throughout the month. 999 is a psychological mystery game released in North America in 2010 by Aksys Games for the Nintendo DS. It’s also considered an underground hit and is the first in the Zero Escape series. Now that I’ve put a good amount of time into it, what are my thoughts on this game?
Story: The story for 999 is interesting and keeps you guessing, which is good considering the gameplay revolves heavily around it. I’ll get more into that later. You play as Junpei, a college student who is abducted by a strange masked man called Zero. Junpei wakes up to realize that he is on an old boat along with eight other people, one of them being his childhood crush. Each of the abductees is fitted with a bracelet that displays a number and is used to enter doors throughout the boat. Junpei and the others must solve puzzles and navigate traps in order to obtain their freedom by seeking the door with the 9 on it. One of the things that makes the story so interesting is that there are multiple paths that you can take through the game. Each decision unlocks more dialogue options and gives you more opportunities to learn about your fellow prisoners. The story is solid and keeps you guessing through multiple playthroughs. The only way to get the complete picture is to play through the story two or three times. Who is Zero and what is his goal?
Gameplay: The gameplay is pretty simplistic and will be very familiar to anyone who has played an Ace Attorney game, or pretty much any point and click adventure game. This is known as a visual novel game. I could go into more detail but the best explanation I can think of is, imagine you’re playing a choose your own adventure book. Basically, the story unfolds and you make choices to progress the plot. The puzzles range from easy to slightly less easy. The only time you’ll really find difficulty is when you just need one more thing to make something work and you feel like you’ve clicked on everything in the room, and finally when you’re one second away from throwing your DS into a wall, you turn over the pillow that has the code you need conveniently placed under it. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience or anything. All that being said, I still had a lot of fun with this game solving each of the puzzles and gathering background information on the other characters. My biggest complaint is that they introduce a mechanic where you can turn objects to see the sides that you wouldn’t normally be able to view. Which is really cool, except for the fact that you use it twice in the entire game.
Overall: Even though 999 consist of simplistic puzzles and occasional cheesy moments of dialogue, I still had a great time playing from start to finish. The story was enthralling enough to keep me coming back and the characters each had enough personality for me to want to get to know them better. As I stated earlier, if you enjoyed the Ace Attorney games or Hotel Dusk Room 215, there is a lot in 999 to keep you entertained. However, if you’re looking for a more action packed experience, 999’s slow story driven pace may be enough to turn you away. I’m really looking forward to continuing the Zero Escape series and playing the sequel Virtue’s Last Reward. At the time of this review, you can grab 999 for $19.99 on Amazon and multiple other online retailers. I would encourage anyone with a Nintendo DS (or 3DS) and a love of story driven narratives to pick this game up and give it a try. It starts off a little slow, but I doubt you will be disappointed.