Title: AI: The Somnium Files
Developer: Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd.
Publisher: Numskull Games
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle, Visual Novel
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 20/09/19
Price: £53.99 – Rapid Reviews was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Before playing AI: The Somnium Files I only knew one thing about the game, that it was directed by Kotaro Uchikoshi – director of the Zero Escape series. This is honestly how I would recommend that you play the game, especially if you’re a fan of Uchikoshi’s previous titles. I’ll say right now, so you don’t have to read any further, that I loved it, although it has some minor technical issues on Nintendo Switch.
Now if you’re not a fan of Uchikoshi and you aren’t sure whether you will like this game then carry on reading. If you are, I would just go buy the damn thing! Don’t even watch the trailer.
Still here? Right, let’s get on with the review.
AI: The Somnium Files (I’ll call it AI from here on out because the title is bad) is a visual novel about a detective with an AI in his eyeball who helps him solve crimes and is occasionally snarky. There are also more interactive puzzle-solving sections where you invade someone’s dreams Inception-style to try and see what they know but won’t tell you. The basic structure of the game is that you will go from place to place asking questions and furthering the plot, with a dream invasion Somnium puzzle every now and then.
In the game, you play as Kaname Date, a detective for a top-secret police unit of dream invaders. When your best friend’s wife is found murdered, you must work together with various NPCs and your AI eyeball to try and solve the case. There are multiple routes and branching paths, with some branches locked off until you unlock the information you need in others. The story was excellent and kept me riveted the entire time, even though I had guessed at some of the twists that came up in the final third.
Speaking of the story, the game is also really funny. The banter back and forth between Date and the various characters he comes into contact with are great, from his adopted daughter Mizuki to Twitch streamer Iris and idol-obsessed Yakuza Moma. There are multiple running gags about Date being a huge pervert, and an especially funny conversation tree you can go down with a well-endowed receptionist. That storyline even had its own ending!
Artistically I thought the game looked and sounded great. All the character designs are intricate and well done, even if they only have a minor role in the story. The one aspect of the way the game looked that wasn’t great was the performance on my Switch. This was the case whether I played docked or undocked. I experienced frame-rate issues, mostly relegated to non-gameplay like the short car animation that plays when you go from place to place, and when you enter an area in a cutscene.
These issues were very noticeable but didn’t impact the gameplay or my enjoyment of the story at all. This is possibly a personal thing, though, and your mileage may vary. I’d recommend looking up a let’s play on YouTube as I’m sure that will tell you what you need to know.
The reason that a visual novel has performance issues is that it’s probably the highest production value visual novel I have ever played. Every scene is fully animated and voiced, to a high standard. If the static and menu-heavy nature of visual novels has put you off the genre in the past, this may be the perfect one for you.
Like any visual novel, AI lives and dies by its characters, and there are so many great ones here. Even minor characters like the receptionist mentioned above are well thought out and work well. While the jokes in the game are sometimes a bit creepy with the way they treat the female characters, you do get the sense that those jokes are part of the nature of Date, mostly because every other character calls him disgusting when he does these things.
If you take the time to speak to everyone and exhaust every dialogue option, you will have a great time, though that’s not needed to enjoy the game. I mostly just made sure to talk to all the major characters and loved the game, but a friend of mine spent a few more hours playing and had a favourite minor character I didn’t even remember!
Like I said up top, AI: The Somnium Files is a fantastic game. Performance issues and a few dodgy jokes (that you might like, they just weren’t my taste) don’t take much away from a game I am happy to recommend wholeheartedly. It has a story I am sure I will remember at the game of the year time in a couple of months. It has a production value I haven’t seen in a visual novel before.
AI: The Somnium Files ended up being one of my favourite games of the year so far, so if it sounds up your street then I would suggest you give it a try. It’s also pretty good value, as I went through the game at a reasonable clip and it still took almost 24 hours to get to the true ending.
Rapid Reviews Rating
If you’d like to buy AI: The Somnium Files you can get it from the eShop here: https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch/AI-THE-SOMNIUM-FILES-1631321.html
You can also purchase AI: The Somnium Files from the Numskull Games website on the following link, http://numskullgames.com/project/ai-the-somnium-files/
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.