Let's talk about Yume Nikki, a game with a lot of potential.

First off, it's a free game. If you haven't played it you can download it here.

I recently played Yume Nikki. It's been a long time coming since it has quite a reputation, and I'd heard it mentioned positively quite a lot. I'm pretty conflicted about the game though. On the one hand it's got a whole lot of potential and a lot to see, but on the other I find it kind of tedious and unfinished.

The game is about delving ever deeper into a sprawling interconnected dreamworld.

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Each area is connected to several other areas in various ways. There is a main hub consisting of 13 doors that link to different worlds, and then there are another 24 deeper worlds that can only be accessed the higher level worlds. It's kind of a neat idea, but the problem is the game's over reliance on mostly empty sprawling looping maps.

You know how a lot of game's will have that one area where things start to get trippy and you'll be wandering around a sparse and samey environment until you figure out that you've walked past the same rock formation 3 times while going in a straight line? Well that's probably 70% of the game. I don't know, I just don't find it fun to have to methodically map out world after world, moving from right to left until I reach my landmark object and moving down one screen's worth of space.

The red outline is one screen. Keep in mind that it loops from the right edge back to the left so unless you are really paying attention you can easily go in circles for quite a while. Also the character does not move fast. It takes about 5 seconds to cross a screen's worth of space. The map is roughly 6x8 screens, so that would be around 5 minutes to traverse the map if you were able to walk in straight lines. But you aren't you have to walk around things and that makes it easy to lose your place. So you are looking at probably 15 minutes to make a thorough investigation and find the maybe two or three things that you can actually interact with. I just find it very frustrating. There's just too much space and not enough of interest filling it, and the looping compounds the problem by making it feel endless.

If that were the entirety to the game I would just write it off completely, but there is still that 30% that I find engaging.
Like the time I had wandered through a maze filled with fire and lava and found a door leading to a deep forest path that eventually came to lone stationary train car occupied by a creepy looking fellow cloaked in shadow.

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After riding with him for a while, I emerged to find myself in a different location populated by faceless women standing by the edge of a lake.

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It's times like that where the imagery hits home and the journey becomes a little more directed that make the game seem interesting to me. But for every one of those times there another 3 where I'm wandering around endless black maps of MS Paint monsters looking for anything I can interact with.

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Looking through the wiki, there's actually quite a lot to see in the game. There are an awful lot of interesting moments or locations that require using the right power to trigger, but the problem is that there are so many more things that you simply cannot do anything with. There isn't any dialogue so a lot of the experience feels empty. Many, many, MANY npcs that just move around(if even that) and have no further purpose. You get all sorts of powers, but most are useless except in very specific circumstances.

Speaking of the wiki, I noticed that there is a staggering amount of theorizing around this game. It seems the community loves nothing more than to pour over every aspect of the game and speculate what it means for the psyche of the protagonist Madotsuki. I'm not a big fan of 'symbolism' in general. When you start attaching specific meanings to vague imagery that could mean any number or disparate things or most likely nothing at all, that seems pretty pretentious to me. Maybe I focus too much on direct 'facts' for that sort of thing to appeal to me.

The main thing that bugs me is that I think I really could have enjoyed the game if it wasn't so unfinished. I think it's about 50% of the way to being a really amazing game, but the developer seems to have abandoned it years ago. If the sprite work on a lot of the monsters was touched up, the map sizes cut down and a lot of the looping worlds redesigned to not feel so thrown together I think it could be a really big hit on steam. And oh yeah, the music is atmospheric, sure, but too much reliance on 5 second loops. I'm not sure it really deserves the cult following in it's current state though.

But nobody came.

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The thing about the "Walking Dreamscape" games is that you need to play them while trying to relax.

Often, they will not relax you.

But they're much easier to navigate and play if you're getting satisfaction from the act of navigating.

I don't have much to add to the discussion having never played it, though I have to admit awareness of the game through rumour of its quality and engaging plot.

All I can really add is this

at least it's catchy

buk,bukabuk,bukabuk

Yeah I played it.

I wandered around some landscapes that made absolutely no sense for a while, got bored, never came back to it.

I get what it's trying to do but a game needs to give me a reason to get into it before it presents all of its mystery. Yume Nikki is blunt, bizarre, and baffling - and I swear I'm not trying to write a fancy review here, those are just the words that came to mind. But there's only so much seemingly pointless trippy shit I can experience before I move on.

Yume Nikki is the kind of game where I'd rather watch YouTube videos of, rather than actually play. Condense the interesting bits into a 20-30 minute analysis, rather than hours of wandering around.

Oh, and there's a manga of it by the author of Alien Nine/Milk Closet. That was... special. It really captured the strangeness of it and the horror inherent in the transformations... which that author has a thing for.

It's kinda boring and that's a pretty big problem for most people as just exploring for the hope you'll find something interesting isn't very appealing.

This game was made over 13 years ago! How can it be unfinished?!

 

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