999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors Review
I tend to think of 999 as an interactive novel. There is very little gameplay here. Throughout the 10-15 hours you spend with 999, you will mostly be reading. You should know that up-front because if you hate reading, you’re probably not going to like 999.
This game could have been a disaster if the story and the writing weren’t so strong. Fortunately, 999 delivers a highly effective story filled with many twists and turns. The emphasis on storytelling is front and center, and by the end of the game, it feels as though you’ve read a full-length novel.
999 is about a group of nine people who awake on a ship that feels eerily like the Titanic. They are all forced to play a twisted, Saw-like game known as the Nonary Game. The decisions you make during the Nonary Game really change the outcome. There are six possible endings, and 999 encourages multiple playthroughs; in fact, you can’t unlock the true ending until at least your second try.
This is 999’s greatest strength. Your first ending will inevitably be bad, and most of these endings are genuinely frightening. They also end with a cliffhanger, intentionally leaving plot lines unresolved. You have to play the game again in order to find out the truth, and often, your other tries will only give you more pieces of the puzzle.
999 sticks with you, even when you’re not playing. You will want to explore each and every outcome, and your second, third, even fourth playthrough will be even more exciting because you have the knowledge gained from your previous attempts. When you get to the true ending, you’ll be blown away at the intricate level of details and twists in this elaborate story. Furthermore, the true ending addresses the very nature of the game - multiple playthroughs - in a way that will make your head spin.
I am still in awe at the clever storytelling presented in 999. When you play through the game a second or third time, you’re able to skip the text you already read. That being said, there is so much new text in each branching path that it’s overwhelming. I still can’t believe this game unfolds so nicely; it could have so easily turned into a mess along the way.
999 easily tops this year’s other story-centric game, Heavy Rain. Whereas Heavy Rain was lacking in presentational polish, 999 excels by intentionally ditching voice acting, and telling the story as though it’s a novel. 999 knows when to be scary, when to be thrilling, and when to be touching.
If you’re hesitant about trying 999 (as I was), put your fears to rest. This is an excellent game - one of my favorites this year. I’d recommend you play 999 making your own decisions the first time, and then use a guide to unlock the desired endings (some of them are tricky, and you need to do specific tasks to achieve them). Without a guide, it can get a little frustrating when you unlock bad endings every single time!
Please check this game out if you get the chance. 999 has been sold out in many places, and as a result is (at the moment) $52 on Amazon.com. The game is great, but it’s not worth that price. See if you can get a used copy somewhere; trust me, you don’t want to miss this one!