It feels like only yesterday that this weird little RPGmaker game first went viral. I don't know why it still feels so fresh in my memory, but when I remember that this one came out any more than four or five years ago I start to feel like a fossil, and it actually came out before a lot of you were ever born, way back in 2004.
At Last Reviewing Yume Nikki Manifestations
Lacking any obvious story, win conditions or "losing" conditions per se, there is virtually nothing you can do in Yume Nikki but explore the surreal dreamscape of a mysterious girl who can simply return to her bedroom at any time and reset her explorations by "pinching" herself.
Many, many peculiar entities populate the equally peculiar landscapes of Yume Nikki, and there isn't very much we can glean about them beyond their immediate appearances and behavior, but I'll be doing my best to share my thoughts on some personal favorites.
As an introduction to the setting, we'll first talk about its single most iconic figure. In a strange, pinkish desert sits a tiny, conical house, and inhabiting the house is usually only Poniko ("ponytail girl") who wanders aimlessly around the room and sheds visible tears. Without any dialog, there's little that can really be ascertained about her, and it only gets stranger from there.
Though we said this isn't a game you can "lose," any contact with Uboa will transport you to an endlessly looping area some refer to as "Uboa's trap," largely empty except for this bizarre, looming background figure. I love the multiple arms emerging from the side of its face, the huge red eyes with their reptilian slit pupils and the dripping, gooey red tongue ending in another of its simplistic hands.
Though treated as a separate character, I fold this being into Uboa's review because I kind of like to think it's another aspect of the same entity, in some way.
There are few means to leave this weird place, except to pinch yourself, which is how you leave these dream realms to return to your bedroom.
Like many real dreams, Uboa's presence implies unspoken story widely open to interpretation. Together with the startling way it was hidden in the game and the hazard it poses in a game with few "antagonists," it instantly became its best remembered icon practically overnight, and remains one of the first things many people remember about the whole title.
...But Uboa is one of only many, many beings and being-like-figures in Yume Nikki, and perhaps one of the next best remembered is Kyuukyuukun, the "kyuukyuu" meaning literally "rub rub." Mottled like someone mashed together different colors of play-doh, he's sort of just a simple, smiling, Halloween sheet-ghost face on the tip of a stalk, with one nubby arm he uses to just constantly stroke the safety rail of a staircase. That is pretty weird, and a lot of fans like to read into it as a phallic symbol, but I'm personally not convinced that was completely intentional.
...Or, I wouldn't be, if Rubrub's room wasn't accessed by opening up this big zipper with a dangling hand and a foot, also catalogued as its own "entity" in wikis, but what really qualifies as entity or mere object in this game is difficult to define.
Speaking of ambiguous symbolism, fans seem convinced that this cluster of critters are supposed to look like uteruses, but I'm not sure I really see it. If anything they remind me more of Y-chromosomes. It feels like the upper three also just have eyes, one on each "fork" and one vertically aligned eye in between, but the other three have both eyes and what could be either eyes or sucker-like mouths, especially the way one of them still has the third eye underneath its "mouth." They do absolutely nothing but stand by an endlessly looping highway through a dark forest, and only the three-eyed, dark green "Floyag" has any animation, as its eyes will train on the player character if they step off the infinite roadway.
You may have gotten a sense by now of just how accurately "dreamlike" this game can be, at least if you've ever had dreams like some of mine, I suppose.
The wiki calls this thing "pain blob," but its Japanese filename literally just says Purple Trash Bag. It's only encountered in the sewers, and initially featureless, but it reveals this faint, ghost-like face if you happen to stab it, because this game doesn't have combat, but it still has a knife you can jab things with for kicks.
PURPLE TRASH BAG
I'm not sure where this name originates, but it's what the fan wiki uses. I like the simplicity of just a shadowy blob with these round, red-ringed eyeballs, or I guess eyes with red sclera and huge black pupils? No other physical features necessary! This entity also becomes invisible when you equip the knife, which the aforementioned wiki speculates is a glitch. Personally I'm not so sure, but even if it is a glitch, it isn't out of place.
I love this little thingadoodle! It's kind of a big blocky spike with little holes for eyes and cute little stick limbs, but it also oozes blood, or something like it, from the hole on top of its "head." If you try to interact with Tokuto, it tips over and begins pouring blood all over its floor, which never, ever stops until you leave the room.
Notably, there's a sound like a pulsating heart in Tokuto's home, as well as that chunky, clotted looking blood pit and nonsense poster on the wall.
One map of Yume Nikki has only been referred to as "eyeball world," a black void populated by grasping hands, yammering lips, blinking eyes that are usually paired, and a large number of completely nude eyeballs with severed, bloody stems that just sort of roll around wildly. Fun! Even without the other ominous anatomy to liven up the place, the blood eyeballs bouncing around dark nothingness are delightful enough. Who doesn't want an Eyeball World eyeball party?! Who wouldn't just retire there if they could?! It has everything you need!!!! Eyeballs and nothing!!! Everything you need!!!!!!! Everyth
Mars San! No!! :( ...Literally only encountered when you take a spaceship to the surface of Mars, then proceed underground into a dark cavern. There, you can find what bizarrely almost resembles the wreckage of multiple train cars and this looming, one-eyed, one-legged creature that continuously weeps green tears. One thing I like a lot about Yume Nikki entities in general is how many of them have such a simplistic shape and minimalistic features, but still get so wildly diverse from one another. Mars-San is almost shaped like one big, severed leg, or a fleshy baseball bat, with nothing but thay single large eye and single small foot. That could have easily been a rather dull and forgettable design, but the green tears and the psychedelic color scheme are wholly unique.
This is just a fan name, since this entity only exists as a background image. Its bulbous head is initially just dark grey with three open eyes, but if you've looped through the Floyag's infinite road at least five to ten times, its grey "skin" becomes drippy looking "hair," its face becomes red, its upper eyes squint and the scene suddenly includes the red, sketchy outline of a four-pronged fork. Meanwhile, we have those odd red cables to either side of the being that ascent up into white "holes" in the darkness itself, and then we have the dirty white "tablecloth" the whole thing presides over.
For those who use text to speech on these articles I just want to mention that Yume Nikki's art style is often SO minimalist, when I say this thing has a "bulbous head and three eyes," I really mean nothing else, just a totally featureless lightbulb sort of shape with three humanlike eyes, arranged asymmetrically.
There's an area in this game thought of as "Guillotine World," because you can find one of two actual guillotines there and acquire the "headless" effect. The only real escape from Guillotine World, however, is through a single wooden closet, and that's unfortunate, because there are a number of other closets scattered around the realm, and the rest of them only contain this entity whose big, psychedelic eyes and rude little smile loom from the blackness of the closet's interior...and it even laughs at you!
With a name meaning "octopus balloon" or "kite balloon," this creature is nothing but a fleshy balloon-like bulb with "smiling" crescent eyes and a couple of little feet (or hands?) at its terminal end. It's also huge, and hovers through an area fans call the white desert, where almost everything is just uncolored line art.
We never do see this monster spraying out anything, let alone "lots" of things. Disappointing! It's nice, though, another being of the White Desert and sort of a tall, fleshy lump with an eye, uselessly dangling feet, some sort of tube or geyser emerging from the top of its head and a wobbly, dripping arm emerging from another nondescript cranial orifice, possibly an empty eye socket.
THE SITTING THING THAT SPRAYS OUT LOTS OF THINGS
The way the thing spreads out and goes off-screen at the base, it could really have any body shape at all beyond what we see, but it's already so huge that it towers over a suspended pathway.
Very threatening, an almost football-shaped giant that stares down at us with a single eerie eye, has stumpy and vestigial feet, a veiny arm sprouting from one side of its head, and a set of skull-like jaws off to one side (or is this already a side view?) that do seem to be grinding or quivering constantly, though it is entirely harmless and never otherwise moves. Check out that horrifying entryway into its area, too, a googly-eyed buddha head, half buried, and bleeding from its nose as you exit from the gaping hole where an ear should be. I feel like the white desert is the most ominous place in the game, but then I think about some of the other places in this game, and I think they're the most ominous too.
THE ONE GRINDING ITS TEETH
I think perhaps it's just that every single thing in Yume Nikki is the most ominous thing in Yume Nikkie.
See? Here's another thing now, and the last one we're including from the white desert. You encounter Monoko as a colorless but otherwise normal looking little girl on another floating path, unless you use the "stoplight effect." We haven't talked about the effects yet, but you can basically collect various transformations for your character, Madotsuki, which range from almost useless to unlocking various new paths and events.
One of these effects transforms you into a traffic light with feet. If you take this form in front of Monoko, the little girl abruptly changes shape, and if you make any contact with her, you get a close-up shot of her new form:
Drooling and walleyed, liquid oozing from her left eyeball, her arms now branching into four and an extra hand sprouting up from her head, this grotesque image simply bounces around an empty screen to a strange musical beat until you exit the screen.
This is another harmless, decorative and immobile creature, encountered in yet another area that consists mostly of black space. The area does have a pathway formed of glowing footprints, so it's solid ground for some folks, but the "pumping creatures" clearly appear to be emerging from liquid, complete with surrounding ripples. They come in different colors, but each consists of the same round head on a long neck with big eyeballs staring off in different directions, tiny reptilian nostrils, snaggly fangs jutting from a little round mouth, and that weird fleshy tube sprouting out one side of their cranium, into the same "liquid" that the tube appears to continuously pump.
THE PUMPING CREATURES WITH EMPTY EYES
Personally, these are one of the things I remember the strongest from the game, and by far one of my favorite designs!
Strangely, there's a whole other creature in the game with a "pumping tube" on its head, though this one is very, very vaguely more...humanesque? You can't really say "humanoid," exactly. Its head is a little like a very stylized person, kind of, a black tear streaming from its serene green eye. Its torso is featureless and armless, but it sits on what may be a pair of small, tapering blue legs. It rests near a hot spring bath, the tube on the back of its head continuously drinking up the spring water. Does it possibly have some relation to the "pumping creatures" at all? Is it a human who is slowly becoming one? Or is it just a nonsense repeat of their base concept?
I'm putting these together and sharing them as their animated gifs, because it feels wrong to do it any other way, though I don't know why the wiki's gif of that last one is so tiny.
There are 136 of these flashing, gaudy critters partying around "Neon World," and just look at them go! They all feel like they're having so much fun, don't they? One looks like a blue-lidded eyeball squishing around the floor, one is a sort of flailing tube with beady eyes, one looks like a jukebox with square robot eyes, one looks sort of like a tiki mask, one is little wormlike shape with a big eyeball and a "beak" or "mandibles," one is like...what is that one like? Like a little blue clam standing on a long curly tongue? Is that what I'm seeing? And then we have this thing that's just some...shapes? I'm sorry I have no idea how to begin describing it. It's not even complex, but it's just some shapes put together.
Then we've got this wailing, shadowy little ghost-critter that isn't even neon at all, and finally the bird-beaked, humanoid figure fans call "Neon Parrot." Of all the 136 partiers, there is only one "Neon Parrot," and he grants your character the "neon" transformation effect. It's useless.
I love these! They just stand around in a forest until you try to interact with them, at which point they shuffle a little, chime like a bell, and either teleport you somewhere or warp the surrounding dimensions.
RED JELLYFISH-LIKE THING
They do kind of look like a big, fat jellyfish with a pair of human legs, or a human wearing a "costume" that resembles a jellyfish, with a mauve bell and thick, petal-like red arms. What they also strongly remind me of however, are earthstar fungi. Look them up!
That's what the files call these things, but very little about them is froglike. They look more like flat, two-dimensional black "ghosts," each with a luminous purple outline, a curly little tail, big neon eyes and a mouth that drools colorful liquid down to the ground. They can be found around the forest world, and if you touch one, a translucent, wavering copy of it will cling to you wherever you go. This doesn't really hurt you, but it's a fairly alarming thing for these to do.
I suppose they could very well be "frogs" in some sense, though. I feel like I get it. I feel like I see the frogginess, even in their strange effect, even realizing it isn't anything frogs actually do.
Meaning "water eye," this is another creature that doesn't move or do anything, but I really love its design. It appears to just be a slick, purple eel or worm, completely featureless except for its two large eyes, one above the other, each basically shaped like a human eye but large enough that their corners are well outside the entity's silhouette. The red edges, black sclera, green iris and just darker green pupils all make a lovely complement to that dark eggplant-colored body, and the way this colorful creature just looms out of the black water, just off a rickety old pier, feels like something I'd find all at once terrifying and beautiful in an actual dream.
I love these guys! When you enter a train car out in the woods, you'll sometimes find this single inky-black passenger, little more than a nondescript glob with legs, tiny red eyes, and what are either thin red "arms" or possibly red "hair" draping down its sides. Other times, you'll see the purple and blue passengers seated together, purple with two big, green eyes in its lopsided lump-head and blue more of a cyclops, both with thick black hair.
THE TRAIN PASSENGERS
The passengers don't do much of anything, unless you use the "cat" effect to become a catgirl. This causes the black creature's eyes to merge into one larger, staring red eye, which comes across as not a very positive response.
...Especially since the other two passengers will get MAD at the presence of a catgirl! Haha! Look at them! They don't even move or get up, their eyelids just lower enough for you to know they do not approve of this flagrant display.
This is treated by the wiki as a location and even rather than an entity, but it feels even more like an entity than some of these other things, if we're being honest. It's a very, very unsettling looking room, the floor colored in sickly shades of green, black and red, the walls resembling weird, fleshy, smiling faces. If you interact with these wall tiles, they respond with a "typing sound," and doing so enough times will cause the room's graphics to begin glitching and corrupting until your game appears to "crash" and you wake up once again.
Nobody knows anything about THE FACE, except that when you exit the staircase where Rubrub lives, you're treated to ten seconds of this distorted, staticy screen, the black outlines of a two-dimensional, inhuman "face" just sort of staring at us threateningly.
Another considered rather iconic to the game, these big monsters just sit around the footprint path, doing nothing all day, or night, or whatever it is. Each resembles a nude humanoid, but with a bloody stump where the head should be, a huge eye in the upper chest and a wide, toothy maw in their huge, bloated stomachs.
Fans like to interpreted these creatures as appearing "pregnant," but that's because they seem hell-bent on interpreting every other thing in this game as a Freudian metaphor for sexual violence and childbirth. I, personally, don't really find that symbolism to be strong enough or frequent enough to consider it a "theme" of the game, and I don't see it at all in this creature, which more immediately evokes the concept of a "hungry ghost" if anything.
Our last creature is considered by many to be the game's creepiest. Found throughout different areas, they resemble tall, thin girls with different hairstyles and different cute, colorful outfits, but their decidedly less huma faces have enormous, bulging eyes and long, beaklike noses. What's more, if a bird person is harmed in any way, all bird people on the map enter what's referred to as their "lunatic" mode, their eyeballs turning purple and wildly rolling in their sockets, their tongues hanging out of their mouths as they actively pursue the player.
Fortunately, they still can't "hurt" you, but like Uboa, they can transport you to a small area you cannot escape without exiting the dream completely.
If you never played or knew much about Yume Nikki before now, I highly recommend checking it out for yourself, because I haven't covered half the weird stuff in this game, and I would never want to spoil all of it. It's an independent work of art that appeared one day on the internet with seemingly no warning, inspired an explosion of fan made spinoffs, knockoffs, sequels and homages to this day, and all these years later......we still know more or less nothing about it beyond its content. Nothing is known of its development, its intentions, or even precisely WHO created it, as they have only ever operated under a pseudonym and had precious little to say besides brief, simple, polite responses to a select few queries.
It is, moreso than nearly any other game, first and foremost an interactive work of art.
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