AI: The Somnium Files Review

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AI: The Somnium Files, developed and published by Spike Chunsoft, is the latest game by veteran writer and director Kotaro Uchikoshi. Uchikoshi has become particularly well known in recent times for his Dark Zero Escape series of visual novels. AI: The Somnium Files is a change of pace compared to his previous work, featuring adventure gameplay and a stronger emphasis on humour.

AI: The Somnium Files’ Story follows special agent Kaname Date. He works for a secret law enforcement agency known as ABIS (Advanced Brain Investigation Squad). With the help of futuristic Psync technology, he works together with an advanced AI partner called Aiba who lives within the prosthetic eyeball in Date’s left eye socket. Using a combination of Psync and Alba’s abilities, Date can enter the subconscious mind (Somnium) of a suspect or person of interest to search for clues. As you can imagine, this really comes in handy, especially when Date finds himself investigating a grisly murder case. It doesn’t take long for things to become personal, as Date discovers that his adopted daughter Mizuki is involved in the case. Date finds himself watching his back as the events happening around him get more and more bizarre, but can he find the culprit before another person is struck down? And why exactly is the killer removing their victims’ left eyeballs?

AI: The Somnium Files’ gameplay is broken up into two main segments. Most of your time will be spent exploring the world and travelling to new places through a point and click system. Viewing each location from Date’s perspective, players can move the cursor and click on many objects and people in order to investigate, question people, and advance the story. There’s a lot to see in each location, and even some of the background objects have interesting descriptions, observations, or pieces of trivia attached to them. Date encounters a colourful cast of characters as he explores, some of whom will help him in his investigation or become suspects, playing their part in the greater mystery at hand.

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The rest of your time in AI: The Somnium Files is spent investigating the titular Somniums. Using the Psync machine located at ABIS headquarters, Date can delve into the minds of suspects and encounter vital, yet distorted memories within their dreams. The Somniums are the only part of the game where you can move around freely, as you take control of Aiba while she explores these bizarre dream worlds. Each dream features a series of puzzles whose solutions require you to investigate and interact with the world in many different ways. Almost anything can happen here, and there’s some truly random and surprising things that you can instruct Aiba to do, often with amusing results. Sometimes these results will help to solve a puzzle, and sometimes they’re simply played for laughs. Clearing all of the puzzles reveals clues about the overall mystery, although some of them can raise more questions than answers. Each Somnium has a couple of different ways that it can be completed, each of which leads to different outcomes and cause the story to branch off in a new direction.

AI: The Somnium Files’ menu is very useful, giving players access to a large amount of information. Players can read info about each of the characters, see a glossary of terms used in the game, and see where they currently are in the game’s branching storyline by viewing a flowchart. This flowchart is particularly useful since it helps you to keep track of which branch of the story you’ve ended up in, and shows the branching points clearly. You can backtrack to any part of the story that you’ve seen previously, which makes seeing the whole story a breeze.

The story is very detailed, and even the smallest things you find in the world can be hiding information. There’s also lots of references to pop culture, both new and old. Date’s interactions with the characters around him gradually reveal more about the world, as well as his backstory. Dialogue between characters always feels natural, and can be quite entertaining. Going with a branching story line was a smart way to keep things fresh, since your actions within the Somniums are vital. There are lots of different pieces of the puzzle to find, and it takes some time to see how they all come together. There are multiple different endings and bad routes to see along the way, and seeing them is all designed to be part of helping the player to piece things together. Although AI: The Somnium Files is a game about a murder case investigation, things never get too dark due to the game’s delightfully quirky sense of humour. There’s some genuinely funny dialogue and item descriptions to be found as you explore the game’s world. A lot of this is found within the bizarre Somnium worlds, as you’d expect.

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AI: The Somnium Files is fully voice acted in English, a rarity among Japanese games that have been localised. There’s even a song that was fully re-recorded in English by the game’s voice actors. As a bonus, the quality of the English voice acting is also really good, featuring a strong cast who deliver their lines smoothly and with just the right amount of emotion. I’ve played a large number of localised Japanese games over the years, and this is one of the best localisation efforts that I’ve seen. I also didn’t see a single spelling or grammar mistake in the text. The game also features dual audio though, so if you prefer Japanese voices, you have the option to enable them. Spike Chunsoft have gone above and beyond to make the game interesting for prospective buyers, with the marketing for the game being very in-depth, even involving posts and videos by a virtual YouTuber who is also featured in the game. It’s an interesting way to tie the real world and game world together. AI: The Somnium Files is also strong on the technical level, featuring short loading times and smooth gameplay with no drops in framerate. The graphics are great and have an anime cel-shaded style to them. Character and environment models are detailed, well animated, and very smooth looking. They really bring the game’s world to life.

AI: The Somnium Files is a great entry into the adventure game genre. It features an engaging story with plenty of twists, good variety in its gameplay, and high quality cel-shaded visuals. The game’s 25 hour length feels just right, you get your money’s worth without the story feeling padded or overstaying its welcome. The game’s many positive and creative elements combine to create an excellent package, and I honestly enjoyed every minute. AI: The Somnium Files comes highly recommended for fans of adventure games, visual novels, murder mysteries, and just interesting stories in general.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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AI: The Somnium Files Review
  • Gameplay - 9/10
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  • Graphics - 9/10
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  • Sound - 9/10
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  • Replay Value - 9/10
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Summary

AI: The Somnium Files comes highly recommended for fans of adventure games, visual novels, murder mysteries, and just interesting stories in general.