[Review] AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES – Nintendo Switch

Written by slimwiggins

Reviewed by Thomas

Intro

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES was a bit of a mystery to me. When the assignment to review it came across my desk, I was unfamiliar with the title. I enjoy that aspect of reviewing games. When I get a chance to experience a title I know little to nothing about. To say I was surprised with my experience with AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES would be a gross understatement. This is a title as ambiguous as it’s eShop description.

In a near-future Tokyo, Special Agent Kaname Date is on the case of a mysterious serial killer. Date must investigate crime scenes as well as dreams on the hunt for clues.

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES, which I’ll call SOMNIUM going forward, sunk its teeth into me and never let go. Join me on my journey and find out why I consider this a must buy game for Nintendo Switch.

Psyncin’ in the MaiN

I’d like to be careful when describing the story line for SOMNIUM. After experiencing firsthand what is offered, I can understand the obscurity in the aforementioned description. You play as Agent Date (pronounced Dot-eh) and are tasked with tracking down a serial killer. Though you’re technically not a detective you do have a unique tool at your disposal. Date is equipped with a fake eye. His replacement eye however, is an artificial intelligence. The AI in his eye is called Aiba. Short for AI Ball or eyeball. Aiba makes a great sounding board during the investigation and has a unique personality of its own. 

During the investigation, Date begins to unravel more and more mysteries which are all interconnected. You’ll meet a huge cast of eccentric characters who you aren’t sure you can trust. It is clear from the outset that SOMNIUM is a bizarre experience. As often as I thought I knew what was going on or who the killer was, I had to scratch my head as I went back to the drawing board.

The narrative is where SOMNIUM shines. The story was so captivating that I could hardly put my Switch down. The writing is oddly wonderful and the delivery by the voice actors is spot on. One thing is for certain, I’ll be thinking about SOMNIUM long into the future.

Psyncin’ in the VaiN

There are several facets of gameplay in SOMNIUM. The majority of your time will be spent interviewing people. It didn’t seem like there was a lot you could get wrong during these interactions as you can select all of the choices. Even when it wasn’t necessary to ask everything, I found myself taking the time anyway just to learn more about the characters. I was so invested in what was going on, I couldn’t get enough.

Outside of these primary interactions the game takes on the approach of a look-and-find game. Your character doesn’t move and you stand in a fixed spot. You direct the cursor around a scene and select objects in the background to inquire about. With your AI partner, Aiba you can zoom in, use night vision or even x-ray vision. There isn’t freedom in using these tools however. You can only use them when the game wants you to. In a way that was nice so you don’t waste time zooming in on every minute detail. Again, it was hard to miss anything or get something wrong since the game directs you to what you can investigate. Searching the whole screen yields humorous commentary outside the required plot points.

SOMNIUM will occasionally throw in some quick time events with minor action. Another main aspect of the game is the somnium itself. At certain points, you will have the ability to tether to a subject and dive into their dreams, a la Inception. Once in this dream state you can freely move a humanoid manifestation of Aiba around to interact with outlandish environments. Constrained by a time limit, your goal is to find clues in their subconscious they wouldn’t relinquish while awake. There are different approaches you can take in the somnium which can impact your overall experience.

At first I couldn’t tell what type of game SOMNIUM wanted to be. However, the further I progressed the more I enjoyed the blend of mechanics. The various styles were well balanced and tied the narrative together in an emotional experience. I never felt like any one aspect was overdone.

Psyncin’ in the VILLaiN

The art style in SOMNIUM echoed its bizarre storyline. When Aiba manifests itself in either humanoid or cute cyclops form, the game calls attention to the wackiness. SOMNIUM is a dark and bubbly game at the same time. The graphics could be unsettling and colorful giving the game a bizarre noir feeling.

The music captured the same essence as well. You could be looking at a gruesome crime scene with cheerful music blaring in the background. The effervescent songs belie the dreary world and dark events in a way that offers a glimmer of hope. This couldn’t be a more adequate way to set the stage for the player in creating an unparalleled atmosphere.

Psyncin’ in the PaiN

I didn’t run into any technical issues during my time with SOMNIUM. The experience is enjoyable in both handheld and docked mode. Though, I warn you, if you play on a television and have other people listening in, they won’t be happy when you plug in some earbuds and grab the game to go. Not only did SOMNIUM draw myself into its enticing lair, my wife had to know what was going on as well. She demanded I fill her in and thus an obscure video game became the main topic of our day.

Final Wrap

AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES is a testament to the age old debate of video games as a viable entertainment medium to compete with television and blockbuster movies. SOMNIUM took me on an interactive ride that I won’t soon forget. Timed choices left me wondering if I made the right call and I had to live with that through some emotional outcomes. SOMNIUM is a complete package and should be added to every gamer’s library. It does contain a fair amount of mature content, so the rating should be adhered. I let my kids watch parts of the game but there are some scenes and innuendos that aren’t suitable for a younger audience.

Pros

  • Vast Web of Mystery
  • Compelling Story
  • Fascinating Cast
  • Eccentric Style

Verdict
AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES provides a methodical blend of gameplay with an irresistible story which will permeate the mind.
5/5

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