No One Has to Die is, first and foremost, very well made. It’s a small, compact, twisty puzzle game with a lot of branching paths and a lot of very harrowing decisions to be made. I love it a lot. My problem is, much of what makes it cool is a direct lift of 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, a game that you very much should play knowing as little about it as possible. This is down to some of the basic conceits about what the nature of the narrative is, and it’s strange to see it so directly copied.
I think both games are worth playing. Stuart Madafiglio’s game is free, 30 minutes long, and aggressively terse. 999 is a 15 hour long graphic novel with room escape elements that unfolds at such a radically different pace and contains within it so much more characterization and examination of some of the fuzzier aspects of this style of game. The problem is 999 uses a lot of those mechanics as a reveal, whereas No One Has to Die offers them up only to be quickly passed over because the game is so small. I wouldn’t want anyone interested in good games to sacrifice one for the other, so I can’t help but suggest playing 999 first, and then checking out No One Has to Die.
Which is a weird recommendation, but there it is. It’s not often you see games to deeply reference a very specific and unique narrative mechanic in this way, and how to handle it is definitely up for examination, but this is my way in this time. Or, y’know, ignore it and play No One Has to Die. If you weren’t going to play 999 maybe seeing what No One Has to Die has to offer and then realizing there’s a much bigger more complex version of it out there will get you interested in that, one of the best cult classics for the DS.