Madotsuki had a dream, too. In fact, she had several dreams, each one freakier than the last. Some nights, she’s haunted by a myriad of eyeballs, backed up with a windy, electronic undercurrent. Other nights, she imagines herself in a room of candles, the sound of footsteps approaching echoing throughout her head.
When she wakes up, she returns to a reclusive reality, where the only door she ever exits is the one leading to her balcony. Try as she might, she’ll never leave her one room apartment. No. The world out there is a cold unknown, not the place for a shut-in like Madotsuki. All she has are her dreams, and her ancient TV & Famicom system, two symbols of how removed she is from every advancement outside.
In her dreams, she can walk into a dark place full of doors leading to all kinds of dream worlds. She first picked the door that was calling her name – the shiney, technicolor one. It was surreal, with bouncing neon creatures everywhere she turned. Unsure of herself, she walked down hallways, trying to avoid the monsters.
Some laughed when she knocked into them, and others grunted; all of them scared her. She ran, but no matter how fast she moved, there were more of them, in every direction she turned. Freaked out, Madotsuki woke herself up from her nightmare.
The next dream was just as weird. She chose a door that took her to a place that’s floor was a bird’s eye view of the entire dreamscape. Ominous music played as she walked along red serial numbers. It wasn’t like the dancing dream that she had had the night before. There weren’t dancing, wonderful creatures. Only two-legged red faced things.
The game/experience doesn’t hand you a plot. You’ve gotta do your own thinking. Everything you imagine about the experience comes from your own head, as much as it comes from hers. You don’t have any directions on where to go. All you know is that you have to travel throughout these dream worlds and capture “effects” ranging from cat ears to kitchen knives. When you place all of the effects in the room of doors, the game ends. That’s it.
It’s fun to guess what every symbol in her dreams mean. Something happened to this girl to make her into such a recluse. What that is, is up to you to decide, based on the figures in her dreams. There are plenty of theories floating around out there.
It’s not a game for everyone. If you’re the type of person that needs a clear objective, then Yume Nikki is not for you. In fact, if you are that type of person (nothing wrong with that), you should find yourself a walkthrough. The majority of the game is spent wandering from dream to dream, in search of 24 objects with nothing to point you where you should go. Like I said before, this is an EXPERIENCE, and a beautifully creepy one at that.
It’s like the sick twisted love child of Silent Hill (in atmosphere) and Earthbound (in looks). There’s a lot to discover within the game’s open-ended worlds. It’s not a scary game in the sense that a bunch of things pop out at you. The scares aren’t cheap. What makes Yume Nikki so scary is that it crawls under your skin. It does psychological horror right; your imagination makes it terrifying.
Yume Nikki isn’t a visual novel, but it’s an experience that I feel that most visual novel fans will enjoy, and one that I feel like visual novel developers can take a lot away from. When you create stories, you don’t have to spell everything out to your readers. Imagination goes a long way.