Virtue’s Last Reward is a visual novel/puzzler developed by Chunsoft that is available to buy for both the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. The game is a sequel to the DS title Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, which sadly was never released in Europe. I was originally apprehensive about buying VLR, as I feared that missing out on its predecessor would make its plot incomprehensible, but having taken the plunge I can report that I do not regret my purchase. I had no problems following the plot, despite being a newcomer to the series, and as it transpires the rock solid story ended up being one of my favourite video game tales in recent years.
Players take control of a college student named Sigma (I can’t imagine that’s a moniker that features highly in the list of popular baby names) who at the start of the game is attacked by a mysterious masked assailant. During the assault Sigma is rendered unconscious by knockout gas and when he awakens he finds himself trapped inside an elevator with a silver haired lass named Phi. Using their combined intellect the pair find a way out of the lift only to then discover that they are trapped in a futuristic facility along with seven other kidnap victims. It’s at this point that a talking bunny named Zero makes an appearance to inform the group that they have been selected to unwillingly participate in the deadly Nonary Game.
Said game involves having the kidnap victims split up into groups of three, comprised of a solo player and a two man team. The trio in question must then enter a sealed room and solve a series of fiendish puzzles in order to escape. Once that has been accomplished the real fun begins. Friends can potentially become enemies as the triad of chums is split up and forced to anonymously vote to either ally or betray. If the participants both select to ally everyone gets two points. If someone betrays and the other person picks ally the betrayer’s score increases by three whilst the gullible ally loses a point. In a case were both parties choose to betray no one gets squat for being an untrusting douche.
What is the purpose of these points you may ask? Points mean prizes… specifically the prize of freedom, as Zero has declared that the first person to hit the nine point milestone will be freed from the prison they find themselves in. To make matters even more interesting, anyone whose score drops to zero will be eliminated from the game courtesy of a lethal injection, administered via a bracelet that all the competitors are forced to wear. I don’t know about you, but I may have actually tuned into Big Brother if their voting sessions adopted similar rules to the Nonary Game.
Given that Virtue’s Last Reward is a visual novel a good chunk of the game involves reading text, which is more fun than it sounds thanks to the exceptional science fiction storyline. The narrative is interrupted whenever the player enters a room, switching the action to a puzzle game were you use the touch screen to interact with objects in order to suss out VLR’s expertly crafted puzzles. Some of the brainteasers were a little too taxing for a dunce like me, so I was grateful for the easy setting that offers hints courtesy of Sigma’s teammates. I found the puzzle segments to be fun although the finicky touch controls did frustrate me on occasion. If you don’t tap precisely on an object you may fail to interact with it. This happened to me several times, which resulted in me getting stuck as I was left thinking that a key item I required was just part of the background.
Virtue’s Last Reward is easily a five star game. Solving the puzzles is always satisfying and there’s plenty of content to explore, as the game boasts multiple endings. To view everything the game has to offer you’ll have to replay the game numerous times to see how your decisions impact the eventual finale. I liked how Chunsoft included a flowchart of the branching storylines, which allows players to skip past parts they have previously completed. It’s a real time saver when revisiting the game for another run. Even if puzzle games aren’t normally your thing I can still recommend Virtue’s Last Reward for its compelling storyline. Ingenious sci-fi packed with surprising twists are the “reward” for anyone who buys this gem.