Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, or 999, seemed like a game that would be right up my alley. It first caught my attention because of the overwhelmingly positive word of mouth, and when I found out that it was supposed to have a great storyline and puzzle elements, it earned a spot in my queue as a must-play. When Blobbo gave me a copy for my birthday, and I had no DS game to play at the time, it seemed like a perfect fit to rocket to the top of my queue. Unfortunately, many hours of "gameplay" later, 999 fell short of the mark, and proved to be a bust.
Originally a Japanese game, 999 was translated for English audiences by Aksys Games, publishers of the much-beloved BlazBlue series. I know enough Japanese to order exactly one to three waters at a restaurant, or to ask if a dog is cute, so I didn't play the untranslated version of the game, and can't speak intelligently on the original writing. As such, anytime I refer to "writing" in this review, I'm referring to the writing of the translation. Regardless of whether it was the fault of the original Japanese writers or the English translators, the writing that I was privy to was clunky, awkward, and frequently just plain poor. My suspicion is that the translation may have been rushed, and thus was too direct and verbatim, rather than a translation of the writing with a strong style appropriate to the language.
999 is more a visual novel than a game, and features hours of reading with only a handful of puzzles. All told, the game breaks out to about 90% reading and 10% gameplay. Bear in mind that any estimate regarding gameplay depends heavily upon your reading and puzzling speeds, so a faster reader (or slower puzzler) than I may find the balance to be slightly more appropriate for a game.
The box art for the game generously lists the game as containing "30+ obstacles," which one would logically assume means puzzles, but in reality that count is artificially inflated with the inclusion of minor puzzles that take only moments to solve. There are generally two major puzzles behind every titular door -- of which there are, of course, nine -- so 20 total puzzles might be a generous estimate. Taking into account that you can't go through more than three or four doors in any one playthrough, you're really looking at about six to eight true puzzles in one playthrough.