Nukezilla Review: 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (DS)
Imagine for a moment that Saw took place on the Titanic, involved anime stereotypes, and had a dash of Cube thrown in for good measure: the end result would likely be Aksys’s 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors.
999 is best described as a visual novel, in the vein of Phoenix Wright or a “choose your own adventure” book, combined with room escape puzzles. It follows young college student Junpei and eight others, trapped on the Titanic (sorry, the “Gigantic”), forced to play the mysterious Zero’s “Nonary Game” and must work together to find the ship’s exit, while solving puzzles in order to unlock the many doors contained within.
999 boasts a surprisingly involved thriller story (which often provides the horror the semi-gruesome graphics cannot), puzzles which use actual logic, and multiple endings which serve to inform subsequent playthroughs to aid the player in search of the “true”, good ending.
Perhaps the stand-out point of 999 is that it actually succeeds where games like Heavy Rain fail: the story branches off at several points, and the choices the player makes greatly affects how the rest of the game plays out. However, unlike Heavy Rain, these choices not only dictate who lives and who dies, but also who does the actual killing, as opposed to Heavy Rain, whose killer was always the same.
999 is not without its share of problems: The mechanics of many of the game’s puzzles are explained (often several times) even before the player can attempt to solve them (thus removing a decent portion of the challenge), the game limits the player to one save file despite multiple endings (forcing entire replays instead of just sections), and the localization leaves something to be desired. Perhaps the greatest is the lack of urgency: despite the fact that the cast has a finite amount of time to escape the ship, and several puzzles are “timed” (i.e. rooms filling up with water), at no point can the player actually fail prior to the endings (a difference in which Heavy Rain has the advantage).
999 is a niche title that won’t appeal to everyone: those who dislike mountains of text between brief periods of interactivity should stay away; however, fans of thrillers, puzzles, and the escape the room genre should absolutely give 999 a try.
This review is Day 9 of the December Review Nukestravaganza.