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on December 1, 2010
This is not a game for children. Do not buy this title for your ten-year-old; the "Mature" ESRB rating on the package is very accurate. The storyline is very heavy in expletives (up to and including the f-bomb) and periodic sexual innuendo.

I first found out about this game about two months ago while reading a synopsis on Amazon. As the title implies, nine people have nine hours to escape from a sinking ship. They were put there by a maniacal person named Zero, who kidnapped them from all over the world to participate in "The Nonary Game", a life-or-death challenge that will thrust the nine kidnapped people into a world of puzzles.

The best comparison that I can draw to this game is a mash-up of PC classics Zork and Phantasmagoria. If you are not old enough to understand this reference, I offer another: Saw (the movies) meets Professor Layton. What Aksys has done is create a visual novel; you must solve puzzle elements in order to progress the storyline. If you ever played the classic point-and-click adventures on the PC (Myst, Phantasmagoria, Zork, & etc.), then it is fairly intuitive (and obvious) that they can be reincarnated on the DS. The touch-screen interface is a perfect way to introduce this style of mystery/puzzle games to a new gaming generation.


Nine Hours, Nine Person, Nine Doors (lets call it 999 for short) excels in intuitive gameplay. The concept is fairly simple: the game is divided into two sections: narrative and escape puzzles. For each puzzle, your character (Junpei) will be placed into an area, comprised of a room or a series of rooms, and he must find items and solve puzzles in order to open the door and escape.

Now the title and the game itself does indicate that you have only 9 hours to escape. This is true, but the gameplay is very forgiving. Time does advance, but it is "suspended" while you are working to solve each escape puzzle. In addition, you are able to repeatedly attempt to solve each puzzle without fear of locking yourself out or dying. Solving the puzzles themselves is fun without being overly complex. Do not take this to mean that the game is easy; it isn't, not by any stretch of the imagination. The game's producer, Aksys, has done a masterful job in balancing how you have to find items and how you solve the puzzles. Granted the puzzles themselves can be somewhat math-heavy (two key concepts are a digital root and the hexadecimal system), but the game is generous about allowing mistakes to occur and even provides a calculator to help those who may not be as adept at mental math.

Now, here is the caveat [minor spoiler]. 999 is a game that requires more than one playthrough in order to find out everything about the storyline. You may think this sounds like a cheap gimmick, and I assure you that it is not. Each playthrough gives you the opportunity to try different things (choose a different door to go through, choose different party members for each door, and so forth), and subsequently, each character will reveal slightly more about themselves and their past. Thrown in for even more mystery is the seemingly random interjection of history: the Titanic, glycerin crystallization, a priestess of Amun-Ra, and more. Aksys makes each playthrough easier by allowing you to "fast forward" through dialogue that you have already read. In addition, whenever a choice menu appears, previous selections are greyed-out so that you can easily remember the last action you took at that point in your previous playthrough.

The only complaint that I have to this system is that you cannot "fast forward" through puzzles that you have previously solved. Since the narrative part of the game can be rather text-heavy, the option to speed through it is much appreciated; however, I would infinitely prefer not having to repeat the "prologue" puzzle in the 3rd class cabin over-and-over. If I had to open that danged red suitcase one more time, I would've gone looney. Fortunately, if you need to walk away from the game, you are permitted to save at any point. In addition, after you beat the game for the first time, you can access each escape puzzle in the main menu and re-enact the escape if you wish to hone your skills.

In order to access every puzzle room, it is necessary to play the game at least more than once. Also, to get the "best" ending, you have to complete a specific "bad" ending first. Finding the "best" ending is at best a crap shoot, as there is no readily obvious way to find it without trial-and-error or consulting a game guide. The best ending, though, is worth it. In addition, each of the "bad" endings reveals a little bit more of the history of each character and can help you solve loose ends that may not be resolved in the "best" ending.


This is where 999 excels. The story is not forced. You will actually delight in reading the text and learning a little bit more about each character. Thrown in is a lot of humor (many of it adult); there were a lot of interactions with the characters that had me laughing so hard that I was wiping away tears. The author of the story is amazing, and it was truly a joy to play through the game several times (I completed it four different times, I still have two endings to watch) and learn a little bit more each time.

In addition to having one of the best "true" endings of any puzzle game that I have played to date, the mystery and motives of everyone involved will lead to a rousing debate between members of the gaming community for a while to come. Personally, I have inserted myself into a board discussion on the Gamefaqs website, trading theories with other 999 players as to the purpose of a specific character as well as a secondary storyline within the game. I will not specify anything here, as I do not want to spoil the surprise for anyone, but suffice it to say I am very pleased that a game has had me thinking about it ever since I beat it.

Graphics & Sound

This game is one of the better games for the DS. While the narrative itself is text, each character has a unique design and the backgrounds are very appropriate for an early 20th century ship. There are only a handful of animations within the game (usually limited to puzzle-solving), but they are well done. The backgrounds are detailed, but not overly cluttered as to make it difficult to find items for a puzzle. Overall, the graphics are a 10/10.

The sound is good, nothing over-the-top, and does help to set the mood for the game. I usually play my games with the sound turned off, but while I did have it on, I found it appropriate to the atmosphere without being too cloying. It would have been nice to hear some voiceacting (reading about a character screaming, usually described in great detail, would have been more realistic), but the lack of it does not really detract from the game. The narrative itself is written with great detail, to the point that the desription of a dead body almost made me nauseous. That said, where the sound falls short the narrative itself picks it up. A solid 8/10.


If you are a puzzle fanatic and love a good mystery, buy this game. The puzzles are fun without being overly complex, the story is extremely well done, and the game is a pure joy to play. I can find little fault in it. If you are sensitive to expletives, it may try your patience, but by-and-large, I did not find them to be overwrought. For the most part, the bawdy language did fit the action and situations presented, so I was able to forgive it.

As stated at the beginning of this review, this game is NOT for children. While it would be lovely to give to a child to solve the puzzles (nothing like some mental exercise), the storyline, some of the graphics, and the language would not be appropriate. The game is very heavily peppered with the f-bomb, s***, b***h, and a few more. While there is nothing overtly sexual within the game, a few campy jokes do allude to some pretty erotic stuff, although it is tastefully done and I found myself chuckling.

999 is perfectly balanced with comedy, a compelling storyline, a great soundtrack, and deep characters that will stay in your heart for a long time. If you are looking for a fun puzzle game that is truly a gem, this title is for you. This game should be one of the games of the year.
2121 comments| 347 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Report abuse
on March 26, 2011
I got this game based on all the positive reviews here and I was completely disappointed. All I got was a sore thumb from pressing the button to get to the next dialogue screen. I love reading but the reading in this game was slow and repetitive. The basis of this game is that you need to get through numbered doors with only 3 of the characters using the numbers on their wristbands to do so...for example if you want to get through a #2 door you have to use characters with numbers 4,5,2 because 4+5+2=11 and then the 11 becomes a 2 because 1+1=2 or a #5 door would be 7+3+4=14 and 14 boils down to 1+4=5 seems easy enough, right? The game assumes you are an idiot and explains this at each new door in dialogue that takes about 10-15 minutes each time to get through when you already know what to do!! Also you can't make the dialogue move faster and it moves fairly slow, and even though there are 9 doors on the ship that you are trying to escape from you only get to choose 3 to go through before the last door. So you get to solve about 3 puzzles in a game that takes a good 5 hours plus (because of all the dialogue that is just retelling you things you already know and pointless movement by your characters!-for example you try an elevator you go down there is nothing down there you come back up, and you read all about this for about 5 minutes-why even put it in the game?) Very, very, boring game. Selling mine back ASAP.
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on February 7, 2012
If you like slowly tapping the DS screen, you'll love this! All I did was tap through a LOT of text (and you can't speed through it), then tap on items in rooms to find clues. I understand you can skip text after you've gone through the story ONCE. You can tap through it again if you want to read a different ending - don't think I'll bother. When solving puzzles, there's a whole lot of text to inform you how to figure them out, so not sure why the puzzles are even there. It's rated M for the corpses, blood splattered walls, super foul language, and sexual insinuations, but it's not a mature game. I was surprised at how soon it ended, but since I didn't like it, I'm glad it was over quickly.
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on August 14, 2016
Phoenix Wright revived the visual novel genre in 2005. The simple yet addictive gameplay, zany sense of humour and memorable characters made it an instant cult classic and commercial success.

999 is a more mature entry into the market, coming along in 2010. It is a far more mature game in every way – the subject matter, violence and themes demonstrate this. The plot doesn’t shy away from discussing mental illness, child kidnapping or betrayal. Don’t let the cute anime-style character designs fool you – this is absolutely not for children.

As has been mentioned before here on Amazon, the plot is akin to Saw, but with more characters and a more labyrinthine story. The player character is Junpei, a young college student who finds himself on a ship. His last memory is of him being abducted by a mysterious individual wearing a gas mask. Almost immediately, his cabin fills with water. And this is just the first cookie of suspense in a massive adventure with six endings.

Obtaining the final two endings will require precise decisions, so a walkthrough is incredibly helpful.

The storytelling is essentially flawless, which a sharp and crisp translation that makes the player feel like they really are experiencing all of the emotions the characters are. The sheer volume of text (well over 300,000 words, making The Lord of the Rings look like a 3rd-grader’s novel) paints an incredibly vivid picture. By splitting the group into three teams, the plot is only doled out in bite-sized portions, with only little snippets filled in by the other teams once they are reunited. Obviously, this leaves room for doubt, betrayal and deceit, making the tension almost unbearable.

When you aren’t filling in pieces of the plot or learning more about the cast (character development is one of the game’s strengths), you’ll be solving fiendish puzzles. Most of them can be overcome through observation and simple arithmetic. They’re akin to the puzzles in the old Sierra Dr. Brain games.
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on February 15, 2017
I had heard this game was good and the story was great. It went on sale so I bought it. Started the game and it was a fun little escape the room section, which I was looking forward to. Next came text after text after text after text. I swear I've gone through text for over an hour and STILL haven't gotten to the second room! There's no way to fast forward through the text, and the game gives annoying reminders over and over when you know what to do (ie. inputting numbers on a briefcase to open it, it tells you what to do every time you look at the briefcase).

I quit when I reached this line from the game. The characters had been talking about who they think the villain is and blah blah blah. Then the game says "They had used up 1.5 of the 9 hours they had to escape, yet they learned nothing." Exactly how I feel about this game.
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on February 12, 2011
One thing noteworthy about 999 is that it's about 80% visual novel, so interaction is pretty limited. Basically, come into this game expecting to read lots and lots of text, some of it baffling and seemingly unrelated to what's going on. While I did end up completing 4/6 endings and plan on finishing the rest, I would've been a LOT less frustrated and willing to quit if I had known this going in. One thing I can't overlook however, are the puzzles - excluding one box-related puzzle, they were ridiculously easy (at least, for me). In fact, many can be solved by simply tapping things with your stylus until the characters figure it out themselves. That being said, I wouldn't say the game is a waste of time. Patience pays off as some of the unlockable endings are downright disturbing and combining items to bypass tricky situations is pretty fun. If you have a soft spot for horror and don't mind slogging through text, the payoff is well worth it.
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on December 30, 2014
As far as visual novels go, I'd say this game is one of my favorites. If you're not familiar with visual novels, it's basically like reading a story with some choices sprinkled in. This game actually has puzzles in there, which are fun to play and are thematically involved with the story.

Speaking of the story, that's what's important with 999 -- and it's brilliant. I won't spoil it, but it starts off with a tense "Saw" like moment where the main character is abducted and put into a strange, life-threatening game along with 8 other people (thus making the "9 Persons" part of the title).

If there is one thing I have to insist on, it's that you play it on the Nintendo DS (or 3DS, as this game is compatible with the 3DS). I can't say why without ruining it, but BELIEVE when I say that the hardware it is played on is absolutely critical to getting the full impact of the story, and it's worth every moment of it. Other versions like the iOS port take out the puzzles and lose the full impact.

This is a game that can affect your sleep habits, as you get to revelations in the story and you just want to keep going to find out what happens next. Then you look up and 4 hours have passed.

One last thing -- when you get one ending, you're not done! Keep going until you get the "True" ending. It's not really "optional" as far as the story goes, it's actually kind of required. Don't worry -- it will all make sense in the end -- er, mostly.
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on April 20, 2017
The concept of the game was great but the delivery just didn't really do it for me. I recommend it for anyone who likes to have their mind F-ed with and loves a good blood pumping, time limit, mystery. Buuuuut other than that you're better off sticking to AA if you want an actual mystery game.
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on July 30, 2017
This is an excellent game that makes great use of the DS screens to do fantastic storytelling in a video game. If you enjoy visual novels or escape room puzzles, I cannot recommend this game enough.
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on November 28, 2010
I've played some mystery/puzzle games before but this one REALLY take the cake. Out of all the M rated games so far released, (this being the 11th M rated game out for the DS system) this is really hard to put down once you started playing.

The game itself is a mixture of a graphical novel and a "escape the room"/solve puzzles. So if you hate reading, puzzles, or math in general, I would stay away from the game. However, if you enjoy complex puzzles, memorable characters, great story lines I would definitely pick this game up.

What make this game even better is once you "finished" the game, you can play back through the game and have a completely different ending. Which really adds onto the replay value of this game and no two endings are the same!

I would like to warn parents though, this game is rated by ESRB as M for Mature for a reason. There is blood (tons of blood and a very detailed description of said blood), drug reference, strong language (and when I mean strong language, STRONG LANGUAGE! Not just the f-word is being thrown around), suggestive themes, and of course, violence.
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