by Ryan D Lowe
reviewed on NDS
More Than Just Point and Click
I’m a huge fan of adventure games that skillfully utilize item mechanics. The type of game where the game asks you to combine a pipe and paper clip to create a new path is, to me, just what the doctor ordered when I need a good brainteaser. I went into Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors knowing those type of mechanics would be required, but I had no idea how in-depth the game truly would be.
You are placed front and center as the main protagonist Junpei. You awake to find yourself locked in a small room that holds the key to your survival, but is unfortunately counting down to your demise. You’re tasked with using various clues, items, and puzzles to progress through each area and unlock further mysteries of the story. This style of gameplay is typical adventure fare to be sure, but the twist here is the cohesive way all of these amazing rooms, characters, and plot devices link the entire game into one giant puzzle itself.
It is difficult to explain the biggest draw of this title without spoiling the masterful story mechanics. The localization that went into this game is truly astounding. I haven’t seen work this great short of Nintendo’s Zelda, and Mario and Luigi franchises. The suspense and drama are crafted with utmost precision which gives the whole game a squeaky clean polish. You can tell that even the smallest detail of Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors was pored over to create such an airtight story that even the smallest plot thread isn’t left dangling.
999 Different Ways to Play! (not really)
You use the stylus to pin point important areas and objects, to solve puzzles via clever touch screen uses, or to combine items in your inventory. You are given a filing system and an in-game map that keeps everything you find a little more organized. In all honesty the map is useless, as you’re never given complete freedom to explore the ship. That’s not to say you don’t venture all over the ship throughout the game though.
Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors does indeed break the mold completely in terms of replay value. Once you run through the initial fifteen hours of gameplay you will find yourself facing various choices. These aren’t just moral decisions; they will actually change the course of the game’s outcome. To see the best ending you will have to run through the game twice, but I would say that even the most hardcore gamer won’t see the best ending until a few run-throughs. While each new run tasks you with repeating most of the same puzzles and rooms, the story segments can be skipped with a helpful fast forward system. This allows you to skip over sequences you will undoubtedly see three of four times. Each successful or unsuccessful run of the game will save over to your new game and allows for new options and paths that will finally lead you to the ultimate truth of this tale.
There is hardly any music throughout the game, but what is there is suspenseful and very well done. The sound effects though are fantastic. The game really plays out like an animated graphic novel. It’s gripping and really sells every moment that much more.
Stop Holding My Hand
With everything Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors does right, I only really have one gripe, and that is the difficulty. The game presents rock solid puzzles that really tax the brain in many creative ways, far from the template ‘insert tab a into slot b’ style. The problem is the supporting characters’ willingness to “help.” The longer you take in each challenge the more open they are in terms of spilling the beans on the routes through the task. Sure they start with little nudges and quips, but given enough time they start singing about the whole solution. I could have done without this particular hint system, or at least the choice to turn them off in the options menu.
I enjoyed every second of my time with Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors. If someone were to ask a gamer to recommend a great puzzle game for the DS, nine out of ten of us would most certainly point our friends to the Professor Layton series. Now, it seems there is a new puzzler on the block and it really comes in 9s.
Classic adventure template that is thrown upside down to create a masterful game that becomes in itself one grand piece of a fantastic puzzle.
More free-roaming exploration would add to the experience.