Mystery games can be food for your mind and many gamers such as myself love to put their brain power to good use. These games would have you using your brain power to solve suspense-packed mysteries full of thrill and excitement.
The gaming industry is teeming with many exciting additions to the genre including the Sherlock Holmes franchise, Ace Attorney franchise, L. A. Noire, and of course, my favorite mystery game ‘AI: The Somnium Files.’ There are many factors that make this game so great and a cut above the other mystery games.
The Bamboozling Nature Of AI: The Somnium Files
AI: The Somnium Files takes you to uncover the mystery of the ‘ New Cyclops Serial Killings’ Case. You would play as Date interacting with various characters and investigating various scenes to uncover the mystery of the serial killings. The Cyclops Serial Killing case involved various victims each with one eye removed.
Handling serial killings in a mystery game is no easy task as it requires both a well-written plot and a mystery that won’t go stale but AI: Somnium files do the job just fine. Furthermore, one crucial aspect that serial killing cases need to have is that the culprit remains largely unguessable.
The unpredictability of the plot and the case is what makes AI: The Somnium Files so great. Playing many mystery games, I was often able to predict the culprit. However, AI had me clueless throughout the investigations and even threw my guesses back in my face.
The game keeps you guessing for the true culprit throughout your playthrough. I won’t spoil but the culprit was totally unexpected, so that’s a plus point. Great Ace Attorney also handles the ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ case well, However, it was easily guessable who the main culprit of that case was before it was revealed in the final chapter.
Other than the case, the protagonist, Date himself is shrouded in mystery. Apparently, Date has no memories of who he was before he started working as a special detective.
While you are investigating the case, you would also learn more about Date’s past. The game featured an Amnesiac protagonist and tied his story in with the mystery of the serial cases so well.
The game is a visual novel and mostly you would be reading the dialogues of various characters than actual gameplay. However, it is interesting to note that many mystery games are handled so well in the visual novel so well. Danganronpa, Zero Escape, and the Ace Attorney franchise are examples of such games.
Bizarre Yet Mysterious Gameplay
Aside from usual investigations and asking questions from other characters, Players would also be required to dive down into the minds of various characters through a “Psync.” You can delve into the subconscious of various characters to reveal information that you could not obtain through other means.
The ‘Psynching’ is something unique to AI: Somnium files and this makes the game much more interesting than other run-of-the-mill detective games. The ‘Psync’ puzzles are also bizarrely designed, and they are interesting to solve too. You would investigate both the dreams and crime scenes to get to the bottom of the case.
Games like Time Hollow also tried to add the concept of “Hollow Pen” which would allow you to investigate scenes of both the past and future, However, the mystery in that game was not far developed and felt very simple and mediocre.
While you are in the dream, the results of what would you get after interacting with objects are usually unexpected and that’s what makes the game so fun as players anticipate seeing the end result of a Psync. The game definitely adds the unsettling and gore aspect to it really well.
Players would find both easygoing and horrific dreams when Date Psyncs with certain characters. A particular Psync of Iris was terrific and definitely sent a shiver down my spine. The sequel of the game ‘Nirvana Initiative’ also featured some messed up Psyncs and this is what the series is really good at.
Interacting with various objects within a dream would help you progress further through a Psync. Psync puzzles can also pose a great challenge. Players would be required to really use their minds to guess which object to interact with as pointlessly interacting with objects limits the time, you can stay in a Psync.
You would be engaged in a few action QTE scenes. While some of them may feel boring, there are a few that are action-packed. In my personal opinion, since the action is not the main focus of the game, you should not head in expecting action. However, do expect an excellent mystery and a well-written story.
AI: The Somnium Files features multiple ending features but all of these endings are tied in to make up the complete story of the game. The game handles its storytelling really well, and it was an aspect I found to be very well-directed. It’s why I find the game to be superior to many linear mystery games including Ace Attorney and the Sherlock Holmes Franchise.
Each ending would reveal some information about the case and it would start making sense to the players gradually. This is what mystery games are all about as they reveal information about a case gradually keeping the players in suspense. AI: The Somnium Files would deliver it spectacularly.
Another mystery game by Kotaro Uchikoshi, Zero Escape does feature the multiple ending system but most of the endings were unrelated to the main case unlike AI: The Somnium files.
I personally feel that the writing and direction were much better in the AI: The Somnium Files series. Even the sequel of the game was very well written and the mystery was as bizarre, if not more.
The game develops its various characters very well. Characters like Ota may not seem significant at first, but the game developed his character pretty well by the end of his ending route. Ota’s relationship with his mom and his growth as a person was both heartwarming and emotional.
The game developed the bond between Aiba and Date as they solved the case together. Their interactions were some of the best written in the game even though some characters felt weaker. I also liked how the game’s narrative was well done including various interrogation scenes and other interactions as well.
While the game does feel a tad bit weaker when it comes to characterization. Unlike Danganronpa, which focused on every character, AI: The Somnium Files left a few characters to go to waste.
However, those characters were not central to the case and the game did develop all its key characters pretty well at least which is good enough.
AI: The Somnium Files is yet another masterpiece by Kotaro Uchikoshi besides the Zero Escape Franchise. The game is underrated and yet it defines itself so well in the mystery genre in video gaming.
The game is on par with many masterpieces in the genre including Sherlock Holmes games, The Ace Attorney games, Danganronpa, L.A. Noire, and many more.
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