Wednesday, 23 October 2019

AI: The Somnium Files ★★★★☆

If there was ever a game that is a little difficult to review, it turns out that it’s the most bizarre game that is ‘A.I: The Somnium Files’. It is the latest adventure story-driven game from Spike Chunsoft and follows protagonist Kaname Date and his completely ludicrous A.I eyeball named Aiba (short for “eyeball”) as you try to solve a series of murder cases. You’re probably thinking that already this sounds pretty weird, but it only gets weirder.

There’s a lot that you would expect from a detective-style game here, from interviewing people to checking for clues in crime scenes, but the real meat of the game is a tactic you can employ that’s a little more unusual, which is entering various people's subconscious to search further for clues. These are dreamscape-like scenarios that are filled with puzzles for you to work out to progress. Not much unlike an escape room, really, but just quite a bit more surreal. These puzzles that you have to solve tend not to be much more than interaction with objects in environments, from passing skill checks to completing quick time events, but the game will always keep you guessing about what’s exciting revelation is to be revealed just around the corner.

Truly, the best parts of the game come from the visual novel sections that have a heavy emphasis on story. These are governed by your actions in the world and within people's heads, with the direction of the story drastically changing depending on what actions you end up taking. You never quite know what is going to come next and that was really the main draw of the game for me.

As well as this, the performance and graphics of the game are just excellent. I really love the anime style of Spike Chunsoft games, which is completely unique. The small cast of characters you will interact with throughout the investigation range from loveable to annoying but there’s a great variety there and it’s hard not to warm to them.

There’s one thing that I’ll say though – if you’ve never really been a fan of these type of graphic novels then I don't think that much will pull you in. The style is really designed for fans of the genre, as is the gameplay and general feel of the game. However, if you thrive on games such as ‘Danganronpa’ or ‘Root Letter’ then this game will be right up your street.

I am still waiting for a visual novel adventure game to come out that really gets worldwide and western acclaim – generally these types of games are very underappreciated, except for the niche audience and cult following its gains. I think they have a lot to offer the mainstream gaming world but so far it just hasn’t happened. I hope that this game will be a hit for Spike Chunsoft as it is so well written and the characters are great.  The puzzle-solving could be a little more in-depth but I still found it quite engaging, resulting in it a game with multiple pros that is well worth your time.

Hannah Read

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