I just finished playing a somewhat obscure DS game called “9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors.” At first, I was expecting another weak, shovelware text-based adventure, but I was thoroughly proven wrong! 999 is probably the best visual novel I’ve played — beating both the Ace Attorney and Hotel Dusk series.
999 has much more mature and dark themes, and it’s been marketed as a mystery/horror text adventure. In a very SAW-esque manner, the premise of the game is that 9 people are trapped on a sinking ship, with bracelets strapped to their wrists that will detonate a bomb inside their stomachs if they do not follow a specific set of rules and find escape. The story is extremely character driven, and -without spoiling anything- as things develop, you realize that the 9 seemingly unrelated people are somehow connected after all.
There are many parallels to LOST, if you’re a fan of that show. In addition to the character-driven narrative, there is a history to the ship that predates the current setting of the game, much like the Island. There are also very supernatural yet pseudo-scientific themes, much like LOST’s vague focus on electromagnetism and fictional theories like the Valenzetti Equation.
The “game” part of 999 are the puzzle rooms. Like the title suggests, there are 9 doors you can go through, and each is a “closed room” puzzle. Meaning you have to find objects in the room to solve a puzzle in order to escape. The puzzles are not too tough, and like the story, are just long enough to not become frustrating. (Disclaimer: The very first puzzle was the most annoying IMO.)
Finally, this may or may not be a put off to some — but the game has branching paths ultimately leading to 6 different endings (and only 1 “true” ending). Each story path reveals different histories and perspectives of the 9 characters, and with the exception of one, they all feel extremely rewarding. You will have to play the game from start to finish to see each ending, but there’s a fast-forward feature that lets you skip through scenes you’ve already played through. Initially, I thought this would be a chore, but surprisingly enough, I was actually excited to see what each new playthrough would reveal. The writing is extremely well-paced, but I have to admit that either the original script or its translation is rather shoddy and awkward at times.