Welcome to Gaming on the House; don’t look down and and mind your step! Each week, we’ll be climbing the rooftops of the gaming industry to seek out great experiences that everyone can track down and play, and the best part is they’ll all be free! That’s right; FREE! Gratis. Comp’d. Unbound. Unrestricted. Zero-down. On the House!… we talk about free games here, is my point.
Many may be surprised at how many fantastic games are really out there that everyone can legally enjoy with no monetary commitment. Taking together all the flash and browser games, freeware downloads from the independent scene, speed programming archives, free-to-play business modules, and even promotional re-releases from big name publishers, there’s a never ending supply of great games new and old waiting to be played, and it’s our goal to play them all! So, if you’re strapped for cash or just waiting around for that next big release to hit retail, why not give these games a try? After all, they’re free; what have you got to lose!
First of all, I am honored to be a guest author for Gaming on the House, and I have something very special to bring to our rooftop picnic. I’ve always been something of a black sheep, so finding somewhere I fit in has been a losing battle all of my life. Last spring, though, I finally found a place to call my home: the dreams of a young woman, who lived as a shut-in.
Link to Game: http://www.theneitherworld.com/yumenikki/links.htm
Game Info: While originally created in Japanese, it is available in English as well. The most current version is V 0.10, though the game is completely playable.
Yume Nikki is a game created the developer, Kikiyama with RPG Maker. Now, before you dismiss it as garbage or write it off as another generic RPG created by some wannabe developer, I want you to keep in mind that this game is deep enough that it was popular to create an Internet meme that you might already know. That’s right, Yume Nikki is the source of the terrifying Uboa, but more on that later. I’ve always been a fan of the Adventure genre in the same way that I’m a fan of Metal and Techno: I love the idea, but I’m really picky about it and I don’t know where to look to find more of what I like. This game has become my absolute favorite PC game of all time, although, admittedly, its competition for that spot was a small handful of games. I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve been waiting for a game like this for 17 years.
Yume Nikki’s premise is ridiculously simple. You are Madotsuki (pronounced Mah-Dóht-Ski), a young woman living in a one-room apartment with a balcony. The entirety of your earthly belongings include the following: a bed, a desk, a desk chair, a desk lamp, a diary (and assumedly something with which to write), a full bookshelf, a TV, a video game system with one (Game and Watch style) game, and a push broom out on the balcony; that’s it. Our lovely heroine refuses to leave her room, but when you hop into bed, she dreams of unimaginable worlds. Once you begin dreaming, you arrive on your balcony. Enter your apartment, then go through the door to reach The Nexus, a bizarre room with 12 doors, each leading to a different world to explore.
In Yume Nikki, there are no monsters to kill or to kill you. The worst you’ll find are Toriningen, some of which are friendly, and some of which are unfriendly. These tall women with beaks, who wear either a dress or a striped sweater (Freddy allegory notwithstanding), wander about certain areas of the dream. The unfriendly ones have purple eyes, move more quickly, and run directly at you. If they manage to grab you, you’ll wind up in some desolate area, from which there is no escape. The only thing you can do at that point (unless you have the ability that warps you back to the Nexus) is to press the 9 key, and Madotsuki will pinch herself and wake up in her bed in the real world. That’s the worst thing that can happen to you. There is also very little in the way of puzzles, so the vast majority of the game is exploration, which brings me back to the days of my youth, when I was completely enamored with Cosmic Osmo on the Mac.
Along your journey, you’ll encounter a great number of strange creatures, some of which will give you what is known as an effect. Effects change Madotsuki’s appearance and give her new abilities. The vast majority of them are adorable, but useless, but a few change the game in terms of both gameplay and mood. The Knife effect allows you to stab creatures to death, sometimes getting you money. Now, sometimes it is helpful to stab something that just won’t get out of the way, but the idea of walking through a room and hearing the dying shrieks of the creatures whose blood give the area a new paint job gives the game a much darker mood.
The visuals, as in any Adventure game, are very important in a game like this, and it is clear that a great deal of effort (and possibly drugs) went into their design in Yume Nikki. A lot of people say it looks like a cross between Earthbound and Silent Hill (I told you Madotsuki was deranged), but I’d also throw in Panic! (known as Switch in Japan) for the Sega CD, not only for its equally strange moments, but also as a representative of that unique, endearing aesthetic that you could only really find in certain games of the mid ‘90s, mostly on Sega consoles. There are some areas that are somewhat mundane, such as the Snow World, which looks like a typical snowy field, aside from the blue pine trees. Some areas, such as the Swamp Grove, look normal enough, if not for the strange inhabitants, like the creepy, faceless blue women. Then there are worlds that are just absolutely stunning in the most surreal sense of the word, like the Shoal, which looks like a lake made of stained glass. Now, I have alluded in the past to being one to enjoy beauty in video game environments, but some of these worlds are the most gorgeous things I have ever seen. It makes the game an absolute stack of aesthetic meth to explore each and every pixel of this game. Beauty aside, though, there are other reasons to explore everything.
You’ll find a lot to explore in the Shoals.
Sometimes, you’ll come across bizarre, neat little things that serve no purpose whatsoever; they’re just there. Some of them are pretty, some are weird, and some are downright terrifying. Now, I don’t startle easily, but the first time I saw Uboa turn a cute young woman’s room into a swirling, nightmarish vortex with that awful sound, I definitely jumped a bit. The thing about it is, like many of the game’s events, it’s completely random. Sometimes, it will happen, sometimes, it won’t. You could enter an area in an attempt to trigger it 20 times and not see it, or you could get it on your first try. This doesn’t hinder your ability to collect any effects, though, so it is only obtrusive if you’re trying to witness a particular scene. Back to disturbing, though, you’ll find a lot of grotesque things in Madotsuki’s dreams, both creatures and backgrounds. Monoko is easily my favorite, though I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they wished they’d never looked her up. This game isn’t for the faint of heart, and some players will be too freaked out to really enjoy it.
Just a random occurrence reminiscent of Panic!
It’s this stark contrast between the beauty and the horror, though, that makes it so much like exploring a dream. I’m certain you’ve all had dreams that have gone from wonderful to absolutely terrifying; even Mark from Monster Party has had this happen to him. Kikiyama has done so many things to make the whole experience very dream-like. Even the music induces a very dreamy experience. Each of the loops are short, likely none longer than 5 seconds, but I wouldn’t call them repetitive, since they‘re only there to set the mood, and get drowned out by all of the other sensory overload you experience. Dreams are incomplete manifestations of reality that occur when all of our normal psychological defenses, such as sanity, logic, and discrimination, are shut down. That’s why things that don’t belong together sometimes show up together in dreams; there’s no mechanism to tell you, the dream’s viewer, that they can’t. It’s because of this that Yume Nikki has strange noise as music (incomplete songs), and most of the dream areas have doors that lead to other dream areas. So, yes, you can go to The Nexus, enter the door for the Mural World, go through a number of other areas, and wind up back in The Nexus from the door that leads to the Block World. While The Nexus is the first real place you visit in the dream world, and is the gateway to everywhere, its doors are not the only way to get to the worlds on the other side of them.
Technically speaking, the object of the game is to gather the 24 effects, drop them in The Nexus, then awaken to find something new on Madotsuki’s balcony. With that in mind, do yourself a favor: completely forget about the goal. Yes, you’ll want to accomplish it at some point, but you’ll enjoy the game much more if you explore everything first. You’ll want to clear out your backlog, too, so you won’t feel any sort of pressure to complete this game. Just get lost in this world of dreams; completely immerse yourself in it. Once you think you’ve gone everywhere and found everything, then go check out a walkthrough to find the rest and finish the game to view its fantastic ending. While immersion this makes it difficult to leave this wonderful world when you’ve finally finished the game, you’ll find that you’ve enjoyed the journey through it that much more.