AI: Somnium Files Review

I enjoyed AI: Somnium Files developed and published by Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. It’s a visual novel with a strong detective murder mystery with some science fiction elements. Yes, like any typical game, there is a lot of saving to do because young girls do need help even when they are bratty and acting all tough! After all, being killed by a sadistic rapist is the worst nightmare that can happen to any girl! You can’t expect a psychopath to have empathy? Do you?

Misuki praying
Poor Mizuki who is only 12, tried so hard to be strong when she is actually mourning for the loss of her mother.

Story

First off, I want to warn readers that I don’t recommend this game to those who don’t have a healthy sense of humor and who are quick to slap anything that has to do with sexuality as misogyny. Quite the contrary, the game is not even misogynistic. The sexual jokes are mild compared to what I see on Twitter and from the former U.S. president. Despite my defense for this game, it doesn’t mean I accept locker room talk. But the jokes are there to poke fun at the protagonist’s singleness. After all, you are playing as the nice, perverted guy who is possibly bi-sexual.

Date looks like a girl
C’mon, look at Date’s face (the protagonist). He can pass off as a pretty woman.

I think that is why I could laugh at the part where Date hit on the 36-year-old receptionist who looks like an idol but is too old to be one. I say as long you can afford anti-aging creams and live comfortably then you are set for life. The average women care more about their appearance and health than they actually would admit as the motivating factor to why they work on top of the fact no one wants to end up homeless. But of course, there are exceptions. So more power to the receptionist for learning how to enjoy life in the moment (as long as you live responsibly that is). It takes a lot of soul searching to find contentment.

I used to work with an older woman who said if she had big boobs she’d flaunt it off. Not to attract men, but for her own liveliness. She was drunk when she said it though.

But I do see how someone would call this game misogynist. I suppose when you analyze a piece of creative work, you got to learn how to put things into context. So don’t dismiss this game because of its humor. On a serious note, there are a lot of heavy subjects around the concept of dream, reality, and AIs and whole bunch other stuff. And what I noticed is that there is a sense of optimistic, progressive thinking about the future of society, or a sense of acceptance on the writer’s part. It’s not just the topic of AIs I am talking about, but also the LGBT community in general.This game is a product of its time.

Aiba looking content
Aiba, the AI who is Date’s detective partner, agrees that human intuition is good from time to time, which is something rational, logical AIs lack.
Mizuki at Marble Bar
Mizuki is accepting of the LGBT community but still shows a sign of uncomfortableness.

I think the balance between seriousness and humor in the game is well done, and that is what I look for when I rate a good game. Even when I completed the game (there are multiple endings) there are still many mysteries to solve and once you solve the remaining mysteries of the story, everything just blows up in your face like fireworks. Overall, the pacing of the story is nice just as much as the colorful cast. Great game for mystery fans.

Gameplay

I played the demo on PS4 so I knew what to expect when I bought the game for PC. There are some differences in terms of user experience obviously. I played with mouse and keyboard but you can also play with a controller. I just stick with mouse and keyboard. I also noticed the game on the PC tends to glitch out occasionally, but it doesn’t happen frequently when I changed the graphic setting. I don’t know what it’s like for PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

While solving a case…this happened. It’s kind of artistic!

Gameplay wise, it did great at creating urgency but can get annoying because it does not reward you based on your skills to solve a case in 6 minutes. It did however, reward you on basic arithmetic skills! You have to select Timie to save seconds from being used on the top left side of the screen. Failure to select Timie correctly and the correct choices will penalize you for using seconds in real time and some of them take big chunks!

I had crossed eyes or something when I was playing the game because I mistook TIMIE for TIME. For awhile I kept proceeding without selecting the TIMIE on top center of the screen.

I found myself several times retrying and restarting the case due to running out of time. Some cases can get pretty tough especially if you are trying to solve it within 1 second remaining to obtain one of the trophies. If that sounds complicated. Do not fret. It will take trials and errors to get it right. Getting all the trophies was worth it.

I pride myself on my determination. I did it!

Overall, I thought the mix of shooting, investigating and solving puzzles were interesting. Not one moment was I bored. The concept of pyscning into someone’s dream to uncover hidden clues seems pretty high tech and futuristic. Is it ethical? Not really! I already feel invaded by tech companies collecting my data. It’s like exposing your underwear for strangers to see. Ugh…

mercenaries hovering over to look at bra

Sound

I realized I don’t write much about sound production and voice acting. But they do make a difference in the quality of any video game. At the beginning of the game, I kept switching from English to Japanese language to see which voice cast I prefer to listen to. Eventually I stick with the Japanese voice cast because I prefer Aiba’s Japanese voice over the English voice because ironically she sounds more natural. Believe it or not Aiba is an evolved AI who has a personality of her own and who has the free agency to think for herself. It makes sense to personify her a bit even though she lives inside the protoganist’s eye and she is just an AI. She is also Date’s alter ego. But I won’t go into detail behind my reasoning. That will be another post for a different time if I decide to write about the eye metaphor.

Lastly, the soundtrack composed by Keisuke Ito is decent and the sound effects are seamless enough that I don’t even recognized the music sometimes. It’s great because I felt immersed in the game, but I can’t say I am all that into idol pop culture music though. So the soundtrack didn’t stood out to me as much as other quality story-driven games. However, I do enjoy the Ikume Shrine theme because I just like all things zen.

Conclusion

This game is far from boring and simplistic. It has good soundtrack, good story, fun gameplay and good humor. Who doesn’t enjoy laughing? It’s a great way to release stress. Time is well spent when you are doing something you enjoy especially if it is also thought-provoking.

P.S.

I was having a hard time writing a review for this game and learned that I can use some sort of structure to make my writing process easier. I don’t know if I will stick to this format though, but I did enjoy putting it together.

D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die Review: Just Let Go of the Past

If someone came up to me and ask me what D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die is about, I would say it’s about letting go of the past, eating and relationships. These are the three themes I noticed quite frequently in the game and the three main ingredients that keep a person functional in the society. This game is about a broken man named David Young who is on a metaphorical journey from death to life.

David Young in D4:Dark Dreams Don't Die falling into the tub

Young lost his wife and we the players become the detective by diving into his dreamlike universe. One moment, we see Young falling into the bathroom, and then we see him reading a magazine on the bed casually, drinking coffee, crushing fortune cookies, changing music records, turning on the T.V, changing clothes, pushing little squirrel off the window etc. Everything seems calm and normal. Until Amanda, his cat, enters the scene. Then I realize, Mister Young is not okay. We are witnessing a man who is undergoing some severe trauma in the head!

Amanda posing in D4:Dark Dreams Don't Die game

And so, Forrest Kaysen (please see the picture below), an important supporting role in the game, is there to guide Young back to life, back to reality, the present moment. If you have played the game, you would notice once Young solved a particular mystery of his past, the memento lose its special power. This is a way for the game to tell the player–mystery solved. Now you can move forward into the present moment. Have you folks ever experienced that? When you are bothered by the past, but there is nothing you can do to change it, but live in regret? Leave it in the past, my friends, leave it in the past.

Kaysen chowing down food in the dinner scenes

Looking closely at Kaysen, he is like a philosopher and sometimes like a twisted version of Little Peggy, the protagonist’s wife. Speaking with him, opens up a dialogue about eating. It is important to nourish the body with food. How can any person function without food? Obviously, the game attempted to point out that people who are consumed by the past do not feed their bodies. Why would they? They are dead inside. So, it’s no surprise to me, when Kaysen confronted Young for not finishing his meal. Kaysen knows that Young has been drinking excessively to drown his misery. He is concerned for his friend’s physical and mental health, but he also wants some acknowledgement for his cooking ability. Did you know it is very rude to ask for a to go box in Japan if you can’t finish your meal in one sitting? Not only do we see Young playing with his food in the dinner scenes as if food is not a valuable source, but he also makes a point about how America is the land of the free. You are not obligated to finish a meal because you have a choice unlike Japan where the behavior is frown upon because it’s a sign of disrespect not only to the Cook but to life itself. This part of the game really highlights the differences between Japanese and American culture on food and the way human interact in a social setting in a twisted way. The game is after all directed by a quirky Japanese game director named Hidetaka Suehiro who is also known as Swery.

I know I mentioned a lot about the plot because I am assuming if you are reading this review then you’re the type of gamer who appreciate a good story. The plot and the colorful characters are definitely stronger than the gameplay; however, don’t be alarmed, the gameplay is creative and entertaining unlike some other cinematic games out there where gameplay is monotonously boring. The stunts with Amanda and the courier are quite funny. But my all-time favorite side game is taking Philip Cheney’s quizzes. His dialogue is interesting and his villain-like approach to the quizzes made me laugh hard. I am not surprised he is the fourth “D.”

Cheney on the plane

And yes, the game ends with a cliffhanger and is too short, but I didn’t mind it at all. The game is jam packed with timeless human drama that made me think even after I am done playing it. It made me think about human relationships as being the most important aspect of human civilization. We are like civilized social animals, resembling cats. According to a scrapbook article I found in the game, cats sacrifice the lone life to move in large group. Doing so will make them achieve social status. Hmm…we are like cats!

Lastly, the game made me think about relationship between lovers as the strongest bond between humans. Some of us argued that we don’t need it, but I think we do. Life seems more enjoyable despite the arguments that come with a relationship. Losing a relationship will drive us crazy as we see it with the Marshal who chases after the courier to avenge his wife’s death. He too, like the protagonist, is living in the past. But perhaps, Little Peggy is right: Things in the past need to stay in the past or else a person cannot move on and live a happy life. The only thing we can do is acknowledge our mistakes and practice for tomorrow as Young once said. Overall, the game gave me a good feeling. Most of the time, I was laughing with the game despite its dark plot.

I am still curious–who killed Little Peggy? I’m hoping for season 2. Let me know what your thoughts are on D4 if you have played it, and thank you for reading! Until next time, take care!

Note: Originally posted on March 4, 2017; revised and edited on August 4, 2022

Remothered:Tormented Fathers Review

So, these past few days I have been playing some indie games, trying to give the smaller titles a chance to be recognized. Plus, I sort of got addicted to browsing games on Steam and added a few games to my Wish List. I will tell you what I find at a later time. For this post, I want to write a critical review on Remothered: Tormented Fathers, developed by Stormind Games, and published by Darril Arts, released in 2018. I enjoyed the game very much.

I bought this game a couple of years ago. It was one of the first games I bought on Steam but never got around to playing it. At the time, I recently had purchased a new laptop specifically for gaming and writing. Unfortunately, my laptop is not strong enough to run the game. The game crashes two times but I managed to beat it by quitting the game frequently for it to cool down. Oh, the experience was painful and it would have been better if I were to play it on PS4. I could have purchased a copy for the PS4 as I did with Tokyo Dark (you can find my review here). Instead, I stick with the PC version, risking my laptop blowing up in my face. I am just being dramatic. Actually, I have a high tolerance for minor nuisances. Rarely do I get mad if I have a bad user experience, but I can see how this can be a glaring problem for some people.

A Classy Survival Horror Game

But let me tell you. This game is pretty intense. It’s that scary because you are being chased by a barely-naked old man who is wearing nothing but a butcher apron. The most difficult part of the game is trying to explore without being seen. Play with headphones is recommended. The sound effects are on par and intense with the sound from the Silent Hill 2 game. Don’t think about lowering the volume because you would need to listen to the psychopath’s footsteps and his humming of Old MacDonald a farm song, which ties into the story. It’s like a game of stealth and hides and seeks, which I enjoy. The little girl in me never dies. I like to hide and seek games in horror style. I even found myself starting to sing along with the psychopath:

Old MACDONALD had a farm

E-I-E-I-O

And on his farm he had a lamb

E-I-E-I-O

With a baa baa here

And a baa baa there

Here a baa, there a baa

Everywhere a baa baa

Old MacDonald had a farm

E-I-E-I-O

Lyrics source: Musixmatch

If you enjoyed the Clock Tower series for the PlayStation, you will appreciate this game. The difference is you play as a strong, professional woman in her 30s by the name of Rosemary Reed, which I find the game to be refreshingly intelligent and classy for its kind. The balance between gameplay and story is sophisticated. It feels like a cinematic game but it’s not. A few cinematic cutscenes between the story and gameplay give me enough room to breathe without feeling overwhelmed. The story is full of suspense enough to keep me on my toes but unfortunately failed to captivate me. The plot is not very clear. I still have questions about who did what and what. Perhaps a second play-through would dispel my confusion. At times, the dialogues between characters tried to be too deep that they felt a bit staged rather than immersive. This resulted in a disconnection between me and the story. But honestly, I could care less what is happening because I grade survival horror games based on gameplay not story. If I want that experience, then I’ll just watch a horror flick as a passive observer. Still Remothered: Tormented Fathers is still a good game. The strongest point of the game is odd, its presentation. I felt like I was playing inside a film. Artistically, that’s a good thing.

Gamplay in Remothered Tormented fathers

I could drown myself inside the mansion for hours because the sound of high heels is quite soothing against the creaking floor. The lighting in this game is beautiful. There were certain shots in the game I really admire. Just look at how beautiful Dr. Reed is skipping into a nightmare in the picture below.

Classy Survival Horror Game

She is so dedicated to her job that she is willing to risk her life. She’s so brave and a tad bit crazy. But who am I to judge? I suppose I am just as crazy as she is to find her admirable. After all, I am playing a survival horror game here. Throughout the game, it was so difficult not to laugh nervously when the psychopath from the mansion kept mumbling in the background something along the line: of “This place is not open to the public!” and “Are you working overtime?” Strangely, these little minor details make me appreciate the aesthetic of the game as an art piece in itself. For one, a professional eloquent woman like Dr. Reed is quite attractive. Female protagonists don’t always have to be young Barbie dolls like in Haunting Ground, a PS2 game developed by Capcom, to mesmerize the audiences. However, there were a few minor issues that were a bit of an eye sore—the protagonist’s facial animation which looked more theatrical than natural, and her internal dialogue: “This can’t be real”. I often wonder why she was so persistent to trespass a private property in the first place only to find her desperately trying to get out of the mansion. Perhaps, I just didn’t find the plot convincing enough, or else I wouldn’t have had this question in the back of my mind. The game has potential in the story department and the pacing of the game could have been extended. So, it wouldn’t feel like the player rushed into a nightmare—only to want out as soon as possible.

Gameplay-wise, the game is pretty straightforward. The horror takes place in the mansion and if you follow a guide, you can beat the game in 1 or 2 hours. Running time is similar to that of a film. But quite frankly, I am not against it. It took me over 10 hours to complete the entire game because of trial and errors and obtaining all trophies. My only big complaint about the game is that the gaming mechanics can be quite frustrating sometimes. Do expect to die frequently. I rarely use any of the diversion items in the game, which are supposed to distract the psychopath. Perhaps, it’s my fault that I couldn’t read the in-game description correctly, but I just had no time to read or learn how it works when I am busy trying to run and hide from my pursuer! The entire structure of the game revolves around hiding and seek and some QTEs (quick time events) which can be frustrating for those who don’t have high reflexes. Some gamers are dissuaded from continuing the game when they keep seeing the Game Over screen as opposed to someone who sees it as a challenge. Luckily, this game doesn’t acknowledge the player’s failure, it just reloads from the last autosaved saving point. Finally, while hide and seek is the main gameplay concept, I find it a bit annoying that the enemy seems to appear from one place to the next conveniently. Players would naturally assume, it takes a certain amount of time to walk from point A to point B. Apparently, the enemy doesn’t follow the same physics rules; I don’t believe it’s the game’s intention to make the enemy a supernatural being either. There were times when I would hide in the closet, waiting for the area to be clear of the enemy, but it always seemed like the enemy was nearby no matter what floor I was on in the mansion. When it comes to technical aspects, it needs some work, however, for the most part, the game’s concept is great!

I remember now why the game started with Dr. Reed smoking. Smoke while you can because you are going to be underwater for quite some time until you get another break!

Dr. Reed smoking in survival horror game Redmothered: Tormented Fathers

Overall, the game is good. The concept is intelligent. As a survival horror game fan, I enjoyed it and wish I had a physical copy of the game to put beside my collection of horror games, which sadly, aren’t many. Finally, I will tell you why I enjoyed this game, after all, I am a bit of a wordsmith: Dr. Felton, the psychopath in this game is pretty sick. He’s a sickle. Get it? A sicko. And to his question, “Is it really worth it to put yourself into this story? No, but I am grateful it’s only a video game and it was fun! Now, I will go back to singing Old MacDonald had a farm song, and go to bed happy because I found myself a good survival horror game to play.

fishingformetaphors in survival horror game

Great Story-Driven Horror Games for Halloween

I’ll be honest, I am not much of a routine type of gal. It drives me nuts, but they say– a good blogger must be consistent, so here I am again with my three lists of recommendations. Why three you may wonder? Because “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one. It’s the loneliest number since the number one” I quote the classic song to whom I don’t know who the artist is haha (let me know if you know!) Yeah, I like three because it’s not lonely! So, three it is!

Since I am number one in my universe (I have no one to love so I love myself), the first game on my list I introduce to you folks today is Cat Lady.

The Cat Lady - Wikipedia

If you never heard anything about this game, you would think about a lone suicidal woman who lives by herself (ouch that hurts! I am single, but not suicidal). Well technically there is some partial truth to it, but it’s more of a comedy than horror. Sometimes I get horror mixed up with comedy. Let’s just say I have a morbid sense of humor, it can’t be helped! The game is well thought out, poetic, and flows really well. I bought it on Steam for $1.99. Currently, it is $9.99. Wait for it to go on sale, it sure beats a cup of coffee at Starbucks any time! If you are suffering from depression, it will make you come out stronger. I love the message.

Now number 2 goes to Detention!

Detention on Steam

This is one from Redcandlegames, a Taiwanese developer. If you like Silent Hill 2 sort atmosphere then this is the game–even though it’s a point and click. The illustration is very nice and the monsters are scary and cute. One thing I liked about this game is how realistic the protagonist is as a female character. She is realistically feminine and therefore, relatable. Should check it out if you haven’t already.

Now final but not least! Death Mark!

upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/4/43/Sp...

This is a visual novel game that I really enjoyed. The soundtrack and the illustration are pretty good. It’s really like reading a horror novel. It is suspenseful and the story is intriguing enough to keep me on my toes. I love it so much I played the sequel: Spirit Hunter NG. Rest assured, if you are the type who gets scared easily, it will not make you pee in your pants or die from shock as we see in House on Haunted Hill (1999). I am referring to the amusement park scene. In my opinion, the Japanese are masters at telling horror stories. That’s why I am so addicted to the genre. If you are more curious about this game click on the title above for my review.

NightCry: A Cruel but Charming Survival Horror Game

NightCry is indeed a survival horror game and it felt like one. But it made me laugh more than it scared me. Now I sound a bit sadistic but hear me out.

The game is designed to have multiple endings, but of course, there is a good ending. That’s the one you want! I found myself playing the game as if I were working on a math equation. The moment where you thought you had the answer, but your answer is wrong because you missed one little step?  Yep, NightCry will steer you to the path where you’d meet your early doom because you got the wrong answer! Occasionally, I heard someone laughing inside my head because I was like a mouse running inside a maze, trying to find an outlet only to find myself at a dead end. What a cruel joke.

The gameplay is very simple: light puzzles, running, and hiding, but you can’t always hide at a place twice, and if you fail to hold your breath, Scissorwalker will cut you up. Yes, I died many times.

The Scissorwalker is a bit humorous to me. That thing likes to play peek-a-boo. Got to be careful not to examine everything, doing so will trigger the Scissorwalker to appear, but it’s necessary. The character runs out of stamina easily and starts falling on the floor, making it easy for Scissorwalker to snip the character to death. So, you better know where to run to! I made a mistake entering a dark room without turning on my flashlight. I got killed. I laughed. Game over.

As for the characters, I found them fashionable, simple, and charming. There are three characters you can control: Monica, Leonard, and Rooney (her name sounds like a loony).  They are well designed for their roles. In fact, I like all of them.

Monica

Monica

Leonard

Leonard

Rooney

Looney

I won’t spoil the story for those who are interested in the game, but I think the game is intended for those who are suffering from depression. Sometimes when things get too crazy in life, your mind is switched to survival mode, you got to put your hand on your hip and remind yourself you are given life to live. So live!

My final thought for this game is that people experience games differently. Currently, my life is not that cheerful so I can relate to both Rooney and Monica. So, it may seem odd that I can laugh at such a game. I would classify this game as a dark comedy survival horror game if I could, but that is just subjective. But overall, I enjoyed the game and I’m glad I didn’t let some negative reviews hinder me from playing. You can never know whether a game is good or not until you try it yourself. Playing a game is a different experience from watching.  So go play it!