Operation Backlog Completion 2024
May 312022

Today is the last day of May, bringing our mystery game celebration to an end! This post should have gone up yesterday, but Internet trouble got in the way.

(Apologies for any formatting strangeness; I’ll fix it as soon as I have proper Internet again. Update: fixed.)

We’ll be closing out the celebration with AI: The Somnium Files.

I’ve heard good things about this one and intended to check it out for a while, especially since the sequel is coming out soon.

You play as Kaname Date, a detective who is part of a special division that makes use of advanced technology to enter people’s minds in a dream world called Somnium. A murder soon puts him on the trail of a killer who gouges out the victim’s left eye.

Date’s own eye is also missing, but it’s been replaced by AI-Ball, or Aiba, an artificial intelligence that acts as your partner and also gives him special skills to use in his investigation.

While everything is conducted in a 3D space, the majority of AI: The Somnium Files has a lot in common with visual novels. You spend a lot of time talking to characters. You also can investigate by inspecting objects in the room. Sometimes it’s completely unnecessary, but it’s well worth it for the funny dialogue, which is often so off-the-wall I never knew what to expect.

Despite that humorous side, it’s a fairly dark story overall, with grim murders and a twisted mystery that keeps piling on more layers.

The Somniums, which I mentioned earlier, provide more gameplay-focused segments. You enter a character’s dream world as Aiba and search for a way to unlock the subject’s mental locks to see the secrets they’re hiding. It gives you a clue about what to do, and you need to figure out how, using the strange logic of the characters’ dreams.

There’s a 6 minute time limit in these sections, but don’t panic. Time only passes while you’re moving or performing an action.

Each action takes a set amount of time to complete, and you can gain optional “timies” that let you reduce the time used, so the time limit really just turns it into a puzzle. How can you manage your actions and timies to bypass the mental locks without running out of time? (And if your final action would go over the time limit, it lets that slide.)

Believe me, I was worried when I first saw that timer appeared, but I ended up enjoying the Somniums.

I was less crazy about the other gameplay segment, occasional action sequences that have you perform QTEs or line up a shot within the time limit. I could have done without those.

The game also has a flow chart, which immediately brought to mind the Zero Escape series, since it’s from the same creator. However, the flow chart is much more straightforward here. Some Somniums have branching paths that lead to different routes, and certain routes are locked until you’ve made progress on others (I only encountered two locks, but I don’t know if that’s because of the order I went in).

Each route leads to different discoveries and pieces of the truth, which makes the story confusing at times, but it’s once the pieces finally start to come together, everything that didn’t make sense before falls into place.

I loved AI: The Somnium Files. The story was fantastic, the oddball humor was a good way to temper the dark mystery, and the Somnium gameplay was pretty clever. I hope the sequel is as good as this one, because now I can’t wait to play it!

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May 272022

Our mystery game for today is another lighthearted one, Sudd City Adventures.

Sudd City Adventures is a point-and-click adventure game set in a world where superheroes exist. You play as Silvia, an agent assigned to manage superhero relations.

So when one superhero says his ring has been stolen, it’s up to you to investigate, question people, and establish alibis for other characters to determine the truth.

It’s very lighthearted and plays around with superhero tropes as you interact with the eccentric cast, and it takes place in the house that serves as their headquarters. Like the previous lighthearted adventure game we looked at, it’s also quite straightforward when it comes to gameplay.

Characters have problems you’ll need to solve either to get information from them or access a new part of the house. The order in which you can approach tasks is pretty linear, and you just need to find or otherwise obtain the item the character in question needs. Some characters do move to other parts of the house as you progress, so you might need to pop into various rooms to find the person you’re looking for, but otherwise your direction is quite clear-cut.

This also is another short game and only takes an hour to wrap up the whole mystery. The ending implies there will be more eventually, but I don’t know if additional content will be added to the game (since the title implies multiple adventures) or made as a sequel.

Either way, Sudd City Adventures might not be the most challenging or compelling mystery, but it’s lighthearted and amusing. And hey, it’s one of the few games in our celebration that isn’t about murder!

Don’t forget that you have until the end of May to participate in this year’s contest by leaving comments on May Mystery Game Madness blog posts! If you’ve just arrived, check out the introduction post to learn about the contest and this year’s prizes.

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May 252022

A little over a year ago, we talked about Jake Hunter Detective Story: Memories of the Past, which I found I’d mysteriously left in my DS and decided to play.

So as part of our mystery game celebration this month (if you’ve just arrived, be sure to read that post to learn about the contest!) I decided to follow up with the next localized game in the series, Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk for the 3DS.

(Which has become difficult to find everywhere except directly from the publisher.)

If you’ll recall, the Jake Hunter release history is rather chaotic. Memories of the Past included the first five mobile game cases and a sixth new case. Ghost of the Dusk has a similar model, this time with another brand new case as well as mobile games 21-24.

So what happened to mobile games 6-20? They’ve been re-released along with other new cases in games that were never localized.

Anyway, let’s get back to Ghost of the Dusk. The main case lasts a few hours and tells an intriguing story, while the other four cases are shorter, but still have their high points. Most of the gameplay is still handled through menus, but now you’ll occasionally have an investigation section where you need to tap objects to investigate, although sometimes the areas it wants you to click felt a bit too precise.

I found it to be much more straightforward than the previous game, with far fewer times where I needed to repeat actions to get new results.

I also enjoyed the mysteries more, especially Ghost of the Dusk itself. Focusing on an old mansion people claim is cursed, it starts out as a single murder and quickly spirals into a much larger conspiracy. They’re the sorts of mysteries where I could think over the clues to try to piece together the case as the protagonists did.

In addition to the five main cases, there’s also another Jake Hunter Unleashed case, a chibi story that tasks you with solving a smaller mystery.

Now, Memories of the Past is one of those games that is clearly set in Japan but tries to convince you its localization is set in America. Since Ghost of the Dusk takes place in the same fictional city of Aspicio, I assumed it was doing the same thing right up until one case had Jake mention how he once traveled to America. That’s right, unlike its predecessor, this game’s localization now claims to not to be set in America… but not Japan either despite its very Japanese background images, so it seems Aspicio now exists in a vague fictional country.

(It also continues to pretend its yakuza characters are mafia, except for one case that straight-up calls them yakuza, so I don’t know what was up with that.)

My guess is they wanted to drop the pretense of being set in America but keep the existing localized names, and since things like Aspicio and Tripudio don’t sound Japanese (not to mention the names of Jake and his supporting cast), that resulted in this strange change to the setting.

Anyway, I quite enjoyed Jake Hunter Detective Story: Ghost of the Dusk. It’s a nice collection of detective cases, and it makes me sad that Prism of Eyes still hasn’t made an English appearance. There’s a prequel game that was localized, though, so I’ll be sure to pick that up one of these days.

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