If you were to ask me what video games have the best storylines the Zero Escape trilogy would have to rank among my favourites. Sadly many people have avoided those titles, as visual novels are not their thing. When it comes to console experiences people want gameplay over reading text. To combat this problem Zero Escape director Kotaro Uchikoshi has tried something different with his latest release AI: The Somnium Files. This time round, instead of trawling through paragraphs, the story is told through cut scenes, point n click sections and third person puzzle sequences, where the player has direct control of their character.
Hopefully this added interactivity will tempt buyers to check out the game. Like with past Uchikoshi works, AI: The Somnium Files will reward those who play it with an excellent tale that is packed with clever twists. In this futurisitc murder mystery players guide a detective named Kaname Date, who is investigating various homicides committed by the New Cyclops Killer. The aforementioned murderer is known for gouging out the eyes of his victims. Gross! Aiding Kaname with the case is best girl Aiba, an AI assistant who assumes various forms. These include a sexy woman and a hamster with an eyeball for a face (out of those two guises I know which one I would rather smooch).
As was the case with the Zero Escape games, The Somnium Files has multiple endings. How you solve certain levels will determine what path you go down in the plot flowchart. Some endings are locked until certain clues have been uncovered in other branches of the narrative chart. Most of the game involves visiting a location and investigating the scene. Using a cursor Date is able to question witnesses and search the area for evidence. In some ways the gameplay is reminiscent of a sci-fi Phoenix Wright. Instead of relying on spirit mediums to solve the case, Kaname however navigates the dreams of suspects.
One thing I failed to mention earlier is that Date works for ABIS – the Advanced Brain Investigation Squad. This department owns a glorified dentist chair that suspects, who have been put to sleep, can be hooked up to. Once connected to the device Aiba, under the guidance of Date, is able to scour the person’s dreams for incriminating evidence. The one snag is that it’s only possible to psync into a person’s slumbering brain for a total of six minutes. On the plus side time doesn’t flow unless the player moves. Solving puzzles in the dream world also rewards Aiba with “Timies” that allow her to perform actions at a faster pace.
My rating for AI: The Somnium Files is five stars. If it wasn’t for Fire Emblem: Three Houses this would be my favourite game of 2019. The game was so enjoyable that I even made the effort to platinum it. Granted it isn’t too difficult to 100% the game, as none of the trophies are missable. The only ones that gave me a little trouble involved finding collectibles that are hidden within the dream stages. I think this game will appeal to fans of Danganronpa, which also happens to hail from the Spike Chunsoft stable. Both games revolve around gruesome murders, but manage to stay light hearted thanks to a quirky cast of characters. Another thing both games share is that they feature a killer bear. Always beware of bears in video games or you may meet a grizzly end.