Yume Nikki ("Dream Journal") is an independently developed game created in RPG Maker 2003, by Kikiyama. Little is known about Kikiyama besides their work on Yume Nikki, other than they live in Japan. The game is free to play and can be downloaded here.
The game follows a girl named Madotsuki, as she travels through her surreal and often disturbing dreams. The game environment consists of Madotsuki's bedroom, balcony, and the dream world. The dream world can be accessed by laying on Madotsuki's bed, and waiting for her to fall asleep.
The main area of the game, called the "Nexus" or "Hub" by fans, consists of a small room with thirteen doors. One of them leads back to the dream version of the apartment, and twelve others lead to various other areas of the game. Each of these areas has its own themes, but several concepts carry over from one region to another. Particularly, they are disorienting, and contain either very bright or very dark color schemes.
The game begins in Madotsuki's room, with only three interactive elements: the bed, her writing desk, and an old TV with a FamiCom, the Japanese version of the NES. Interacting with the TV itself produces a color block test card, showing that whatever station is on is down. The writing desk allows the player to save their progress, by having Madotsuki write in her journal. Getting into the bed lets Madotsuki fall asleep, which takes her into the dream realm.
Within her dreams, Madotsuki can explore and collect Effects, items that can change her appearance and sometimes give her new or enhanced abilities. However, there are no goals or objectives given by the game. The ending can be unlocked by collecting all twenty-four of the Effects and dropping them off in the Nexus. Once this is done, Madotsuki has to wake up and go to the balcony to find what it unlocks.
The game encourages both exploration and caution. Though Madotsuki cannot die, getting captured by Toriningen or Uboa will cause her to end up in a small, inescapable area. It is also easy to get lost in several areas of the game, as there is nothing to tell the player where to go, and many of them have repeating or even looping features on their maps. Different Effects and interactive objects can make this less difficult.
Madotsuki: The player character. Madotsuki is a girl, who apparently lives alone in a studio apartment. Attempting to leave this room in the waking world causes her to refuse. Having her get in bed allows the player to navigate through her dream world.Uboa: An apparition, that has a random chance of appearing in Madotsuki's dreams. It is found in a house in the Pink Sea, where a girl named Poniko lives. It can be summoned by turning the lights in the room off. Doing so has a one in sixty-four chance of summoning Uboa, who takes Poniko's place in the room. Interacting with it teleports Madotsuki to an area with a large black and red creature hovering in the background. This forces the player to wake Madotsuki up.
KyuuKyuu-Kun: A towering, swirly red and yellow creature that resides in a stairway in the Numbers World. It simply stands in the stairwell, rubbing the banister obsessively. Many theories surround this particular character, as the embodiment of some past trauma that Madotsuki suffered.
Seccom Masada-sensei: A piano playing character, found at the bottom of the Stairwell of Hands. He lives in a spaceship, which can carry Masada and Madotsuki to Mars. He is especially popular among fans, and is thought to tie in with Madotsuki's past somehow.
Mars-san: A martian creature, that stands alone crying inside of a volcano on Mars. Stabbing him causes his eyes to change color.
Toriningen: Literally meaning "Bird People", they wander in various parts of the dream realm. They are one of the few recurring creatures. They appear to be human-like with beaks, and most of them appear to be female. Stabbing them causes them to go crazy and attack Madotsuki, trapping her in a very narrow passage that can only be escaped by waking up. A group of them, that can be seen but not reached, appears to be having a picnic.
Madotsuki's apartment consists of a studio living space, and a balcony. Her room is very sparse, with only her bed, a writing desk, and an old TV with a FamiCom system. The FamiCom contains a playable mini-game, NASU, which consists of a bird-like creature catching eggplants. The balcony has a wash line, and AC unit. There is very little to do here, so the majority of the game is played in Madotsuki's dreams.
The apartment building appears to only contain Madotsuki's apartment. It is only as wide as her bedroom and doesn't appear to extend far from beyond it, meaning the door to the outside could actually lead to open air.
The central area of the dream realm is a small room with twelve doors leading to various "worlds" within Madotsuki's dreams. Each of the doors in this area is unique, so that the player can easily learn what leads where.
The Twelve Doors
Numbers World: The walls have arm and leg patterns, as well as what look like zippers with faces. The floor is transparent, with a map of the area scrolling slowly in the background, except for where a series of numbers are visible.
Neon World: A very bright area, with a lot of sharp colors. It is made up of a main plaza, with smaller areas to each side. Going in any direction long enough will take you back to where you started. Glowing Aztec-themed creatures roam here.
Shield-Folk World: This area is very similar to the Neon World, but the NPCs here carry shields.
Candle World: A dark area, full of candles. The ground is completely black, and hard to navigate.
Eyeball World: The NPCs in this area are dismembered body parts, mainly floating eyeballs. Arms, legs, and severed heads also wander about.
Graffiti World: The map of this area is made up of brightly colored tiles that, when zoomed out, form images of Aztec-themed creatures. There are few obstacles, and the map looks in both directions. However, due to its consistent markings, it is somewhat easier to move around in.
Mural World: Murals are the primary landmarks here. Monsters with large mouths are the main inhabitants.
Snow World: A snowy area, with a constant snowstorm. Few trees dot the landscape, which can be used to navigate the otherwise featureless area. As well, several igloos can be seen, including one that appears to be a sleeping copy of a child-like version of Madotsuki.
Dark World: As it suggests, this area is nearly impossible to see in without a light.
Puddle World: An area that is mostly marked with small puddles that reflect a tumultuous sky. This is one of the hardest areas to navigate, besides following paths marked by lampposts.
Block World: An area made of blocks. This is a fairly easy place to move around, other than some narrow, angular paths.
Forest World: This area consists of a boundless forest with no ground. A large mural of a monkey scrolls in the background.
Other areas can be accessed by moving through the twelve doors, then finding access within each world. Important areas include the Dense Woods, where a number of Effects and events take place, such as the infamous Uboa sequence. Another is the White Desert, which contains NPCs who walk backwards, and a pair of sisters that trigger full-screen shock images.
Effects change Madotsuki's appearance and give her different abilities. There are two Effects that are the most prominent in importance when used.
The first, the Knife ability, allows her to stab objects and NPCs. The second, the Cat ability, triggers different reactions when used upon different NPCs or objects in the dream realm. Most NPCs will move faster when the Cat effect is being used, and pressing the action key causes Madotsuki to beckon and any NPCs to come closer to her.
Many of the Effects are surreal, and tie into the theme of the area where they are found. Of note are the Lamp Effect, which changes Madotsuki's head into a light, and the Bicycle, which allows for quicker movement. Others, like the Blonde and Fat Effects, do nothing other than change Madotsuki's appearance.
Throughout the game are characters and objects that, when interacted with, produce events. Events have a random chance of occurring, usually one in sixty-four, though it can be as little as one in three. Some of the events are rather mundane and have no effect on game play. Others will produce sudden images with loud, jarring music meant to scare the player.
Crick-in-the-Neck: Madotsuki wakes up with a crick in her neck, making her head face left. This prevents her from writing in her journal, or playing NASU.
Uboa: This is the most well known event. Turning the lights off in Poniko's room can cause this event. If the event occurs, all of the colors in the room invert, except for Madotsuki, and Uboa appears in Poniko's place. It is unknown if this is meant to represent a transformation, Madotsuki being sent to another place, or something else. Though Uboa normally does not move, interacting with it causes Madotsuki to teleport to a disturbing landscape, with a large creature looming in the background.
The Witch's Flight: Madotsuki must use the Witch Effect in the mall to trigger this. Flying to the right while on the broom may produce a flash, which leads to a vertical scrolling event, similar to a shoot-em-up game like the Touhou series. A cat will appear on the roof if the event occurs. Getting off the broom while flying causes Madotsuki to fall out of bed and wake up.
Monoe/Monoko: The two sisters in the White Desert can be accessed by stabbing an NPC outside of a cave that has a circular path going through it. Entering one side produces Monoe. Interacting with her causes a picture of her face to take up the screen briefly, before she teleports to a different part of the room. Monoko appears if the cave is entered from the other side. Activating the Stoplight Effect causes her to turn grow several extra arms, including one on her head. Talking to her causes a video of her, bouncing around the screen with tribal-sounding music, to play.
Spaceship to Mars: Home to Seccon Masada-Sensei, the spaceship is a small area consisting of the interior of a futuristic spaceship, with white ovoid rooms and strange, post-modern furniture. The Spaceship crash event can be accessed with a one in six chance that Madotsuki will fall asleep on the bed in the room to the right of Masada's piano room. The lights will dim, and she will awaken to the sound of the emergency alarm and stars rushing past the window as the spacecraft descends. After fifteen seconds, a cutscene of the ship crash landing on Mars will play, after which the access ramp will lower, allowing her to explore the surface of the planet.
Note: Meowing with the Cat Effect makes the spaceship spin, causing the view from the window to scroll in the other direction.
FACE: Going up the stairs where KyuuKyuu-kun is located causes a distorted, flashing image, similar to a demonic face, to play. Madotsuki wakes up after it ends.
FamiCom Glitch: This is not actually a glitch, but talking to a wall in the FC World will cause the area to appear corrupted. Talking to it several times will cause more corruption, until a loud, piercing buzz is heard. This will wake Madotsuki up.
Other events will cause random objects, such as severed heads, to float into certain areas, characters to appear where previously no one existed, or other full-screen images to appear. The purpose of these events is mainly to reinforce the creepy, or disturbing nature of Madotsuki's dreams.
Recurring elements of the game are very large, open-ended maps that scroll in both directions. Many areas serve no purpose to the game's progression, with few NPCs or items. While the game was made in RPG Maker, very little of the game play is RPG-like. Many of the background characters and NPCs appear to be personified, or mobile body parts. Others are explicitly tied into the themes of their areas. A lack of exposition or plot of any kind also keeps the player guessing as to the meaning behind the events of the game.
Disorienting environments and unsettling music are meant to make the player feel vulnerable. Aztec motifs appear throughout most areas of the game; however, their connection to Madotsuki's dreams is unknown. The abstract nature of the game, as well as the confusion caused by unpredictable, disjointed events seemingly unconnected from what causes them, are meant to evoke the player's feelings on their own dreams.
The main purpose of the game appears to be to highlight the surreal, and often frightening nature of dreams. Since so little information about the game, its nature, or the meaning behind most of the events is given, there are a number of theories surrounding the game and its characters.
One of the prevailing theories is that Madotsuki is homicidal, and locks herself away in her apartment to prevent herself from attacking people. Since most of the dream characters can only be interacted with by stabbing them, her dreams are supposedly an outlet for those feelings.
Another is that she has had some sort of traumatic experience in her past. Typically, followers of this theory ascribe the disturbing imagery of the game to a traffic accident, physical assault, or a relationship that led to pregnancy. Miscarriage and attempted murder also come up frequently in these discussions.
As well, it is sometimes thought that Madotsuki is never in the real world, and that the "real world" she wakes up in is actually another dream. This is partly supported by the fact that, when all effects are left together in the Nexus, the "real" world changes as a result. Even though it is possible to "wake up" from one dream into another, this is still just a theory.
Since the game is still currently in development, as it is at version 0.10 since 2007, little can be either confirmed or denied until further developments are made. Kikiyama, the game's creator, indicated that due to scheduling conflicts, the game WILL continue its development, but that an update may be a long way off.