Yume Nikki – PC
Release Date: June 26, 2004
Nerd Rating: 6.5 / 10
Reviewed by Mr. Tiddlywinks
Dreams are intangible phenomena that serve as the pretext for many facets of our daily lives. Whether the dream is dubious, abstract, familiar or even sinister, our actions are often dictated by how we interpret them.
Yume Nikki is an independent game created by the enigmatic developer Kikiyama and this game allows us to explore, analyze, and interpret the dreams and psyche of the seemingly troubled protagonist known as Madotsuki.
There is not much explained about Madotsuki (or anything else in the game, for that matter) however the game does provide context clues about her personality and what may in fact be her past.
The mechanics are simple in Yume Nikki; the main “point” of the game easily explained upon launching the program from your desktop or explorer and starting a new game.
- My Room
- Get in bed
- Wake Up
(You can repeat the process, if you so please.)
Now aside from an odd mini-game that can be accessed in the starting area (your room, Step 1) that is more or less the entire game at first glance. However you shouldn’t necessarily trust your first glance. Yume Nikki rewards curious (and brave) players who dare to explore and linger in places that many wouldn’t.
Once you’ve made yourself familiar with the amenities of your comfortable yet sparse condominium, you will realize that Madotsuki will not exit her apartment under any circumstances. For one reason or another, Madotsuki remains adamant in her decision to remain in doors.
The player is then encouraged to head to bed (see Step 2) and explore the dream (see Step 3).
After a short countdown the player will be transported to the dream’s version of Madotsuki’s apartment. Now as mentioned before, at first glance there seems to be only a few minute changes (i.e. horrible reception on your television set and what might be a loose wheel on your chair). But if you take the incentive you will come to realize that Madotsuki is willing to leave her nest.
The dream contains a myriad of unique and (in most cases) severely strange dream worlds all linked by a giant hub referred to as the Nexus. This hub is conveniently located just outside of Madotsuki’s apartment.
Conveniently located as it is, there is something extremely unsettling or foreboding about the Nexus. For most it may be the mischievous faces of the Aztec influenced murals; the eyes sort of follow you as your roam the Nexus, much like the tacky bear-skin rug with the face that your stepfather decided to plaster on the floor.
However I believe that it’s unsettling due to the tone that it sets. There are several different doors that surround the area; each door has its own unique look to it. It implies that each door that you take will lead you to a completely different kind of dream. Some of the doors seem relatively normal or even inviting with exciting alternating neon lights. Some of the doors are slightly uninviting, reminiscent of some sort of locked door to a maintenance area with abrupt noises that is off limits. And one is downright demented; I mean it has eye balls stapled to it. All of these doorways lead to completely different dream worlds within the dream. Each have something offbeat or disturbing to observe; some are even interconnected and can be entered and exited without returning to the Nexus.
Now one might think, “Mister Tiddlywinks, what about the enemies and other NPCs? Surely in a game unnerving one has to expect running into grotesque monsters and malicious specters.” There are many NPCs but other than small muted utterances or shrilled screams they typically don’t speak. You do face a few enemies but they are few and far between. You will not be given much warning when they first appear; here are some spoiler free tips.
- If it seems to be following you, do not trust it
- You cannot win, run away
- If it catches you, wake up. (see Step 4)
As you progress through Yume Nikki you will learn that the abominations that occasionally antagonize you are the least of your worries. The true “enemy” is your own mind and what implications you infer about Madotsuki and her dreams.
So, the bottom line.
Gameplay: Simple, use directional keys to navigate the world and hotkeys to interact with certain objects. It can be a little frusturating navigating certain areas that you’ve already discovered and investigated thoroughly, this is due to the fact that Madoutsuki moves about as swiftly as the popular kids in your high school hallway.
Graphics: A true testament to the imagination and innovation of one motivated gamer. Kikiyama makes a simple 8-bit pixel art dreadfully disturbing. In addition, you can note influences from other cult classics such as Dwarf Fortress and Earthbound.
Sound: As to match with aesthetics the sounds range from whimsical to foreboding. Even the more cheerful tunes have a way of building up tension by simply making you uneasy about what you may find in the particular area.
Nerd Rating: 6.5/10: Yume Nikki has a lot to offer someone who is looking to play what I’d like to call an “aesthetic game.” While it has little to offer in regards to interactive exploration (puzzles, quests, etc.), it provides a truly unique emotional adventure.
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