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AI: Somnium Files - Video Game Review

Summer December 27, 2019

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AI: The Somnium Files is a visual novel (a genre of videogame that is text based with little gameplay) that takes place in a technologically advanced Tokyo in the near future and follows Kaname Date, a detective who is a member of the secret branch of the law enforcement called “Advanced Brain Investigation Squad (ABIS).” The game follows him and his partner, AI-Ball, nicknamed Aiba, as they investigate a series of mysterious copycat killings.

As an avid fan of visual novels, I really enjoyed the mechanics of this game. My favorite aspect is the flow chart that allows you to play the differing routes without having to start completely over if you miss the wrong choice on your intended route. I also like that instead of dialogue being the determining factor, it was differing puzzle outcomes that led you down the different paths. The puzzles themselves are interesting and a lot more complex than I would expect from a visual novel. In these puzzles you play as Aiba, and have only six minutes to delve into the psyche of differing characters in order to extract information to help you solve the mystery. The storyline is interesting and you actually have to play all the routes in order to truly understand what’s happening, so a completionist run is a must.

All that being said, I can see how Somnium Files could be off-putting for those unfamiliar with visual novels as a game genre. The animations are stilted and infrequent—the fact there was any at all was a surprise to me. You also must play the game in a certain order to proceed down any of the routes, which I can see being confusing or frustrating to those who are looking for a linear story or not familiar with games with differing routes. It is also very much a point and click type of game, between puzzles, I “played” much of the game on auto with the controller not even in my hands.

My only real personal gripe is how the crude and off-putting humor the game sometimes showcases is so jarring in contrast to the seriousness of the plot and the excellent voice acting: it shocks you right out of the immersion.

Overall Rating: A-

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