After covering my Auteur Analysis on Kotaro Uchikoshi I was reminded of a much smaller trilogy of games that borrows from the well regarded structure of the Zero Escape series. Developed by Intense and localised by CIRCLE ENTERTAINMENT, Parascientific Escape is a trilogy of games that seemingly appear as mere escape room shenanigans with plenty of mystery and sci-fi elements that expands into something much bigger. As the first title has been in my backlog since its release date back in 2016, I wanted to give this potential hidden gem a chance after so long of collecting virtual dust. Considering the 3DS is very bare on English available visual novels, I scoured the 3DS eShop for any title close to my niche wants (special shout out to Petit Novel series!). Does Parascientific Escape deliver?
Escape rooms galore
I didn’t cross parallel the two games for nothing. Parascientific Escape: Cruise in the Distant Seas is the title of the first game, following 16 year old Hitomi Akaneno, a school girl with psychic abilities in a world where a part of the population is forming this new race of humans. Hitomi accepts an invitation to board the extravagant Idinaloq, a luxury cruise ship. Things kick off immediately with a literal bang, as an explosion goes off as soon as the ship departs, trapping Hitomi in a suite with nothing but her psychic powers as her escape from the sinking cruise. Not only are you saving Hitomi, but three other girls form an intriguing cast where things run deeper than what you may initially think. And the Zero Escape similarities don’t stop here.
Hitomi’s best friend Chisono boarded the ship with her, and notably has the ability to communicate with Hitomi through her mind. Misaki is a famous singer who is on the cruise to entertain the guests and Merja is the daughter of the CEO of Amabishi International Industries, a major corporation who has a bomb around her neck. With twists and turns at every corner, what becomes apparent is the linkage of its four main characters. Nonary Games, anyone?
Did someone say superpowers?
The majority of the game is in a visual novel format, with lengthy scenes of these in particular with no option to save between these moments. But Parascientific Escape also has two other gameplay mechanics, adding some supernatural abilities on top of this already done formula. Gather clues and items through a hidden object segment, and then solve puzzles using located items or finding more uses of the object by examining it. The power of her abilities come into play here, as Hitomi can use her psychic powers to see through objects and areas. The other ability has her able to use Telekinesis to move any objects. Her Clairvoyance and Telekinesis do have limits however, so searching thoroughly and completing these puzzles will award you with ‘ether’ to regain usage of these abilities, so keep your eyes peeled for potential spots that may give you this.
There’s more where that came from
Despite how tried and tested the whole story of Cruise of the Distant Seas felt like, it was still a visual novel well worth its cheap asking price. I do encourage starting with the first title as while it does end abruptly, story lines and characters are further explored in its sequel and my favourite one from the bunch, Gear Detective. The story is set a few years after the first title’s events, and follows a new main character, detective Kyosuke Ayana, who has the ability of stopping time (Chronokinsesis) with his artificial arm. He investigates the serial murders in his neighbourhood Camellia Hills, alongside his partner Mari and client that needs protecting. With three different endings to discover (bad ending, good ending, special ending), and harder puzzles compared to its predecessor that you may need the hints for this time around, Gear Detective not only answers a few mysteries the Cruise of the Distant Seas left off, but adds even more to its world to encourage the play-through of its final title.
With Crossing at the Farthest Horizon, it is the hardest of the games and once again has multiple endings to obtain, making the small asking price even more worthwhile. It has a satisfying conclusion to close off the trilogy, and offers a different play style compared to its predecessors. You now select playing as either Kyosuke or Hitomi, the main characters of the previous titles. Set in Latoua City with detached story lines, Hitomi is working for the psychic research facility ZENA, struggling to keep her promise in saving those without psychic powers as she struggles improving her powers. Kyosuke is on the move to Witsarock where news has reached him of the individual with knowledge on the serial killings in his neighbourhood, potentially endangering this small country. With loose ends finally being tied up and main characters meeting and connecting the dots, it’s an engaging ride seeing how the mysteries are solved with a gratifying conclusion.
The million dollar question: Should you play it?
With a few typos and mistakes scattered throughout all three titles, it’s nothing immerse breaking. A problem I did run into is despite loving a lengthy visual novel, during these segments the games do not offer saves, so be prepared for a long run during these moments. For those who want more Zero Escape however, Parascientific Escape gets noticeably harder with each instalment, and with an overarching plot relevant to each entry with mystery and intrigue until it all connects by its last title centred around time travel and manipulation, it’s a series I consider underrated. With a run time of around 30 hours depending on your reading speed and for a mere £13.77 for the whole trilogy you are missing out. Despite reused assets, especially the looped tracks in each title becoming very noticeable on a consistent play run, Parascientic Escape is what it is; Zero Escape on a smaller budget, but with just as much heart and adventure. Go play it now!
All three games are purchasable on the 3DS eShop only.
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