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Date’s own eye is also missing, but it’s been replaced by AI-Ball, or Aiba, an artificial intelligence that acts as your partner and also gives him special skills to use in his investigation.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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  5 Responses to “May Mystery Game Madness: AI: The Somnium Files Review”

  1. This game was a lot of fun. Certainly stranger than I was expecting, especially a certain character’s off-the-wall… obsession with a certain form of literature… But overall I enjoyed it and am also ready for the sequel! I am hoping for even more branching paths this time around…

  2. One wonders wot’s up with your Internet…

    So I figure you’re getting the sequel in June and gonna keep it in your backlog until May Mystery Game Madness 2023?

    • Oh, whoa, a physical copy of the 2019 game is really expensive.

      • I already have the sequel’s Collector’s Edition pre-ordered (one of the reasons I made sure to finish the first one now, in case I didn’t enjoy it and wanted to cancel), but I probably won’t save it for next year.

        …Then again, knowing my backlog, it’s possible…

        And yes, physical copies of the first game are ridiculously expensive, which is why I caved and picked up the digital copy in a sale.

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