REVIEW: Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma

Monday, June 27th, 2016

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Author’s Note: I promise not to spoil anything in this game!

Zero Time Dilemma | Vita Box
Title Zero Time Dilemma
Developer Spike Chunsoft
Publisher Aksys
Release Date June 28, 2016
Genre Despair Simulator
Platform Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, PC
Age Rating M
Official Website

Ladies and gentlemen…here we are! We are finally at the point where we can play the third chapter in the Zero Escape series, Zero Time Dilemma. This long awaited installment nearly did not happen. Unfortunately in Japan, this series is not nearly as popular as it is in the West and as a result some of the people at Spike Chunsoft were a bit reluctant to green-light and work on this project. Thankfully, it is now upon us and can spread like Radical-6. I’m sure some will say you don’t need to play the previous two entries to get into this one, but I am saying otherwise. Playing the previous two is ESSENTIAL in order to properly understand what is going on in this game or even the game’s mechanics. It also does not help that many characters from previous games are returning in this one. Heck, even if you have played the previous two, it is wise to re-familiarize yourself with some of the story before tackling this entry. With that out the way, let’s get into what our main characters are up against.

Zero Time Dilemma | Robot

So like the previous two entries, there are 9 participants who are held captive inside of a deserted facility against their will. Zero II emerges and informs them of the rules. Each participant in this game has a watch attached to their arm that will inject them with a chemical that will put them to sleep when the game begins. They will then be split up into three groups of three and end up in different parts of the facility, only to be tasked to figure out various puzzles and make several difficult decisions. How can they all escape, you ask? Well, there is an elevator that can lead to the surface. Only problem is, they need to enter six passwords in order to enter the elevator and escape. To make matters worse, a password is only “Awarded” to the participants when one of them dies, meaning six of the nine participants must be killed.

Zero Time Dilemma | Catgirls

Found the catgirl!

The game is played from the perspective of each team’s assigned leader. Carlos is the leader of C team, Q is the leader of Q team and Diana is the leader of D team. When you select the team you want to play as, you are then given several fragment memories. Select a fragment memory and you are shown a small flowchart of events. From there you can actually begin a scenario. Each fragment is a different scenario that is part of an even bigger series of timelines. Once you finish a scenario, you are brought back to the team select menu and you can select another one. Unlike the previous two entries where the story progresses in a relatively linear fashion as you go through the various timelines, the scenarios you play will likely be out of order. Some will lead to an ending, some will be a cliffhanger, and some will lead to a rather gruesome scene resulting in a Game Over. If this sounds convoluted, that’s because it is. However, Zero Escape is one of the rare series where something convoluted can actually make sense. Those of you familiar with the previous two entries know that having various scenarios and timelines is actually part of the story and you learn a little bit more by getting the bad endings or Game Overs. Eventually it just starts to make sense.

Zero Time Dilemma | Teams


In some scenarios you will have “Seek a way out” sections where you need to look around the room, gather clues and solve puzzles. These segments play kind of like a point and click adventure game and there is plenty of amusing dialogue to go around as you examine things and see your characters react to the various objects across the room. Some of the puzzles can be fairly demanding but really satisfying when you reach that “AHA” moment when you finally figure it all out. The music in these parts is very moody and atmospheric and really gets your brain thinking. At times you and your team will have to make a decision. These decisions are very difficult to make as they often will determine whether or not a particular character will die. In some cases, the game will throw a curve-ball and make the decisions timed, or even have a randomized outcome! While I really enjoyed these parts and they definitely delivered plenty of “UH OH” moments, they are hurt by the game’s structure. Because the game is scenario driven, that allows for it to be great for short bursts, which sounds like a good thing. However, that also means that you will care less about the outcome. In previous games, you made decisions and you had to live with that decision until the very end of that flowchart branch. Here the fragment memory usually ends soon after these decisions, so what ends up happening is you just pick a choice, see the outcome then simply select it and see the other outcome. Of course you will see some overlap with the other scenarios, especially if they happen to be part of the same timeline, but from a different perspective. The guilt of picking a bad decision is not nearly as strong as it could have been.

Zero Time Dilemma | Akane Chainsaw

This won’t end well….

Zero Time Dilemma does not feature the typical Visual Novel-style cut scenes the previous two games had. Instead all of the dialogue scenes are cinematic cut scenes. Unfortunately here lies one of the technical flaws with the game: the graphics and animation. The art style, while good, uses a shading style similar to Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus, however the polygons at times don’t feel like they were made for the Vita. It looks like they were just ported over and some of the animations appear a bit stiff at times. I got used to it the more I played, but it can be a bit jarring at first. The Steam version, on the other hand, looks much better and seems to run better. Also the character’s designs and outfits seem to overall be a lot less flashy than before. It is interesting to see how each of the returning character’s attitudes has changed in this game as a result of events described in the previous entries. Junpei in particular tends to be rather cynical at times and I can’t say I blame the guy, considering what he has been through.

Zero Time Dilemma | Junpei

I can’t handle Junpei’s edge!

When it comes to the audio, I’m sure many of you will be pleased to know that Zero Time Dilemma features both the English and Japanese dub. The voices do a decent job of adding to the unsettling atmosphere this game delivers during some of the more dramatic moments in the story, which there are plenty of. Unfortunately, the lip syncing can also be very off in some scenes to the point of feeling delayed. In any case, you can just sit back and enjoy the show!

Zero Time Dilemma | Zero II Talk

Zero Time Dilemma can take you anywhere from 15 minutes to a bit over an hour per scenario. Yes I said 15 minutes, you will see why I say that when you play! Of course, getting more endings mean more of the story gets revealed. And in this series, the lore is so interesting that you would want to continue playing and seeing what would happen. Also do not be afraid to experiment in some of the dialogue and decision segments. There is some great hidden dialogue in some of the areas! Despite some of its flaws, for $40 Zero Time Dilemma is a hell of a ride. The game is rated M for a reason. Its gory, messed up, unsettling and disturbing, but I like it!

Review Score

Review copy provided by publisher.

About Justin Guillou

Justin joined Operation Rainfall to share his passion and knowledge for some of the more obscure video games out there.