Zero Time Dilemma
Developer: Chime
Publisher: Spike Chunsoft, Aksys Games
Platform: PS4
Release Date: August 18, 2017

If you’d watched the trailer for Zero Time Dilemma, like I did before volunteering for this review, you could be forgiven for expecting something a bit different. While the trailer sells you on a balls-to-the-wall insane, survival-horror tinged, maddening, puzzle-solving, tour de force, the final product is something quite a bit different.

So, what the hell is this game, you ask? Well, Zero Time Dilemma can be a bit tough to sum up in just a couple of sentences, but let’s give it a shot shall we?

You’re gonna be looking a lot like Carlos here by the time this game is through.

So there are 9 people trapped in a desert base somewhere, and a guy named Zero wants them to play something called “The Decision Game”. It involves, you guessed it, making decisions! So this one element of ZTD, which comprises about 60-70% of the game, consists basically of watching cut scenes and making decisions every 5-20 minutes.

Unfortunately, these sections can be very, very tedious. Whereas the Telltale version of a game like this would have you constantly engaging in the conversation at least, you will honestly go up to 20 minutes, from time to time, without making a single input on your controller.

In fact, these elements got so irritating for me after a while that I began playing the game on silent, with subtitles, and just clicking past the dialogue once I’d read it. Making matters worse, even the skip element is kind of broken, as a single button press often led to 3 or 4 lines of dialogue being skipped, instead of the single one I was trying to skip.

You know those times in life when someone is explaining something to you in-depth, and you politely listen, all the while hoping desperately that they’ll get to the bloody point sometime soon? Well, get ready to feel that way a lot playing Zero Time Dilemma.

This might seem like splitting hairs to some folks, but it was the only way I could find the patience to finish a game that literally asks me to just stare at the screen while poorly-voiced (at least in the English dub) characters pontificate about increasingly vapid nonsense, and you’d better believe there’s a pile of nonsense in this game.

The fact that Zero Time Dilemma ditched the Zero Escape label (this is the 3rd game in a series) in most of its marketing led me to believe that a layman, like yours truly, could pick it up and play it without feeling completely lost but alas, this is certainly not the case. By the time characters start unfolding their entire back-stories at you, you’ll be so lost in psychic powers, time travel and the ability to shift consciousnesses with alternate reality versions of yourself, that you’ll have zero interest left in the new pile of information being shifted your way.

Hold on to your hats though folks because, while I have largely been negative above, you might recall that there’s still the other 30-40% of the game to consider. So what else is going on in this game? Well, the remainder of ZTD tasks different groups of characters with the challenge of figuring out how to escape from a locked room.

The escape sections are a breath of fresh air when they come along, but they can be very sporadic in showing up between acres of melodramatic exposition.

Luckily, these sections are far more compelling than the basic story elements. Though the puzzles you’re forced to solve to get out of the rooms can be a bit obtuse at times (figuring out to use iodine on potato slices to get a secret message is one example) they allow the player so much more freedom to finally do something that they’re a huge breath of fresh air when they come about.

Alas, though, since the game plays out almost completely random, in a totally disconnected series of 4 separate time lines (that themselves don’t even play out in order), you might play an hour or so straight of cut scenes before you find yourself doing some puzzle solving.

Overall, glaring flaws like this in the design philosophy of Zero Time Dilemma make its poorly-paced plot even harder to swallow, and by the time those credits roll for the 6th or 7th ending, you’ll be praying that it’s for the last time.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he’s still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there’s hope for him, there’s hope for everyone. He’s the managing Games editor for Goomba Stomp, and the creator of the weekly Buffyversed column.

Leave a comment below.

Latest Posts

AMC has released the official key art for the highly anticipated eighth season of The Walking Dead, which returns Sunday, October 22 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT, with its 100th episode. The art features Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group...
light fall

‘Light Fall’ Coming to Nintendo Switch

Light fall has been announced for the Nintendo Switch, having previously been announced for Windows, Mac, PlayStation, and Xbox.
Final Fantasy IX

‘Final Fantasy IX’ is an Often Overlooked Classic

It seems like Final Fantasy IX was destined to be overlooked right from the outset. The game was released for the original PlayStation after the PlayStation 2 was out and selling like warm buns, and the high fantasy setting was in stark contrast to the popular cyber-punk and more realistic settings of FFVII and VIII (two of the best selling entries in the whole series).
mother-movie-e1505747401410

Sordid Cinema Podcast #531: Darren Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’

This week on the Sordid Cinema podcast we discuss Darren Aronofsky’s mother!, a thought-provoking, albeit disturbing vision that may be too unwieldy for mainstream tastes.

Game Boys, Ep. 76: Ghaul, Guardians, and Ghosts Galore!

Eyes up, Guardians, Destiny 2 is here.  Well, this is a podcast, so ears up?  Anyway, here's the Game Boys initial review of one of the biggest sequels of the year.  Listen in as they cover everything from campaign to Crucible, inventory to endgame, and, of course, the raid.  So, join us, it is your destiny!

Top 10 Games with Writer, Brent Middleton

Get to know our writers on a more personal level with their Top 10 Games lists. This time, writer Brent Middleton gushes about his faves.

‘mother!’ Doesn’t Love You; Can You Love It?

Wearing its passionate, bloody heart on its sleeve, mother! is the gift of all gifts for those who love movies: a fountain of cinematic and philosophical conversation wrapped up in skillfully bold genre filmmaking.
etrian-odyssey-v

Demo Dive – ‘Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth’

WIth less than a month till release, let's take a look at the Etrian Odyssey V: Beyond the Myth demo currently available on the 3DS E-Shop.
DOOM

‘Doom’, ‘Wolfenstein ll’, and What This Means for the Switch

What does Doom and Wolfenstein II mean for third-party support for the Nintendo Switch?
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Zero Time Dilemma
3.8
  • I’m pretty sure Gab is the best character right?

    • Mike Worby

      Hahah you’re bang on there man.

      • This was on my list of games to buy based on the visuals. After reading your review, I checked our some Let’s Play videos and now I’ve decided to skip it.

        • Mike Worby

          Tell ya what man, I was right on board to enjoy this game based on what I’d seen and the review scores I’d come across but Jesus H, it’s god damn impossible for me to play a game like this and be happy with it.

  • John Cal McCormick

    When I present my testimony at your inevitable trial for crimes against humanity, I’m going to point to this review as Exhibit A.