999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999) is a text-heavy adventure-puzzle game based on a mystery/thriller story. Those are a lot of words to throw at you at once, but in its basic form, 999 fits all of those descriptions. What follows will be an argument for why you should play this relatively overlooked game.
I will be upfront: most of the time you spend while playing 999 is taken up by reading. So, if you are not in the mood to read or you just don’t want to read at all then this may not be the game for you. However, if you do find yourself in the mood to do some reading, there are few better alternatives than 999.
Within 999, there are basically two ways you engage with the game. First, throughout the game are various areas for you to try and figure out puzzles. Hidden within those puzzles may be more information pertaining to the overall story (which you can easily miss), and in some puzzles certain choices you make can have a large effect on the game’s outcome.
The other side of the gameplay is far more interesting, but takes a moment to explain. So you may have noticed the odd name for the game. It’s derivation comes from this gameplay mechanic. You play as a guy who wakes up with a bracelet attached to his arm with a digital number “5” on it – which you can’t take off or change. You soon find out that there are eight others like you, each numbered (as you’d guess) 1-9. Within the game there are several points where doors, also numbered 1-9,will block access and the only way to enter them is if you have a set of bracelets that equal the number on the door. Take 9 for example, 4+5, 1+8, 2+3+4, etc. will work. It even works if you have something like this: 5+6+7=18 then you take the 18 and 1+8=9. Doing it in that way is called finding the “digital root.”
And as you know, each bracelet is attached to one person. So, you have to choose who goes in one door, who goes in another, or maybe even who is left behind. There are many different choices to make on who goes where. And each decision has huge implications in the story.
Now the best part of the game. The story. 999 has multiple endings, some of which are abrupt and leaving you with a million questions. Some reveal more information, but each only reveal so much of the story. Even when you play the game and experience all endings, you are still left with questions. Luckily there is something in place so you can skip things you have already done if you want.
You play as a guy trapped on a ship with eight other people told by some guy over a PA system named “Zero” that they are all trapped and playing something called the “Nonary Game.” The stakes are raised higher when you learn that there is only one door of escape. And you may have guessed that only bracelets adding up to nine (the last door) will open it – meaning that only some will escape. And you can’t all just cram in to one door when it opens, as once it is opened it must be verified, and if it isn’t, or the incorrect bracelets are in place, you are killed.
Interestingly enough, 999 is probably the most engaging game I have ever played, which you might find funny considering it is mostly just reading. But, I have never, while playing a game, had notes littered around my desk as I tried to figure out what the hell was going on (in a good way). There is just so much to figure out, and in reality, the gameplay comes in the player trying to fit the pieces of the story together.
I can honestly say that it is one of the most interesting games I have ever played and it has by far one of the best stories in any game I have ever played.
If that isn’t enough to at least have you intrigued, I honestly don’t know what else to say.
Oh, and there is a sequel, which, of course is connected to the first game called “Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward.”
I won’t say more, for the greatest feature of 999 is forcing player self-discovery and creating moments for you to have great and exciting epiphanies.
If you are interested you can buy it on Amazon for Nintendo DS.