AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is one of my most anticipated games this year, and it delivers an action-packed, detective story with twists and turns, jokes, and an ending you’ll never see coming. Using the strong motivation of porno mags and fixing any problem with the power of dance, this is one of the more unique and enjoyable games you’ll play all year.
The story starts with detective Kaname Date going to an amusement part to investigate a murder. The dead woman was tied to a carousel horse, stabbed, and is missing her left eye, which you learn was removed while she was alive. As you investigate the scene, you find a little girl clutching a bloody ice pick hidden in the main column of the ride.
Investigating scenes like these is one of biggest pillars of gameplay. Date and his cybernetic eyeball partner, Aiba, will head to a location to look for clues. Moving the cursor around will allow you to examine parts of the area and items within it. You will have to find everything before you can move to a new location, so you’ll be more focused on finding something than missing it.
Each of these locations usually contains characters you will need to speak with, and each of the locations will be visited many times. Some clues will can only be discovered during a specific visit. Some items will need to be clicked multiple times to reveal all the information, but it’s highlighted in green to keep you from having to guess. I do wish there was a little more location variety and a little less backtracking, but it mostly makes sense in the story.
All of that searching to find and collect evidence will be used when you interrogate a suspect. When you start asking questions at the station, you’ll need to provide the right clues to convince them to spill the beans. You can look at what you know and pick the right item. To make a bigger break in the case, you’ll need to combine several pieces of evidence to push them to a confession.
If they still want to hide information, you can psync with them. The psyncing machine lets you go into a person’s dreams to see what really happened, instead of their edited version of the events. To get to that truth, Date and Aiba must solve puzzles inside Somnium called mental locks. There are only six minutes to complete them all.
Your partner Aiba represents Date inside Somnium. Date will direct her to walk inside the world and choose actions to perform. If you choose the right action or often a series of actions, you can solve the mental lock. As you move or perform actions, your time will decrease. Time slows down when you stand still, but it always marches forward. Some actions will take a huge chunk of your time, and there is strategy in which ones to pick, even if you sacrifice some time to gain more time later.
Mental locks are part of dreams, and they are often as inscrutable. Each interactive item in the dream world is highlighted, but not everyone will help you. Performing some actions will grant you a TIMIE. These can reduce the amount of time to perform another task or penalize you by adding time to your next action. Trying different actions will lead you to some interesting results, and you can return to a previous save point in the Somnium or tray again from the beginning until you finally choose the correct sequence of actions within the time limit.
I won’t be spoiling anything in the story, but it’s the biggest pro/con as to whether you will love or hate AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES. When I finished the game, I was initially disappointed. That was until I realized I only hit one of the many endings. It was also the only time that one of the endings disappointed me. Accessing the game’s flowchart will let you pick up the story where it diverges, so you can experience another ending.
These forks in the road are found in the psync events. Revisiting these will allow you to take another trip into someone’s brain to remove the mental locks. Alternate solutions can be craftily hidden, so you’ll need to think outside the box on a few.
Although there are some things that don’t hold up to intense scrutiny, I was really impressed by the story from Kotaru Uchikoshi, the creator of the Zero Escape series. It’s much more layered than it appears at first. There is a long running joke about porno mags that gets old, but some of the other jokes, even the slightly pervy ones, landed just fine. There are outside references to things that you’ll hear, and the dialogue is generally good. English voice acting is excellent, and you can switch between English and Japanese audio at any time.
The writing’s coverage of the emotional spectrum is one of the most surprising parts of the game. You can go through one part with corny jokes and gags to another serious part with heartbreaking events. There are some scenes that will make you gasp, and others that have a feel-good warmth. The story navigates these extremes smoothly and successfully, and it’s impressive.
It will take a while to see all the endings, and most of them will need to be unlocked to reach the best or true ending. I spent over twenty-five hours to get there, but you could easily take a little more or less. That time will be spent looking at events from multiple angles and perspectives, and seeing a new facet of a story you thought you knew was awesome.
The visuals and sound are more on the simplistic side, but they look good. It’s not a game that will push your PS4 Pro, but it’s well-designed and executed. The character designs seem to be higher quality and standout.
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES was worth the wait, and it delivers a delightfully weird and wonderful detective story that kept me guessing up until it revealed its secrets. With multiple endings, interesting characters, solid voice acting, and the ABSOLUTE BEST end credits scene you’ll see all year, it’s a fun adventure that’s worth your time.
AI: The Somnium Files PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is a layered detective story that takes you on a very wild journey as Detective Date and his AI eyeball, Aiba, as they try to stop the Cyclops Killer. There are multiple endings, an excellent story with so many twists, and it manages to successfully hit just about every emotion with a creative flair and ease. Some of the story moves a little slower or has jokes that don’t land, but it’s full of surprises that will keep you glued to your screen.
- Layered story and excellent writing keep you in suspense.
- Manages to have one game with weird, funny, sad, tense, and happy moments without it feeling awkward or forced (unless it’s done intentionally.)
- Great character designs.
- References and jokes can be great.
- Locations could use a little more variety.
- The joke about the porno mags is overused.
- A few beginning parts of the story feel slow.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.