VideogamesPosted by Lewis Thu, April 02, 2009 15:45:41
Understanding Yume Nikki
knowing what happens at the end. It's almost impossible to talk about
with any authority without this knowledge, and without making numerous
references to the finale. Writing about it, then, is going to involve a
pretty severe spoiler, and if you're completely ademant that you're
going to see this incredibly strange adventure through to its
conclusion, you should almost certainly do so before reading another
sentence of this analysis. Not even this one.
The thing is, it's a game that doesn't really lend itself to any
meaningful discussion until you start to analyse its central character,
and gaining that insight is only possible when you view Yume Nikki
back to front. Otherwise, all you have is a series of explorable
dreams, which make little or no sense out of the context of Madotsuki's
mind. It's all very abstract and psychedelic, and some may be turned on
by that alone, but it's not really poignant in any way until you
realise that this is the story of a deeply troubled young lady who
ultimately goes on to commit suicide.
It's a brave decision to end a game with the primary character's
demise. It's often an approach that leads to complete frustration,
something that serves to remove you entirely from the experience. If
there's nothing you could have done to prevent such a tragedy, why were
you even playing the game in the first place? But here, the sense of
hopelessness carries with it an extreme weight. If someone like
Madotsuki is so unhappy, so isolated and so alone, is there anything anyone
could have done?
This bleak inevitibility struck a particular chord with me. Yume Nikki
sad, an emotion I'd really like to see games incorporate with more
frequency. We're all guilty, to some extent, of assuming games should
be played for fun. Feeling decidedly upset is not fun. But it can also
be an invigorating experience, one we can learn a lot from. As the
medium matures, perhaps we'll see more developers - not just the tiny
independents - taking risks in this area. There's a huge field to
So, knowing this unsettling truth about Madotsuki, we can begin to take
a more educated look at the preceding game. We start in a bedroom.
There's a bookshelf, a broken television, a games console, a desk, a
bed and two doors. One door leads out onto a desolate balcony. The
other door leads out of the apartment. If we try to open the latter
door, Madotsuki shakes her head. She'll write at her desk, she'll sit
on the balcony, she'll play games, or she'll sleep. She will not
Immediately, the outlook is thoroughly depressing. A person without
friends, without any usual healthy activities. That her only real hobby
is playing games makes a pretty big statement about the medium itself,
particularly when it's a statement made in a game
So she spends much of her time sleeping. And it's while asleep that we
experience Madotsuki's dreams: warped, disturbing nonsense visions that
completely defy logical explanation. They're aesthetically
hallucinagenic - not typical sixties acid culture, but more in line
with shamanic ritual; colours and shapes, but organic, patterned meaning
They sprawl endlessly, agorophobically, looping back round on
themselves. There are items to collect, which grant new abilities - the
game part of Yume Nikki
, basically - and while these initially
seem unrelated, they do give us a certain insight into Madotsuki's
mindset. At one point, she collects a bicycle, allowing her to ride at
speed around the nightmarish landscapes - representative, perhaps, of a
yearning for the freedom she's so afraid of in waking life? It's
certainly striking how open these dream worlds are, when her own
reality is constricted by such a suffocating, self-imposed closure.
Despite these collectables, there's a real, tangible aimlessness to
Madotsuki's sleep-wanderings. The areas are so vast that it's often
impossible to search for anything in particular - especially when
there's never any instruction as to what you should be searching for
So, instead, you find yourself getting lost in the glorious
technicolour. Initially, the environments are frustratingly arbitrary
considering their scale, but as you try to piece everything together
knowledge, you can start to make some warped sense of it.
Because there's plenty of allusion in Yume Nikki
Occasionally, characters called the Toriningen will approach Madotsuki,
trapping her and constricting her in her dreams. At one point, a
colourful, smiling phallus strokes a metal pole, before a terrifying
Aztec face flashes up on the screen, causing your avatar to wake with
panic. As you progress through Madotsuki's dreams, you begin to wonder:
just what made her this way? Why does she dream of such things? What
caused her deep, psychological torment? What happened before
These questions are ultimately endless and yield no concrete answers.
But they do go some way to providing some insight into a tragically
tormented mind. In a way, the story of Madotsuki's life is irrelevant:
she's a poster-girl for the world's tortured souls. There's nothing
aspirational about her, because she doesn't aspire to anything. Any
goals and ambitions she may have once had have completely evaporated,
and all that's left to do is to sleep, to dream, and to eventually give
is a genuinely upsetting game. It's never any fun,
it's painfully slow, and your efforts only amount to the biggest
tragedy of Madotsuki's life. And once you realise that in itself is the
overriding artistic statement, there's an eternity of psychological
perusing to be done. It's the tale of a life that was never to be - but
there's more to her existence than almost any other videogame character
you'll ever meet.
***As a further thought, since I initially scrawled all this down, I've found a fansite for the game. Browsing it, I come across a section entitled "What this game is about." The body reads: "...Really now. This is a pointless question. Its so random and meant to spook you out it HAS NO POINT!" - which I found quite upsetting in itself. There can't be many people who are enthusiastic enough to set up a fansite for the game, and the ones who are haven't even realised what it's trying to say.
***Download Yume Nikki for free - Clicky!
VideogamesPosted by Lewis Tue, March 31, 2009 10:41:06
Some people may be aware that I am currently working, alongside a reasonable number of impressively talented individuals, on a single-player Half-Life 2
mod called Neptune.
Let's get the plugging out of the way first: www.neptunemod.com
Since we went public with it in... when was it? September or something? Well, since then, we've been fortunate enough to get a lot of very nice press and kind words from followers. We've been regularly in the top ten most viewed mods on ModDB (usually around the time of a new media release, but still) and have a sizeable number of people "watching" our development over there. But in amongst all this has developed an interesting trend for responses along the lines of:"So it's like BioShock, then?"
Which in a way is to be expected. It's listed publically among our influences (alongside a number of more reasonable coparisons, though), there's a few similarities in the period art design (mainly because, well, it's set around the time Rapture was being built and that's just what stuff looked like
) and the narrative delivery is certainly comparable. So we can see where it's all coming from. But there seems to be an assumption that, because of these vague links, we're just trying to rip that game off.
That game. Instead of any of the other games
we're far more blatantly plagiarising. Fucking hell, in essence it's one enormous pastiche on the original Half-Life, almost completely stealing its narrative and
gameplay structures. Only with Penumbra's chilly level design. And Shock 2's omnipresent mocking. Those
games, yeah, I'll hold my hand up and say we're nicking the fuck out of them. But BioShock? Really
I've stopped responding to these sorts of comments, because my replies were degenerating into "oh for fuck's sake" answers each time, which isn't exactly the best PR. But in the run-up to GDC, where our scriptwriter Nick DiMucci was heading to plug the arse off the thing (I still have no idea why he was there. We clearly didn't have an official stand or keynote. I think he was just running around thrusting the web address at people and trying to recruit character animators), our sound designer and webmaster Jesse Harlin took the opportunity to revamp the website. In doing so, he drafted up a rather lovely FAQ section which responds to the BioShock accusations in a far more measured, reasonable and sensible way than I ever could, while simultaneously saying exactly
what I would say if I weren't such an angry man.
What started as a puzzling (and silly to us) yet recurring
question we are now taking seriously. For some reason, most readers see
a boat and survival gameplay and instantly associate the game with BioShock.
The question has come up enough that we felt it merits a formal responce. To put it simply, no.
Now to put it not-so-simply:
Like any game, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. BioShock
owes much if not all of its gameplay to System Shock 2, which owes its
gameplay to System Shock. Thief, Deus Ex, Fallout 3, Obilivion and a
host of other games also share similar elements. Furthermore, virtually
every action shooter owes its roots to the Doom franchise, and
inheritably to Wolfenstein 3D.
For some reason, some elements of modern gaming are so ubititous
that we take it for granted. Did Painkiller rip off Serious Sam that
ripped off of Doom that ripped off of Wolfenstein that ripped off of
Commander Keen that ripped off Pong?? Well... in some sense, yes. But
With no leveling system, no "magic system" (read: gene splicing) and a
completely different story, cast, weapons and feel, the only thing that
Neptune shares with BioShock is the fact that the ocean is involved at
some point (marginally) and there is some era music from the thirties
and forties. Thats really it.
Technically, the game has much more in common with Half-Life, if
anything, but for all practical purposes its signifigantly different
from any of the above.
In other words, shut it, or else I'll force you to stare at our BioShockiest screenshot:
VideogamesPosted by Lewis Wed, March 25, 2009 16:45:29
I'm buying a Playstation 2 tonight. I sold my last one for fuck all pounds a couple of years ago when I was skint, and my girlfriend's been nagging me ever since to get another one.
Someone is being kind enough to sell us one, with four games, for £30. Mad skills. It'll be interesting to see what I can pick up for it - and I can finally play the Persona