If you’re a fan of visual novel video games than there is a good chance that you’ve heard of Kotaro Uchikoshi. He was the director and scenario writer behind the Zero Escape trilogy that myself and many others were huge fans of. It’s been a few years since that series ended with Zero Time Dilemma and we were all eagerly awaiting Kotaro’s next game AI: The Somnium Files. I got to play through this detective thriller for review recently and can say confidently that fans of Kotaro’s past titles will love this.
The gameplay of AI: The Somnium Files is a mix between a visual novel and a point and click adventure game. The game follows the character Date Kaname who is a detective and a member of ABIS (Advanced Brain Investigation Squad.) This squad works as part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department trying to solve crimes and murders. Date isn’t alone though as he has a robotic left eye that contains an A.I. known as Aiba. Aiba is projected as a female and makes for a fun companion to Date. Their back and forth banter throughout the game was a constant joy to listen to. Aiba also gives Date some cool abilities though like the ability to use thermal vision, x-ray vision, and zoom in on things in the environment. The story of the game has Date ending up having to solve the murder of a woman named Shoko Nadami. Her body was discovered at an amusement park with one of her eyes having been gouged out and Date has to track down the serial killer who is behind it.
As you can tell the story features some pretty heavy content but it treats and handles all of it really well. Further there are plenty of moments and characters that will help lighten the mood at times too. I found myself laughing at things fairly often especially the dialog between Date and Aiba. The story kept me entranced and playing from start to end just because I was so sucked in by the twists and turns within it. Some story beats were a little obvious to see coming but for the most part I was left guessing at what would happen next. The story features different branches too along with multiple different endings for you to see. To help you see the different branches you can jump to any point in the story you want and fast-foward through parts as well. Another nice little touch I enjoyed was that if you stop playing and come back later the game will give you a little recap so that you didn’t forget what was going on.
When you enter investigation scenes you’ll move the cursor around the screen and click on things that may be of interest to you. When doing so you’ll get dialog from both Aiba and Date so you can see what they think of what you clicked on. The writing in the game is fantastic as to be expected coming from Uchikoshi. When talking to other characters in the game you are given the choice of multiple different things to say to them and you continue until you exhaust all of your options and move on to the next thing. When you have to perform a little interrogation on a suspect you’ll have to use the right evidence that you’ve gathered in order to get the suspect to confess. If you don’t get what you want you are given the option to try again so you can’t really fail these parts. There are also some quick time events in these parts too which you can fail but I found them incredibly easy so that was never an issue. To get further information out of a suspect you can delve into their dreams.
Doing this puts you into a Somnium which is basically a dream like world where you control Aiba and try to gather information hidden within. You have to be quick though as you only have a total of six minutes to get in and out with what you need. In addition, you’ll also have to bypass blocks within their mind which play out as puzzles. The time limit in these didn’t bother me really as I felt it added to the tension of me needing to be quick to get what I needed. What did bother me though is that some of the puzzles here were a little too obtuse. Some puzzles are easy to solve and I don’t mind challenging puzzles either but there were a handful that just seemed to be more trial and error rather than tied to any kind of logic.
The graphic presentation in this game is really well done too. Menus are stylish and designed and laid out so well that they fit into every scene perfectly. The only parts of the game that don’t look so great are the parts where you are inside a suspects dream. Here the environments just don’t look as good as they probably could for a 2019 game. The game features full voice-acting and all of the characters delivered great performances in my opinion. The soundtrack is also excellent with a huge array of tracks that always seemed to fit what was going on whether I was playing through a dream sequence or witnessing an emotional moment in the story.
The wait for Uchikoshi’s next game was well worth it as AI: The Somnium Files delivers a fantastic murder mystery storyline. It’s dark, serious, and horrific yet also funny and charming at times too. The cast is memorable and well presented and the puzzles and investigation bits are fun and engaging for the most part. If you are a fan of his past work or of visual novel, investigation games in general then add this one to your must play list.
*AI: The Somnium Files is out now on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
AI: The Somnium Files$59.99
- Fantastic, branching mystery solving story
- Has a great cast of characters that were very memorable
- Great presentation and audio design
- Different story branches and endings give you reasons to replay
- Some of the dream puzzles seemed too luck based
- Dream landscape graphics could've been better