999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

Nine people have been kidnapped and chosen to participate in “The Nonary Game”. They have been given 9 hours to escape through 9 numbered doors on a sinking ship. To enter these doors the characters must split up into groups, adding up the numbers on their bracelets so the digital root is 9. Once a door has been opened, if their entry inside is not confirmed within 81 seconds, or if the entirety of the selected group does not enter, the bracelets will trigger bombs within their stomachs.

This game is truly one of a kind and immediately became one of my favourite games while playing it. It makes fantastic use of the Nintendo DS’s hardware and even its physical design. Gameplay is a mixture of Flash room escape games, the investigation parts of Ace Attorney, and the puzzles from Professor Layton. However, the storyline is where the game really draws you in. It is extremely complex, definitely hinging on convoluted (in the best sense possible, the same way the Metal Gear Solid series is convoluted). Everything is explained little by little and does indeed make sense at the very end. Most of your time is spent reading the story and dialogue as the game is primarily a visual novel. The writing is extremely well done, including many laugh out loud moments.

It’s genuinely intimidating to choose between doors because you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to find behind them. There are 6 unique endings, each with different events to make you question who your allies really are. Each playthrough you gain slightly more information about the characters and storyline, both from choosing different doors and the characters gaining new lines of dialogue. The game allows you to skip text you’ve already read which makes it much less daunting to replay the multiple times needed for the true ending. It’s not until the true ending you learn why the Nonary game is taking place and your kidnapper’s identity, which will leave you continually guessing prior to the finale.

The puzzles are challenging but not excruciatingly difficult. I felt the final puzzle was far too easy, the easiest in the entire game. For a game so heavily based upon the number 9, it’s surprising that this type of puzzle didn’t come up sooner. However, if you aren’t already familiar with how to solve it then it might prove more of a challenge.

Music is used very effectively throughout, the eeriest always used during cliffhangers and shocking revelations. It definitely adds to the mood already created with the storyline.

There is a demo of the game on its website, which is slightly different to the final game but identical in the style of gameplay. If you plan to play 999, then do not look up anything about the game on Wikipedia or Youtube as there are many spoilers.

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