With a name like AI: The Somnium Files, one can imagine that a bizarre adventure awaits anyone that decides to see what’s in store. The word “somnium” is Latin for “dream.” Such wording couldn’t be more appropriate. From the master storyteller behind the Zero Escape series, gamers can experience a brand new adventure that bridges the gap between dreams and reality.
The game takes place in modern day Japan. You take control of detective Kaname Date. Kaname isn’t working alone. His partner is Aiba: a prosthetic, AI powered eyeball created with advanced nanotechnology. Aiba provides Kaname with the ability to run instant background checks, use x-ray vision, use thermal imagine, trace calls, and anything else one can think of that comes from an android. Kaname’s newest case takes him to Bloom Park, an abandoned amusement park that was shutdown due to a chemical explosion. Attached to the park’s merry-go-around is a corpse missing its left eye. This chilling discovery gives Date’s boss some worry. Six years ago, these same types of killings were terrorizing Japan. Is this a new killer? Or, is the so-called Cyclops Killer back?
The writing in Somnium Files is perfection. Kaname and Aiba get the most screen time, but their banter is always on point. During the investigation, they’ll encounter a cast of characters that could be suspects one minute and an ally the next. No matter the situation, the interactions between the characters feels organic and moves the story along at a brisk pace. The game has multiple pathways that eventually lead to a true end. There’s a lot to read, but chances are you’ll hang on every word. Personally, I can’t recall the last time I read through so much, so quickly.
To solve this murder, Kaname will perform investigations on the crime scene and interrogate suspects. Doing so is a simple, point-and-click affair. There’s plenty to examine in a crime scene, but the solution is always the same. Interrogating suspects is fun because you get to piece together the gathered clues from the scenes to get the suspect to crack. Sometimes, Kaname will find himself in a life or death situation. With Aiba’s assistance, as well as a customized gun that can hold a variety of bullets, Kaname will use hi lightning quick reflexes and perfect timing to get out of a situation unscathed. In other words, you’ll have to get through quick time events. These can be frustrating for those that aren’t used to them in their visual novels, but they’re few and far between.
Of course, not all suspects are willing to tell the truth. This is where the Psync Machine takes the stage. Kaname and the suspect will link to this massive metallic monstrosity so Aiba can “investigate” said suspect’s dreams. By unlocking the twisted dreamscapes, the truth will reveal itself. This is another area where Somnium Files really shines. These dream world investigations require logical puzzle solving and quick thinking due to a six minute time limit. Every action you do will cut away at the clock. Luckily, entities called Timies can assist Aiba by lowering the penalty from performing an action. Many of the dreams have more than one solution, which circles back to the story having different branches. Sadly, some of the solutions aren’t always clear. Messing around too much will cause the time limit to expire, and you’ll either have to return to a checkpoint or start the entire sequence over. It can be a major irritant in an otherwise clever feature.
Whether you’re in the dream world or the real world, the presentation in Somnium Files is beautiful. The real world features a variety of unique locations with plenty of objects and people to interact with. The dream worlds range from the depraved to the cheery to the somber to the tragic. Character graphics feature a classic but polished cel-shaded style that combines modern anime with a hint of realism. The music is another major highlight. The soundtrack features easy listening, jazz, heavy metal, J-Pop, and more genres that fit any situation Kaname finds himself in.
AI: The Somnium Files can last between 15 to 25 hours depending on how much you want to see, and how quickly you read. With so many twists, turns, and shocking moments, the game ended up being nearly impossible for me to put down. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a new bomb gets dropped. Thanks to a handy flowchart, players can access and replay their favorite scenes. Furthermore, every dream world gives you the chance to unlock bonus content in the form of concept art and character art. All of this comes together in an exciting murder mystery that can be enjoyed more than once. Give your eyes a workout by giving Kaname’s AI-eye a workout. AI: The Somnium Files is a fantastic game.
Overall, 9/10: AI: The Somnium Files is an exciting mystery adventure that will keep your eyes glued to the screen, and Kaname’s eyes glued to everything else.