Developed by SPIKE CHUNSOFT Published by SPIKE CHUNSOFT Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on Switch PC)
A Swiss psychiatric and psychoanalyst named Carl Jung once said, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” This concept is explored in great depth by Kotaro Uchikoshi in his newest game, AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES. Just like Uchikoshi’s other titles, AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is a high stakes adventure game with many twists and turns along the way. Currently available for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and PC, players take control of Kaname Date, a detective with the special unit Advanced Brain Investigation Section (ABIS for short). Date and his AI partner Aiba must unravel the mystery behind horrible murders that have been happening to people close to them before it is too late. AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES can be summed up in one word: masterpiece. From the start to the finish I didn’t want to put the controller down knowing that I was just minutes away from uncovering some new truth about what going on.
Unlike his previous work with the Zero Escape series, AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES place a heavier emphasis on being an adventure game than ever before. The gameplay is broken up into two parts, INVESTIGATION and SOMNIUM. The INVESTIGATION portion is your typical point-and-click style with the player questioning suspects, collecting evidence, and moving from place to place. The SOMNIUM part is another place where the game really shines. If Date is trying to get more information out of a suspect he can perform a Psync using special ABIS technology that allows Date to enter the dreams of the subject to figure out what they are trying to hide.
However, during Psyncing, there is a hard six-minute time limit or Date will be trapped in the mind of the other person. The player takes control of Aiba as she travels the dreamscape uncovering information. While Aiba stands still time barely moves but every action that Aiba takes consumes valuable seconds. Some actions take only one second but others can take anywhere up to 999 seconds. Six minutes seems like a long time at first, but once you start looking for clues you’ll notice how short it actually is. There are items that Aiba receives that both increase and decrease the amount of time that actions take so the player must learn how to manage their time in order to complete a Psync.
The character design is handled by Yūsuke Kozaki who has previously worked on series like Fire Emblem and No More Heroes. Each character is unique with their own flair and personality. The character designs are complemented by a wonderful voice cast that is available in both English and Japanese, which is a pretty rare feature for a game like this. The player has the option to change dual audio track at anytime as well which makes it convenient for players who wants to experience both languages. One of the strongest parts of AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is its story and use of dialogue. The dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever seen in an adventure game and all of the characters generally feel human. The conversations between them feel real and authentic. The banter between Aiba and Date is balanced out with just the right amount of humor that doesn’t get overbearing by being too serious or too silly.
The only major complaint I have with AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is with the sound effects and animation during the action and quick-time events. While it’s not a noticeable issue during some of the heavy action scenes, the sounds effects are not necessarily strong enough to match what is happening on screen. Some of the animations can feel a little stiff at times. This mixed with weak sound effects make take the player out of the experience if only for a moment.
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is truly a masterpiece that stands out from other games like it with its use of character, dialogue, and gameplay. I can not recommend this enough to almost everyone. The small faults that are here are easily overlooked by Uchikoshi’s brilliant ideas and is currently for me a very strong contender for my game of the year. Uchikoshi’s vision and his use of very compelling storytelling have truly created a work of art that’s a must-play for anyone who is a fan of adventure games.
Check out our interview with Kotaro Uchikoshi and Yusuke Kozaki here!