9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

Release Date: November 16, 2010
Publisher: Aksys
ESRB Rating: Mature

You wake up on a ship and have no recollection of how you got there. That's not what's troubling you the most, though, because the ship is sinking and your room is filling up with water. As luck would have it, the door that leads to your salvation is locked. You must solve the mystery of the room in order to unlock the door, or you will die.

This is your introduction to 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors . It's kind of a sadistic mash-up of the popular Professor Layton series (also on the DS) and the never-ending series of (pointless) bloodthirsty Saw movies. You ever learn that you are not alone on the ship. Eight others are also trapped and have similar stories of being drugged and kidnapped; nobody knows, however, exactly how they arrived on the ship. Their host, a man mysteriously calling himself Zero, tells them via a loudspeaker that they have nine hours to find a door marked with the number nine. If they fail to find this door, they will all drown.

The game is divided into two parts. There's the puzzle side where you must use your wits in order to escape. The puzzles can range from silly to incredibly difficult. If you have played any of the Professor Layton games, though, you should not have too much trouble. Then there's the visual novel side. For those gamers who are not into reading, skip this game entirely.

What's cool about this game is that the decisions you make reflect your ending (there are six in all). The first time I played through I received a bad ending. No, seriously, the final screen read, "Bad Ending." Always the optimist, I decided to play through again. This time I felt more confident with my choices and thought I had clearly gotten a better ending. Imagine my utter disappointment when I was stuck in the back and received yet another bad ending. You've thought I would have been frustrated with the game by this point, but I'm far from it. The game is so engrossing that I have to keep playing it in order to get all of the endings. I feel like I need to find out why they're all there, what all the references to the ill-fated Titanic mean, and who's behind this elite death game.

The game is rated M for good reason. There are many, many sexual innuendos and enough f-bombs to make Kevin Smith blush (okay, probably not, but there are quite a few choice curse words). It's not predominantly gory visually, but the writing does not leave much to the imagination. During one scene, one of the trapped passengers blows up and the description reads like a Stephen King novel. Gruesome indeed.

After all is said and done, 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors has to be one of the most innovative DS games to date.