I have not played the original Yume Nikki game (although I do plan to), so I will not be comparing the two. As such, this review will be unbiased in that regard. Despite countless reviews bashing the game for not being as good as the original, I found the game to be quite enjoyable.
Weird, but in a good way. Dream Diary is definitely one of the weirdest games I have ever played. Some of the dreams that the player is tasked with working through are very difficult to explain with words. I was trying to explain one of the game’s levels to a friend of mine, but could not even find the words to explain what the level was about. The whole game is like this, a bizarre roller coaster that does not appear to have any meaning. Sure, there is a deeper meaning behind the different dreams, but I was so caught up in just how strange the game was that I honestly did not even care. It was very exciting going into a new dream just to see how it could top the previous one’s insanity.
Great puzzles. I quite enjoyed the way that the puzzles were designed in Dream Diary. The game does not really provide any direction, so it is up to the player to figure out how to progress through each level. Even without this direction, most of the puzzles can be figured out easily. There were only a few that gave me any sort of trouble, but not enough to resort to a walkthrough. The game strikes a nice balance there, maintaining clever solutions to the puzzles without being frustrating to solve.
Sloppy platforming. For a game that relies on precise platforming for a number of its levels, Dream Diary’s platforming mechanics definitely do not help. Jumps are oftentimes not registered in time when going towards an edge, ledge-grabbing does not always work, and the player is unable to rotate while airborne. All of these combined make the platforming a bit frustrating at times, especially once the player unlocks the ability to double jump and float using the umbrella. At that point, the jumping becomes even more of a problem, especially when precise platforming is needed. Dream Diary’s implementation of platforming elements is sloppy at best.
Linear identity crisis. I could not tell if Dream Diary wanted to be a linear experience or not. The player is able to choose which level he/she would like to play first, but certain levels cannot actually be completed without the abilities unlocked from other levels. In fact, entering some levels can cause the player to become trapped, requiring a reload from the main menu (although no progress is lost). The school level is a perfect example of this, as the player cannot enter the school until a certain item is found. There is no way to leave the courtyard of the school normally, so a reload is required. So despite the game appearing to be nonlinear, it still retains a lot of linear elements.
YUMENIKKI -DREAM DIARY- may only take a few hours to beat, but it is an experience well-had. It is a weird experience, but combined with the good puzzle design, it definitely is worth it. The platforming can be frustrating at times and the game cannot seem to decide if it wants to encourage or discourage exploration, but the game can stand on its own, even without the Yume Nikki title.
You can buy YUMENIKKI -DREAM DIARY- on Steam here.
I was provided a free review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.