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NCG Review – AI: Somnium Files (Switch, PC, PS4)

Basic Info

“The mind never lies…

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. From the mind of Kotaro Uchikoshi (Zero Escape series director), with character design by the Yusuke Kozaki (NO MORE HEROES, Fire Emblem series), a thrilling neo-noir detective adventure is about to unfold.”

TITLE AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES
RELEASE DATE Digital (PSN, NSW, STEAM): September 17, 2019
Retail (PS4, NSW) : September 24, 2019
PLATFORM(S) PlayStation®4, Nintendo Switch™, Steam® (PC)
PRICE Standard Edition: $59.99/ €59.99

Special Agent Edition: $89.99/ €99.99

PLAYER(S) 1 player
GENRE Adventure
WEBSITE http://spike-chunsoft.com/ai | Steam Store
RATING ESRB: M/ PEGI: 18 / USK: 16
LANGUAGE(S) English/Traditional Chinese text, Japanese audio/English audio
DEVELOPER Spike Chunsoft, Co., Ltd.
COPYRIGHT ©Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Licensed to and Published by Spike Chunsoft, Inc.

Story

A woman’s body is found with multiple stab wounds and missing her left eye.  She is bound to a merry-go-round in a long abandon amusement park. When the main character, Kaname Date, arrives he immediately recognizes the woman. Shoko Nadami, the ex-wife of his close friend and mother to the young girl he is housing.

You mission? Solve the mysteries around this murder. Can you find the truth behind the incident and capture the killer?90

Throughout the game you play as Kaname Date.  With no memories from 6 years prior and missing his left eye, Kaname Date encounters Boss.  Boss helps Date get hired at the Metro Police as a detective in the Advanced Brain Investigation Squad (ABIS) and replaces his left eye with Aiba, an artificial intelligence directly wired to his brain.  Aiba, who has been with Date for 6 years, assists him with his work as a detective by providing him with instant information, x ray vision, the ability to see long distances, and predict actions that will get Date out of some sticky situations.   Aiba also acts as Date’s avatar when he needs to “Psync” into another person’s consciousness within Somnium (the subconscious world of another character).  Along with Aiba, Date investigates Shoko’s murder to find her killer.c00

There are many twists and turns as you meet new characters and learn their connection and/or involvement in the murder. One story line, based on your choices in Somnium, will play out in a completely different way compared to another route.  Some characters will live in one line, and some characters will die in another.  Can you make it to the “true” ending?

Gameplay

AI: Somnium Files is a mash-up of visual novel and puzzle game.  The basic story line carries core elements of a visual novel, however, rather than reading text on the screen you’re given an opportunity to interact with the room and characters around you. This is all presented to you in a limited way (your character cannot get up and walk around the room or explore new areas on your own), but you have the ability to look around you and take in the environment.01

In additional to visual-novel elements, you’ll be presented with the ability to “psync”.  The concept of this is diving into the sub consciousness of another character and unlock a repressed/hidden memory, which you will need to do in order to further your investigation.  During the Psync, you need to solve puzzles to find the secret hidden in a characters sub consciousness.  In order to solve the puzzle you interact, through Aiba, with the items in an area.  Unlike the limited presentation of the “investigation” aspect of the story, you can control Aiba and move her through the Somnium space.  How you interact with the objects is the key to unlocking the “mental blocks” put in place.  A Psync can only last for 6 minutes (game time), but each interaction you make with an object depletes the remaining time you have.  There are TIMIEs you can use which will decrease the amount of time spent on an action but there are also Negative TIMIEs which will increase the time for your next interaction.  Interactions with the objects are not obvious and you’ll end up burning through time to find the correct interaction.  Fortunately, you get 3 retries but sometimes finding the right order of interaction will take you more than 3 attempts.  There are some actions you perform that will have a Negative TIMIE in order to progress so on your next action so you need to figure out how to maximize the use of your time.10

How you complete the puzzles in Somnium determines the path of story.  Based on which “Mental locks” you open, the story will proceed down that path. Not every Somnium puzzle has separate paths, but ones that have two will lead you down a different story line.AI: THE SOMNIUM FILES_20190417131431

What really sets this game apart from similar titles is that you do not have to repeat the entire story to take a different path in the game.  Instead, you can go back to a “psync” and replay it. This increases the replay value and doesn’t make the game feel so tedious, which tends to happen with visual novels if you don’t know where and when to save.

Visuals/Graphics and Audio

Most visual novels can be very bland and fall flat when it comes to animation and graphics, however, the all dialogue of the game is voiced over which makes the story that much more engaging.  Characters are also animated when talking, moving their arms, making facial expressions and simple gestures, and this is a nice touch since it brings the characters to life.13

Verdict

Pros: Unlike most visual novels, the game doesn’t fall flat.  The story line itself is enough to keep the player intrigued and curious to know all the secrets of the game. Although frustrating at times, the puzzles are challenging.  You’re given hints on what you need to do, but finding the next action isn’t obvious. Although graphics aren’t “triple A” status, the animation and voice overs give enough to the player to bring the story to life.  While in Somnium, when performing an action, rather than the game telling you you’ve made a bad choice, the dialogue between the characters becomes ridiculous, either with Date and Aiba mocking each other or making jokes at Date’s expense.

Cons: The only real qualm I had with the game is the lack of opportunity to save before jumping into a Somnium puzzle.  Save points in games are incredibly important to me because I have to jump on and off of a game (hours of sit through game play? Not in my adult life!).  Sometimes a “Psync” will just start (it will be obvious when it does but almost unexpected) and I do not have the chance to save the game before jumping in.  You cannot save before or during a “psync” so I’m either stuck putting my game in “Sleep Mode” until I can play again, or hope that AutoSave will take me back where I left off.

I would rate this game an 8 out of 10.Score

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and even though the Somnium puzzles took me a few attempts, I found myself going back to unlock different story lines without much hesitation or feeling “too drained” to keep going.

Have you heard of this game? Will you pick up this title? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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Top 5 Mustaches in Video Games

Top 5 Mustaches in Video Games
By UNDED
Dating back to 300 B.C., mustaches have nearly always been a part of male grooming, style, and social class. But in the 1800s, they became incredibly popular in the United States. After over 100 years, I have decided to do what no other human has ever dreamed of; make a list. Not just any list; a list of the top 5 mustachioed characters in gaming.  
Dr. Robotnik-Sonic The Hedgehog
Dr. Robotnik, later known in the game as Dr. Eggman because of his beautiful physique and incredibly unkempt cookie duster that is, literally, as wide as his shoulders. Master of technology, you’d think he would at least keep it nice and trim…

Solid Snake-Metal Gear Solid 
Don’t let the old man face fool you; there are years of experience with the ladies under that flavor savor. It’s full, thick, and as American as teenage apple pie. As the second most powerful person on this list, Snake will not only kick your ass ten times before you knew he was in the room, he’d look good doing it to. 

Wario-Mario Series
 Not only is Warios molestache the most menacing shape I’ve ever seen, but the carpet doesn’t match the drapes. Come to think of it, even the eyebrows don’t match the drapes. What the fuck is wrong with this guy?

Sir Galahad-The Order 1886
The newest member to this list, Sir Galahad, is a true gentleman. Sure he spends most of his time killing vampires and lycanthropes, but the heartthrob hunk keeps that lady tickler nice and oiled for when the time is right to stop killin’ and start lovin’.   

Alakazam-Pokemon
 By far the finest crumb catcher on this list, Alakazam’s womb broom reaches down to his knees. Solid Snake may be a stealth legend, but Alakazam doesn’t even need to touch you in order to lay your ass out – he does it all while holding silverware like a boss! In his mega evolution form it turns into a massive beard, which goes to show just how powerful he is; he can literally migrate his mouser across his face and change its color.
So there you have it, the finest soup strainers, mouth brows, smoke filters, lip toupee, and grass grins you’ve ever seen in video games. The epitome of testosterone fueled manliness. When Wario gets knocked out of a race, watch him change his tire. When Dr. Robotniks gadgets break, he pulls out a wrench and gets to work. Solid Snake is so stealth he’s snuck up on ghosts. Sir Galahad dresses better than your dad on prom night. Alakazam? Well… those spoons aint just for bending. He’ll swoon you with a five star quality dinner –the most romantic spoon rendition of My Heart Will Go On, and finally make sweet, sweet, spoony love to you until you’re a hot mess on the ground. Because he’s a goddamn man.

Most Anticipated Games of 2016

Most Anticipated Games of 2016
By UNDED
2016 is shaping up to be another year of spectacular game releases. Titles like Gears of War 4, Resident Evil Zero HD Remaster, Amplitude, and Mario and Luigi: Paper Jam are just a few titles that will suck your life away this year. Of all these great games though, I definitely have my favorites. These are my top five picks for the games I’m most excited for in 2016.

Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India and Russia

Continuing where I left off on my Games of the Year for 2015, the last two installments of the Assasin’s Creed: Chronicles series will hit this year. Chronicles India released on January 12th. Expect to play as Arbaaz Mir with an all new “trident” hidden blade. Not one to make us wait much longer, Chronicles Russia will hit digital shelves February 9th featuring Nikolai Orelov, as you save a princess and protect a coveted artifact.

Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness

Star Ocean is one of those series that existed well before I knew it was even a thing. Star Ocean first caught my attention when a saw a friend playing it on the 360. Like many massive games before it, it came on multiple disks. There’s something about multi-disk game that I just find romantic. Even today where games can have 60+GB installs, you still only get a 30 hour game. It’s incredibly rewarding to open a game for the first time and see multiple disks. You just know that this game is a huge deal, and you’re going to have to commit yourself, for better or worse, and prepare for one hell of a story to play through. Here’s to hoping Integrity and Faithlessness does the same.

Friday the 13th: The Game

What originally began as a Kickstarter to pay homage to a classic horror series,Friday the 13th: The Game has turned into a full blown gaming experience. Earning the praise of both fans and horror legends alike, series creator Sean S. Cunningham gave the development team his full support for everything they need to make a great tribute, including the license to the franchise. If your pants aren’t wet yet, Kane Hodder, the man behind the mask who is so dedicated to the series he has the word “KILL” tattooed on the inside of his bottom lip, will reportedly be returning to the role, his first time playing Jason in 15 years.

Tom Clancy’s The Division

Since it was first teased at E3 2013, I was hooked. Despite it being two years, and many push-backs, Tom Clancy’s The Division is still to this day one of my most anticipated games. I know how dangerous it can be to wait too long for a game. Gameplay changes, graphics aren’t what they promised, and it can turn out to be a completely different experience than what was first announced. That being said, it’s been a long time since I’ve played a traditional players-vs-objective co-op game that I really fell in love with (I’m looking at you Red Dead Redemption) so I can’t help but be really excited for it.
Ace Combat 7

Ace Combat goes as far back as Ace Combat 4: Shattered Skies on the Playstation 2. My love for Shattered Skies and the sequel The Unsung War was so great that in the cruelest example of inappropriate hype, I actually left for college to be a pilot right after high school.   I’m a huge fan of flight simulators and Ace Combat not only scratches that itch, it covers it with a smooth, cool, action-y cream. I can’t say I’m too thrilled about the first-person action, lock-on camera of the last game (I feel like it’s a bit much), but it won’t stop me from wanting the newest entry in the series. Set to hit later this year as a PS4 exclusive, it will definitely be a must have for the system.

2016 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for gamers. Triple-A titles are coming out of the woodwork, especially ones promised when the current systems were announced. Along with Sony and Microsoft racing to get backwards compatibility off the ground, there is going to a slew of great titles to play; not to mention your backlog of 2015 games that you haven’t finished or just plain aren’t done with. Regardless of what you end up playing this year, you’re not going to be disappointed. 

Mortal Kombat XL Announced

We Knew This Would Come One Day

Fighting Games are infamous for having rerelease’s a year after being launched, and Mortal Kombat X does that very thing. Today Neather Realms Studio showcase a new trailer for their newly announced upcoming Mortal Kombat X GOTY package. This new package is called Mortal Kombat XL and  will include all the DLC on one disc, which is; Kombat Pack One, Kombat Pack Two, all Skins, and as seen in the trailer, a new classic Pit level. Sounds great, and MKX couldn’t be happier knowing that this and the new netcode system is on its way. You can pick up Mortal Kombat XL March 1st, for PS4, and Xbox One.
Feel free to watch the trailer below

Will you be picking up this GOTY package? Are you happy seeing MKXL coming? Leave a comment below of your thoughts on MKXL

Corpse Party:Blood Drive Review

Corpse Party: Blood Drive Review
By Stellar.Ice

A lesser known JRPG horror game, Corpse Party has been one of the scariest games I’ve ever played (coming in right after PT).  The story follows a group of students who are spirited away into another dimension and trapped in a haunted school filled with hate, agony, despair, and murder. Corpse Party plays as a survival horror, action game mixed in with visual novel elements.  You follow multiple characters as they try to survive.  There are three installments to the Corpse Party series, Corpse Party: Blood Covered (PSP), Corpse Party: Book of Shadows (PSP), and Corpse Party: Blood Drive (PS Vita).

Story (Note: Some spoilers ahead)

Blood Drivetakes place a few weeks after the events of Book of Shadows where Ayumi and her friends believe they have destroyed Heavenly Host and Sachiko’s curse.  They discover that not only does Heavenly Host still exist, the curse of Heavenly Host is spreading into the real world and has become more malevolent than ever.  Tricked into thinking the Book of Shadows can revive her dead friends, Ayumi goes back into Heavenly Host to retrieve the Book of Shadows and, once again, try to destroy Heavenly Host for good.

I highly recommend playing Blood Coveredand Book of Shadows before playing Blood Drive, or, at least reading the story/watching a walk through beforehand.  The events in Blood Driveconstantly refer to the events of Book of Shadows. This put me at a loss, because although I had played Book of Shadows, the version I played did not follow Ayumi and Naomi into Sachiko’s estate so references regarding Book of Shadows were lost on me. I felt like I missed a major piece of the Corpse Party story.

I was surprised to see so many unique characters in Blood Drive.  Most of the new characters seemed to possess supernatural powers which made them out of the ordinary.  While the new characters give Corpse Party a new supernatural element, I think they are overdone.  I enjoyed Blood Covered because these were ordinary people placed in an extraordinary circumstance which tested their limits.  Characters with “special abilities” kind of felt like a cheat.  Super powers tend to be a salvation.

Graphics

Corpse Party is a mixture of 3D top down game play, and visual novel. The top down game play is very similar to Blood Covered,however, at times the 3D made the camera feel awkward. Since you can’t control the camera certain walls block your view so you can’t really tell where you were walking or whether or not something was in front of your character. Sometimes, the game would also glitch and enemies would get stuck in certain areas (not that I’m complaining). Since I played Blood Covered, figuring out the map wasn’t too difficult, however, you are not given a map so you need to get a sense of the school on your own. Fortunately, the map isn’t so large that you’ll get lost. While the graphics aren’t super detailed, the game does a good job depicting the horror that occurs within the schools walls. Corpses, bloodstains, rickety floors, mysterious symbols, creepy audio, and excellent text description make the school a petrifying place to be.

Music

If you’re brave, I recommend putting on your headphones and playing in the dark.  Groaning, creaking floors, breathing, frantic ghosts –you’ll be a much braver player than me! As a horror game, Blood Drive delivered well on the music.  Background music often set the tone for the game, getting louder where needed and dead silent to build tension when necessary.  The audio worked in some ways and failed in others. While creators attempted to create 3D audio, which puts voices far away when the characters are far away, and clear when the characters are close up, I felt that sometimes the “distant” character audio felt out of place, particularly in scenes when they are approaching another character.

Gameplay

Gameplay felt very straightforward but does not hold your hand the entire way.  You have no map. You pretty much wander around the school until you hit the right point for a cut scene or obtain the correct item. It is important to read the dialogue because that is the only way you’ll find clues to the next location or object you will need to obtain. Nothing is highlighted in bold for you.  I often found myself walking around the darn school for nearly an hour, getting killed by ghosts multiple times, before realizing that I was simply walking the wrong way.  This aspect was frustrating, but at the same time rewarding. I felt particularly thrilled that the final boss fight forced me to actually write down clues (on a piece of paper) and decipher when to use them. [Note: If anyone gets stuck on the final fight, I’m more than willing to give you a few hints!]  There are many places in the game where you’ll think “How the hell do I get past this!” to figuring it out and thinking “Gee, it was really that easy?” Choices must also be made on the fly.  Making the wrong decision can, of course, make another “Wrong End”.

The school itself is also a complete danger zone.  You can’t run haphazardly through the hallways because there are shards of glass your character can get hurt on or holes in the floor your character can fall through. Running is also limited. Running too much can cause your character to run out of breath and stop completely to catch it –which is terrible when you’re running away from something.

The game doesn’t hold back on the horror either.  Frequently, I found myself afraid to go into classrooms or walk down certain corridors because I knew there would be a ghost waiting for me. Often, I’d have to confront ghosts and discover whether or not they were good or bad, but first, I’d wander the school before even approaching them. Long story short, I spent a lot of time running through the school trying to shake off evil entities hot on my trail. Getting a “Wrong End” was also never pleasant.  Writers did a wonderful job describing and depicting the torture your character would suffer at the hands of an unforgiving ghost. Not only that, but Corpse Party offered a lot of jump scares. Yes, they were cheesy, but when the face appears in the hole you are looking through (yah, duh, of course something would appear there) you can’t help feeling a shudder. Random faces appear in windows, and the loading screen –oh gosh the loading screen!

 Long story short, the fact that the game didn’t hold my hand the entire time, I was led to many “Wrong Ends” and “Game Over” screens. Over, and over, and over again, but I still enjoyed it.

 
Replay Value

The game has so-so replay value.  With each chapter you clear you unlock a Special Chapter, which is essentially side stories about characters that are not really touched on within the game.  I like this extra feature because I get to meet characters from pervious games, however, when finished I’m not quite sure I’ll pick up the game again. Of course, as a completionist, I may pick it up to unlock all the trophies.

Verdict

Despite not knowing the events of Book of Shadowsand the frustrating amount of “Wrong Ends” I got throughout the game, I had a lot of fun playing.  I love how tutorials were kept to a minimum and how I had to figure a lot out for myself.  Story wise, this wasn’t my favorite installment of Corpse Party. Again, the new characters detracted somewhat to the story and then the out of this world, catastrophic events just felt like too much. I love the basic scenario: What would happen if you got stuck in a haunted school? How would you survive? The camera was somewhat glitchy, but not enough to be overly distracting and the ghosts were pretty darn creepy! Loading screens were also pretty slow, and staring at the creepy ghost face while the chapter loaded felt somewhat unsettling (that darn ghost face!) As I said before: Play this game with headphones and in the dark—it’ll be sure to scare your pants off!