Yume Nikki: Dream Diary - Hotseat Reviews

The inciting incident is commonplace for just about every storytelling medium out there. No matter the tone or pace, this incident is 99.9% of the time something going wrong. It's no different here, the spark of my review series is something going terribly wrong. Yume Nikki: Dream Diary is everything that makes the series special deteriorating into an uninspired, frustrating mess. In case you don't know already, I absolutely love the first Yume Nikki, which I consider one of my favorite horror games regardless of it being free and an overall lack of actual gameplay. There simply isn't anything like it, and the only way I can describe it is a game similar to a walking simulator that puts emphasis on the player putting the story together. Most of the terror comes from an abstract, surrealist environment rather than any sort of threat. Ironically, Yume Nikki: Dream Diary gave up the qualities unique to the original in an attempt to become another uninspired horror/puzzle/platform game. Also if you're wondering, this review will be spoiler-free.

I stress the platform segment of that because there's plenty of sections of this game that entirely revolve around platforming. This isn't inherently bad if they decided to create its own little twist on it, but they didn't. For a game that claims it is providing an experience that is "wholly unique," the platforming segments were some of the most uninspired I've seen from that genre. Madotsuki has nothing special in terms of her maneuverability until you get the Umbrella effect near the end of the game, and the platforming itself consists of jumping over pits over and over again. There's nothing to diversify it with the exception of the Block World and Warehouse, the former of which I'll talk about later and the latter being nothing more than a clone of the SCP games. The worst part of the platforming is the fact that the game still wants to call back to the Yume Nikki style of gameplay, with a bunch of worlds intersecting each other. The problem is that this can unintentionally kill off any sense of progression, and often results in backtracking. With how uninspired the platforming is in this game, backtracking through it makes the lackluster level design even more painful.

Despite the fact that they kept the connected worlds of the original, they didn't keep an essential part of Yume Nikki: the exploration. There are many levels like the Street World and The Wilderness that have wide open alleys and paths but are blocked by invisible walls. There's even a forest in the game that's wide open, but it's blocked by an invisible barrier that keeps the player moving only left and right. Part of the point of Yume Nikki is exploring all of the worlds to not only find the effects, but also the secrets that hint toward the story. This game removes that completely, replacing the need for creating large levels to store secrets in favor of an effect that reveals invisible secrets instead. This isn't the only example of this game taking away elements of the original Yume Nikki for its own convenience, either. Going back to the level design, the literal dreamlike designs of the first game are lost for generic schools and streets. The levels are well designed from a graphical standpoint (especially The Pink Sea), but that can only go so far if the levels themselves have nothing to offer. Not to mention, the levels and objects are the only good things I can say in regard to the graphics, and they aren't that impressive, to begin with.

The puzzles are nothing special once again, many of which are so easy that they might as well have not been there. The horror is one of the worst parts of the game and makes me question why this game even tried to be Yume Nikki in the first place. Using Uboa as an example, in the first game Uboa wasn't just scary for his sudden appearance, but also because of the subtle aspects like how he would take away the pleasant music of Poniko's room and how he would take Madotsuki to a bizarre trap dimension unique to him... or whatever gender Uboa is supposed to be, I have no idea and I don't really care. In Dream Diary, the icon of the entire series is reduced to nothing more than an atrocious jumpscare. I am not kidding. That isn't the only jumpscare present in Dream Diary either. Once again, it's a decision that removes all of the unique and great aspects of the original in favor of becoming anything but distinctive. The only game that had any semblance of tension was the Street World, and that part of the game felt like it was created before they even got the license to Yume Nikki because of how separated it was from the rest of the game.

Believe it or not, the horror isn't the worst part of the game. That honor easily goes to the Block World and the only part with 3D platforming. Not only did the developers likely use the Block World as the only 3D platforming part of the game as an excuse to not make any textures (if it weren't for that excuse, this part of the game would be compared to Bubsy 3D), but the platforming itself is absolute garbage. The camera angle is unchangeable without using a bathroom stall in the middle of the map, and the platforming itself is frustrating even with the Umbrella effect. This is in large part due to how the respawn works in this level, and falling off will often respawn Madotsuki in a random area simply because she was close to it. Combine all of that with the fact that everything looks the same, and we've got the most frustrating game experience I've had in a long time.

Lastly, there are still quite a few glitches despite the game being in Version 2.0 by now. This was especially prevalent in The Mall, specifically the section where you have to trap a walking bucket with a key using escalators. However, this was easily the part with the most glitches for me. Many times I had Madotsuki get trapped at the bottom of an escalator going up or on the railing, and at worst I've had Madotsuki flat-out fall through the world when on a down escalator. The same thing happened when going from the second floor to the first floor in the school, the school disappeared and Madotsuki fell into the void. I also noticed a bug on a newly implemented Lost Woods copy in The Wilderness, where the path would only work when it felt like it. I'd have to go through the same exit multiple times in order for it to take me where I wanted it to go, and sometimes all three possible exits would take me back to the start, leaving me in an unintentional dead end. However, all of the problems I've mentioned above are still severe enough that no amount of patches can fix what is ultimately a game broken at the core. It can't work as a sequel because it doesn't build on the universe of Yume Nikki, and it doesn't work as a reboot because it removes many of the elements that make Yume Nikki work. Even if it were a standalone title, I have a feeling I would come to the same conclusion.

The only other compliment I can give this game is with regards to the soundtrack. Many of the songs are revamped from the original and many do sound alike (which to be fair is something the original had trouble with too), but there are a few tracks in this game that are well done. I particularly like the Barracks Settlement remake the most. However, some of the music and some of the level designs ultimately can't save a terrible game. I wanted nothing more to love this game, hold it with admiration as the newborn of the Yume Nikki series. Unfortunately, this newborn didn't make it. With gameplay that almost insulted what made the original so special, trying so hard to capture the magic of the original that it doesn't build on the story of the original in a unique way, the character designs looking similar to mannequins (there are even mannequins in the game, and they have similar texture and feel to the human characters), a lazy approach to level design from an exploration standpoint, the horror aspect is laughable, the entire game is a downgrade of a free RPG Maker game that has the guts to charge $20. I hold no hatred toward the developers or Kikiyama, but this is an incomplete trainwreck. It's bad as a standalone game, a sequel, a remake, and a reimagining. This game has no reason to exist.

The only question remains as to what I should rate it, which came down to a 2 or a 3. There are plenty of people who think this game is just mediocre and not that bad, which is totally fine, but this is one of the worst gaming experiences I've had in a long time and holds no value whatsoever. Play the original and stay away at all costs. Even if all the bugs are fixed, it can't repair what's broken at the core. This is the worst game I've played all year, and I hope it stays that way. All that this game did for me was help me realize and reaffirm what I love about Yume Nikki so much, and if an NES-style minigame is the only thing of value in a game, then it's hopeless.

Rating: 2/10.


Excellent; now do an analysis on how much of a completely overrated pile of garbage Ready Player One is (to the point where I even quite literally non-ironically thought that fracking FREDDY GOT FINGERED was actually a WAY better film overall than it was), before I end up doing one myself - xandermartin98

If it's ironically hilarious then it's good enough for me, though I won't spend a dime when it comes to renting it. - nerffan8000

That's the thing; FGF is god-awful in a funny way, whereas RPO isn't - xandermartin98