AI: The Somnium Files (PlayStation 4) Review

By Eric Ace 06.01.2022

Review for AI: The Somnium Files on PlayStation 4

AI: The Somnium Files is a visual novel that lays heavily in the sci-fi and cyber-noir genre. Written by the same person who wrote the tremendously successful Zero Escape series, the story revolves around a detective named Date, who has to solve a series of grisly murders largely by diving into unconscious subjects to find clues. The game has some funny parts mixed with some good plot sections, but the general pacing and tone whiplash feels largely like a juvenile attempt from the writer that largely was remarkably competent in his previous works.

Playing AI: The Somnium Files one is naturally going to compare it to the other series written by the same man, the well-received Zero Escape series. Taking place in a part cyberpunk future mixed with a soft feeling of film noir as you play a detective trying to figure out a new round of serial killings. This is accomplished through a typical visual novel investigation section involving clicking on objects until something important is found. The second, more interesting aspect involves diving into subject's subconscious to try to extract information out.

What makes this a tough one to rate, is that some parts of it hit very high notes, for example the AI companion Aiba (portrayed as a svelte young woman in a tight bodysuit) and the main character Date have a generally pretty funny back and forth with their humour. Aiba is by far the highlight of the story, both with her intelligence, cool style, and mix of insight and humour. There are other great high points as some of the various plot have characters getting killed, giving a good sense of "Oh my god, that happened!?" The problem becomes how few and far between this is.

Zero Escape, particularly the first game Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors is held up as a benchmark of good visual novels. For very good reason, as from the beginning the tension is high, the characters are interesting, and the more the plot is revealed, the deeper and more intense it gets. In comparison (and ironic given it was the same writer) AI: The Somnium Files fails on most of these points.

Screenshot for AI: The Somnium Files on PlayStation 4

Most of the main plot revolves around side characters dying that are hardly introduced, and therefore few will care about. This is one of the first major flaws compared to its better predecessor. The main character Date isn't particularly involved in the plot, and by proxy neither is the gamer. Consider how in 999 from the beginning is intense, the player has hours to live, and doesn't know why they are here. It's a great draw to stay in the game. Here, it's some random person killed, then hours later some other person ends up dead. It doesn't come as a shock, or really matter.

As can be read between the lines above, the pacing is the title's largest downfall. There are some interesting points, but they are few and far between. There is not that core tension present that keeps the player wading through the plot. Furthermore, there are a lot of elements that are so weird and out of left field it takes away even further from being invested in the story. Largely the game is played mostly straight where a single knife can send someone to the hospital, yet there are various segments of the game that are straight out of the worst anime. Namely the young girl Mizuki where you see a 12-year-old girl bench pressing hundreds of pounds, jumping off trees, or fighting a hundred huge thugs armed with machine guns. These elements are so laughably stupid, it takes away from the attempt at being a "serious" narrative.

The main problems largely stem from how inconsistent and slow it all is. Even the dreams, while a cool idea, are nothing more than trial-and-error. There is no logic to whether at any point you should smell, lift, kick or just look at items. Largely players simply bumble their way through the dream sections much like Date bumbles his way through the plot. It is really unfortunate, because the sci-fi nature of this (though rarely touched on) promised to be interesting Aiba is a very cool character, and the occasional serious tone all seemed to be good.

Screenshot for AI: The Somnium Files on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

When the story hits some of its high points, AI: The Somnium Files is really good, and feels like the same kind of high 999 gave… but it is largely crippled by just how slow and repetitious it all is. Random slapstick and outright unrealistic scenes draws players out very quickly from the attempt at being a serious plot. It goes nowhere fast, and the whiplash between attempts at humour and serious moments are too ham-fisted. The overall plot could easily be cut by more than half, and the overall experience would be better for it.

Developer

Spike Chunsoft

Publisher

Spike Chunsoft

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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