A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Zero Escape: The Nonary Games is a downloadable collection of two adventure/visual novels. It features upgraded and enhanced versions of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and its sequel, Virtue's Last Reward. There's a large amount of sexual innuendo in the game that usually objectifies women, and one character's revealing outfits shows off her shaking breasts. Profanity of all kinds are frequently used in dialogue as well, and there's plenty of references to pharmaceutical and illicit drugs. On top of this, there's lots of extreme violence: the two games revolve around torture, and players will frequently see scenes of self-mutilation, dead bodies, blood splattered rooms and more.
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What's it about?
ZERO ESCAPE: THE NONARY GAMES is actually a collection of two stories. In both, nine complete strangers -- that are actually surprisingly linked in ways that are impossible to predict at the outset -- awake after being kidnapped, finding themselves trapped in a location rigged with traps. They're forced by their masked kidnapper, who may be posing as one of the victims, to play a game of life and death to make their way to survival. In both games, the characters must decide how to split up, who should head into what room, and what actions to take. The plots in both games are created by exploring many branching paths, but the story you experience will be the one you created.
Is it any good?
This collection of mini-games will appeal to mature gamers looking for a challenge, but only if they can deal with some flawed game mechanics. Zero Escape: The Nonary Games is fantastic for people who want to play a game with tons of puzzles and have their perceptive abilities put to the test. One advantage is that both games are very long. Even if you're doggedly playing, expect a good month or two just to see your first ending in each. The staggering amount of ways where the stories can go down different forks in the road all depend on you, your choices, and what you paid attention to. Since these games are now a few years old, there are countless guides and walkthrough videos online, but cheating to know the solutions robs you of where the game's true strength lies: its variety of puzzles that rely heavily on your observational skills.
Obviously, not all puzzles will be satisfying or fair to all players. The games rely frequently on your ability to memorize each character's plotlines (you'll need to take notes), and also will introduce some mathematical concepts that you'll need mastery of moments later (digital roots, for example). Also, the game's pacing will be fairly polarizing. Play is split into "puzzle" sections and "novel" sections, and were the writing a touch better, the novel sections would be more enjoyable. Both games are frequently overwritten, and also try very hard to seem adult -- too much profanity, too much repetition about drama, and too much casual, juvenile discussion of sex. But both games also have a lot of personality, and they both have genuinely fun and engaging puzzles. Your patience, tolerance, and willingness to endure its shortcomings will obviously vary, but if you're open to a game that will take a long time to learn, a long time to beat, and a long time to see everything, it's worth checking out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in games. Could the stories in these two games be told without resorting to extreme or shocking content? Would it change the stories in significant ways?
Talk about trust. What are the sorts of choices, information, and decisions you would rely on total strangers to help you with? What are the boundaries where you draw the line on their help?
What do you notice about videogame narratives involving choice? How is this series different, and why do you think it's different?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Windows
- Price: $44.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Aksys Games
- Release date: March 24, 2017
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Adventures, Friendship, High School, History
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Drug References, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
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