Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward Review

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward is a memorable and enthralling sci-fi/horror adventure that will have you glued to the small screen.

by

Adventure games are making something of a resurgence lately, thanks in part to the new input methods appearing on consoles and handhelds. Interest in adventure games has also been driven by a number of somewhat less traditional entries in the genre, such as the heavily text-and-image-driven visual-novel-style adventure games from Japan. In 2010, Aksys Games released Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors for the DS, a horror-themed adventure game mixing visual-novel-type storytelling scenes and character interaction with puzzle-laden rooms that you needed to escape. The warm reception of that game has now yielded a sequel in Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward--and it's just as enthralling as its predecessor.

Sadly, Dio can't magically produce puzzle solutions from his hat.

Virtue's Last Reward begins with the protagonist, a college student named Sigma, waking up in an elevator next to a strange woman who seems to know more about him than she's letting on. A strange rabbit creature appears on a monitor near them, telling them that they must figure out how to escape the car before it falls. Once they do, they find themselves in an abandoned warehouse with seven other abducted individuals. The creature appears again, telling them that they must all play the Ambidex game to escape their industrial prison. The Ambidex game involves puzzles, traps, and important decisions to either trust or betray your fellow players. The penalty for losing or failing to comply is death, or possibly an even worse fate.

The game is divided into two distinct sections. As Sigma, you team up with groups of your fellow captives and explore various rooms of this mysterious facility. These rooms are the escape portion of the game: you investigate a room for items, clues, and puzzles to solve, piecing things together until you are finally able to unlock a safe containing an item to allow you to exit.

The story- and dialogue-heavy portions of the game are the novel portions, which appear in between the escape sections and elaborate on the various mysteries the game presents. You also have the opportunity to make choices that influence the path the game's plot takes. The game's use of the term "novel" to refer to these sections is apt: there's a massive amount of text in Virtue's Last Reward, but because the writing is superb and the voice-over work for the supporting cast (available in both English and Japanese) is excellent, the hours upon hours of dialogue you page through are a pleasure to experience.

The sinister digital watches of Nine Hours are back!

The quality of storytelling is a key factor in an adventure game, and Virtue's Last Reward passes that test with flying colors. The game's plot immediately grabs you and rarely lets go, going from a creepy horror premise to interpersonal character drama to mind-blowing sci-fi concepts expertly. The promise of unraveling the many mysteries--Why are we here? Who are these other people? What purpose do the Ambidex game and the room puzzles serve? What is this facility?--keep you engaged, and the many new mysteries that appear throughout give you even more reasons to keep playing for hours on end as solutions dangle tantalizingly in front of you, just beyond the reach of the next puzzle.

You also make choices throughout the course of the game that determine the path the story takes during your playthrough, some of which can be truly agonizing. The Ambidex game challenges you to put your trust in the other in-game characters, which you can choose to either ally with for attempted mutual benefit or betray for increased personal gain. Each choice you make leads to a different branching story path with a different set of rooms and revelations. Unlike Nine Hours, where you had to constantly restart the game to see new paths, Virtue's Last Reward gives you a flowchart that lets you jump back to previous events and choices at any time. It's a great addition that allows you to go back to critical points without playing through the same puzzles over and over--and in order to solve the game's most pervasive mysteries, you need to take several different paths and see many possible endings. Thankfully, handy auto-text and skip functions exist to let you fast-forward through dialogue you may have already seen.

The quality and variety of puzzles in Virtue's Last Reward are strong points.

In fact, the whole interface of Virtue's Last Reward is an improvement. Notes you find containing hints to puzzle solutions are stored in a handy file, and a touch-screen memo function can be called upon at any time for you to write down and recall your own discoveries. The Vita's large, touch-sensitive screen makes reading dialogue, finding small details, and moving around a breeze, though the game may have trouble picking up on tinier objects and elements you're trying to tap on if you have large fingers. And if you find yourself truly stumped, you can now swap the puzzle difficulty from hard to easy, which affects the number and the content of hints that your partner characters drop.

There are a few minor quibbles with the game, however. Occasionally Sigma suffers from some unexplained personality shifts, going from dead serious to flirtatious and jokey at the drop of a hat. While the shifts don't affect the story greatly, they do get a little bit jarring. Although all of the supporting characters in the novel sequences are fully voiced, the dialogue in the escape portions is the all-too-familiar sound of text-printing blips and squeaks.

Finally, the way you obtain the bonus archive files that detail some of the game's backstory can be annoying. Each escape sequence has a safe that can be opened with two code combinations: one gives a key to leave, while the other gives a special file containing several archives. Oftentimes the latter is considerably more difficult to acquire, since it typically involves finding a very obtuse second solution to an existing puzzle. You may find yourself torn between leaving a room and proceeding with the story or trying to figure out how to get the extra files--if you leave and try to get the files later, you may be stuck doing the whole escape portion again. Further, you get only a portion of the available bonus files in each room if you play on easy mode, though thankfully, entering the same password to the safe upon revisiting the room on hard difficulty coughs up the missing materials with no effort required.

Mysteries abound...like how Alice's top stays attached.

Among the many games released each year, there aren't many that leave you contemplating and debating their story and worldviews long after the final set of credits has rolled. Virtue's Last Reward takes its place proudly among this crop of games. As fun and challenging as the brainteasers in the room escapes are, they're merely dressing for the fantastic writing, memorable characters, and stunning plot twists that could only be presented successfully in a game format. This is an adventure that fans of the genre--or those who appreciate quality storytelling in general--should not miss.

The Good
Riveting sci-fi/horror story
Memorable characters with excellent dialogue and voice acting
Clever brain-teasing puzzles
Much-improved interface over its predecessor
The Bad
No voice acting during escape sequences
Some puzzles are considerably more tedious than others
Obtaining the extra archive files can be a pain
8.5
Great
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Discussion

2 comments
darknath
darknath

Pretty interesting story - though horribly told..

Writing and dialogue is horrendous - and everything is dragged out WAY beyond what's necessary.

tgwolf
tgwolf

...Oh, okay, and case in point...THE M-RATING!! What a joke! 

tgwolf
tgwolf

 Lol!!!! As if 'virtue' could be found in mainstream games these days! Whatever, with the texting-addicted foul-mouthed reckless brain-washed Liberalism-deluded Generation-Y'er-rejects that get handed the development positions because they can impress the interviewer with their Justin Bieber impersonation (the interviewer is a she, and she's 12 years old) on these projects, THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS VIRTUE in games!! Get the facts straight!

lewispetty
lewispetty

oh get wait to get this but persona 4 the golden is coming out so my money is on persona

Pete5506
Pete5506

Been hearing nothing but great things about this game, really want to pick it up 

Grandotaku
Grandotaku

Can't wait...loved 999 so this should keep me happy for awhile.

crazypal
crazypal

I feel like I might like it but as I understand it is a sequel? do I really need to play the first one? am I missing much if I didn't?

kuninushi
kuninushi

Gamespot editors, where's the 3DS review???

soulless4now
soulless4now

Things are looking up for the Vita now. Can't wait to play this in the distant future. 

WolfGrey
WolfGrey

Jeezus gamespot could you at least put this on the front page or something, dont seem to give a flying shit for the Vita. Though...from here to march we are getting some killer titles. AC3 Liberation , P4 Golden, Souls , Warriors Lair. Can't wait.

Granpire
Granpire

Can anyone here convince me that this is any different from that awful demo?

 

The voice acting was squeaky and annoying, the female characters are all extremely sexualized, and the controls during escape sequences are unbearably oversensitive.

 

To top it all off, the game doesn't even hold up graphically.

 

The way I see it, it seems to make a better adventure book than video game.

Cruxis27
Cruxis27

Where the hell did this game come from?? *Rushes to PSN store*

QtrArt
QtrArt

maybe i will buy it, i love  horror story.

QOSMSTR
QOSMSTR

Sounds interesting. Might give it a try.

IceJester45
IceJester45

Wow. GameSpot sure does hate Japanese games. Oh, wait...

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

Why doesn't this review appear in the 3DS section?

alenth
alenth

Oh The VITA gets a good game, i'll defenitely check it out.

5529319
5529319

Between this and the MGS Collection (since I don't have PS3 and 360), I now probably have an excuse to get the Vita now. Not to mention Disgaea.

Strathmore
Strathmore

Really!?  8.5??  Wow, I'm shocked.  I felt the demo was such a joke.

doorselfin
doorselfin moderator staff

Picked this up on a reflex action since I loved 999 so much, awesome to hear it holds up. Cannot wait to really get into it.

zeifel
zeifel

I tried the demo, while I agree that graphics aren't everything, VLR's graphics can be rather underwhelming.. I think the textures can be upped a notch or two, considering Vita's capability. But then again, to be fair, perhaps game devs are still tinkering on how much graphics Vita can actually handle -- I've seen how New Little King's Story suffers from poor frame-rate drops. The rest of the game looks excellent though. I like the 'notes' feature the most.

Kaz32
Kaz32

This is game of the year material because of how unique it is. Hopefully it will turn out that way in other websites.

admotonic
admotonic

If only I could afford a vita or 3DS. Loved the first game!!!

NoirLamia777
NoirLamia777

Nice score, might pick this up sometime.  

Syphen_bast
Syphen_bast

 @tgwolf My poor mind went blank after reading your "words"     +__+

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

 @tgwolf What are you talking about? Meth must be a hell of a drug. 

Ka3DX
Ka3DX

 @Granpire It's the kind of game that really shows just how good a visual novel can be, and not only that, but show why the game should exist as a visual novel instead of a TV series, movie or novel. The demo doesn't do the story telling justice, as the beauty of the game is unravelling the mystery from playing all the different timelines.All it showed was how an escape sequences play out.

 

When playing the first game, 999 (which I am doing so now), the first ending I received only added so many questions as to what was happening, my second playthough, which they allow to be a lot shorter by skipping scenes you've already played, unveiled a lot of interesting questions and backstory, only leaving more and more questions. basically each playthrough showed how your different choices would alter the overall story telling, a choice wouldn't just change the overall ending, but how the rest of the game plays out leading up to that ending. Each playthrough will involve different interactions with different characters resulting in different plot elements and ending. There is no one ending that shows all. This game also seems to extend what the first game has done and added a lot more depth into all the routes and endings, and it's fair to say it's done a damn good job at that

blankempathy
blankempathy

 @Granpire Theres a japenese dub option if you prefer. The females while wearing skimpy clothes are never really exploited though. Theres no panty shots or suggestive posing etc and they also have personality aside from the typical bumbling airhead. The game takes itself seriously while being able to have fun and joke as well. The controls may take getting used to though but there are two methods of controls most of the time. Touch and buttons. Its a Visual novel game. Its text heavy and plot focused. If you don't like those type of games obviously this game isn't for you. Also yes this is still a video game. Although if anything I'd call it more of an experience then game. Also the demo doesn't really set the tone for the game. They should of gone with the first puzzle and dialogue scene.

CRAPCOM1926
CRAPCOM1926

 @5529319 MGS collection is lame. get it in PS3 dude u have 3 games and not 2, Also disgaea 4 >>Disgaea 3 vita. Is Not enough excuse men. Gravity rush is good but is just 1 game. whatever i guess is ur money, u can do what u want.

Cephrien
Cephrien

 @5529319

 Don't forget Gravity Rush, Dokuro and Ragnarok Odyssey

bakagami
bakagami

 @Strathmore yeah, I know.  I was looking forward to this till I played the demo.  It must be much better than the demo to get this kind of score.  Gravity Rush only got a 6.5 and that was awesome

abHS4L88
abHS4L88

 @zeifel 

This game was made for both the 3DS and Vita. I actually didn't eve know they were making it for the Vita so Vita owners should be happy since 999 was only on the DS.

Kravyn81
Kravyn81

 @Kevin-V  @tgwolf Actually cocaine is a hell of a drug. So sayeth the late, great Rick James =P

RBRTZZX
RBRTZZX

 @CRAPCOM1926  " whatever i guess is ur money, u can do what u want.

 

Obviously.

Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward More Info

First Release on Oct 23, 2012
  • 3DS
  • PlayStation Vita
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward has players taking on the Nonary Game again, as it's back and more deadly than ever.
8.8
Average User RatingOut of 218 User Ratings
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Developed by:
ChunSoft
Published by:
Aksys Games, Rising Star Games, ChunSoft
Genres:
Adventure
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
All Platforms
Blood, Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence