Yume Nikki by Kikiyama (2004)
Yume Nikki will take you way outside of your comfort zone into a world dictated by fear of the unknown. Madotsuki is a girl who refuses to leave her one bedroom apartment. When she falls asleep, she dreams of vast worlds filled with grotesque creatures. The only words of advice from the game: “Collect the effects”.
In Yume Nikki, you must let your imagination take over since there are no explanations to be found. After falling asleep, you gain access to “The Nexus” where 12 differently designed doors await you. Each door leads down a rabbit hole of bizarre landscapes each inhabited by creatures of equal eeriness. From there, you can discover even deeper worlds with enough exploration. Every world is linked in some way to another so you will rarely face a dead-end.
You explore these strange worlds without any purpose except for collecting whatever “effects” you come across. This treasure hunt creates the only tangible goal for the player in this free world environment. Effects change the appearance of Madotsuki and provide her with an extra ability. You can only equip one effect at a time and they can be used to access hidden areas or events. Once you collect every effect, the ending is unlocked.
Every world has its own style and feel to it, but they can be confusing to navigate since it usually warps endlessly when you reach one edge of the map. Yume Nikki has no shortage of creepy worlds to explore. From the monochrome desert where massive arms and legs protrude from the ground to the dark forest where pairs of eyes shrouded in darkness watch your every move, you will be always be anxious about where the next door will lead you.
What makes Yume Nikki so interesting is the complete absence of reason or purpose. You explore these strange worlds and meet these strange creatures, but you are never told why. The game gives little to no explanation and even the names of the creatures and worlds had to be fan-created. This ambiguity has led to countless fan theories and psychological analysis where there is no one right answer, but many plausible ones. It was very interesting to see what meanings people found in the imagery within the game. The ending itself is unexplained, just like the rest of the game, and this also provides a lot of room for speculation.
The atmosphere in the dream worlds is anything but welcoming save for a few peaceful areas. Large figures of Aztec design float around the floors while ambient music sets the mood. My favorite room in the entire game is a small one featuring the “O-man” and the flute effect. The music played in the room is quite melancholy which is unexpected and the flute can be played in harmony with it. This harsh juxtaposition from the rest of the game makes this room surprisingly relaxing and even a bit emotional since it provides Madotsuki, and the player, a moments rest from the horrors in the rest of the game.
As I continued to encounter these horrid creatures and disturbing worlds, I was stunned at how this little girl could experience all of this and not react in any way. Madotsuki always has the same closed-eyed expression on her face and I can only imagine what is going on in her mind. Maybe she’s grown numb to her dreams since she’s seen them so many times or maybe she understands that dreams cannot hurt her so she doesn’t need to react. Unanswered questions like these keep the game interesting and the imagination running.
I encourage you to try to play this game without any guides so that you can experience it the way it was meant to be played. Eventually, your patience may run out, like mine did, and to make things easier you can look up maps to help navigate the confusing worlds. There are events littered throughout the game, some with low chances of occurring, so investigating every path can lead to unexpected discoveries. Guides can also help direct you to these events but the less you know about them, the more genuine the experience.
Yume Nikki does contain some disturbing imagery, such as blood and deformed figures, so this game might not be everyone’s cup of tea. While playing, I was simultaneously repulsed and entranced at what I was seeing. The worlds were so exquisite that I wanted to keep exploring deeper and deeper, but I was always anxious before every door for fear of what could be behind it. Yume Nikki has certainly become a cult classic to many, myself included, and is worth a try to those who enjoy surreal environments.
You can download the English version of the game from the Yume Nikki Wikia (You can also find guides and maps here): http://yumenikki.wikia.com/wiki/Yume_Nikki
For the Japanese version, you can find it on Kikiyama’s site here:
A myriad of fan-based sequels have been created but have no direct relation to the original game.
Special thanks to the reader that suggested this game!
A BIRD’S EYE VIEW
Music – 6.5/10
Visuals – 7/10
Flow – 5.5/10
Story – 7.5/10*
Final Score – 6.6/10
*Because Yume Nikki lacks any concrete story it is left to the imagination of the player, which can lead to very interesting ideas.