Imagine waking up in a room, no idea how you got there, what is this strange watch on your wrist? Confused by your surroundings you find out you are not alone, who is this person with you? How do they know your name? Did they bring you here? Are they in the same situation as you? Are they lying or telling the truth? Just as you start to make sense you are in a lift, an enthusiastic rabbit wearing a hat starts to talk to you over a video screen, the lift you are in is about to fall unless you solve a puzzle to get to safety; personally this is the point I go into a foetal position and find my happy place but that would make a rather bad game, thankfully you play as Sigma, who is made of sterner stuff and is quick to take on this rather unique and sinister challenge.
Free from the lift you realise it is not just you and the strange girl called Phi but another seven captured souls, all just as confused as the next, but that niggling voice at the back of your head never lets up, are they on the level? Are they who they say they are? How, if any are they connected? Do you work together or think for yourself? Very quickly the freaky talking rabbit, Zero III lays some ground rules, you are part of a game, explaining that each of you wear a wrist strap that has the ability to kill you via lethal injection and that you must play along in a game he calls the Nonary Game: Ambidex Edition. Split into groups you then venture through a huge complex, getting locked in rooms and solving puzzles and locating clues to unlock the next door and progress to the Ambidex Game, a simple game that involves two buttons, Ally and Betray. The watches you wear not only have the ability to kill you but also save you, with a number displayed on each, the aim is to reach the number nine, a number that is prominent throughout the game, with choices made during the Ambidex Game voting determining if you earn or lose points, but be careful, though you may vote Ally, the person in the other room may Betray, taking your points, with hitting zero meaning death.
What would you do? In Virtue's Last Reward it is a different kind of survival horror, one that requires a sharp eye, nerves of steel and cunning to live long enough to get to safety by negotiating a series of rooms and puzzles. Though at a risk of sounding a little too like the Saw movies, this doesn't go all out for blood and guts but a more slowly paced thriller for the adult gaming market. To go into too much detail about much of the game would spoil the majority of Virtue's Last Reward but none the less, it will keep you in the edge of your seat right till the very end.
The game is split into two main areas, the Novel where the story is told and you just tap through the screens, taking in what is going on as the story progresses and then you have the Escape portion. Here is the main element of the game, after creating a group you are then locked in a room, requiring you to look around, tapping on items that may interest you, some you can pick up, others require interaction and host a variety of puzzle based minigames. There are two goals in the escape areas; the first is to escape by locating a safe and its code to gain a key and also a pass to progress to the next Ambidex Game, the other is to find another code for another compartment in the safe that unlocks more background information. Though the latter is not vital, it gradually explains a lot more as to what is going on in this warped complex, like is Zero III really an insane rabbit?
Whilst the 3D graphics are not necessary, they do look really good and manage to add another dimension to the whole feel of the game, plus something that many games fail at, the text is very easy to read on both screens, not once straining the eyes. I will mention here that though the game has a partially full soundtrack from the cast it is all in Japanese supported by subtitles. I am aware of a few gamers that would avoid Virtue's Last Reward for this reason alone but you really shouldn't, it does not affect the gameplay in the slightest, played as part novel, part puzzle game, this is the perfect title for quick goes or a long lazy afternoon session. These is made even better by the fact you are able to save the game at pretty much any point, with the game picking up exactly where you left.
Virtue's Last Reward is a game that will keep you coming back for more, constantly taunting you as to whether you made the right decision and allowing you to be trustful or a complete nasty piece of work, each choice leading to many different possible endings for you to find, this title is a rare must have for your 3DS that isn't actually made by Nintendo.
A word on the PS Vita version
The developer was also kind enough to send us the PS Vita version of Virtue's Last Reward and you'll be pleased to know that it is identical in terms of gameplay. Obviously there are some differences for instance the Vita version's visuals are superior in terms of the environments and the text, while the 3DS provides stereoscopic support. Whatever version you buy though you'll surely be satisfied with this excellent title.
Words by Ash Buchanan.
(Version Tested 3DS/PS Vita)
- A gripping story with many different outcomes
- Great looking 3D graphics
- Plenty of puzzles
- Great looking 3D graphics
- Plenty of puzzles
- Japanese soundtrack with subtitles may put people off