Yume Nikki is a game that excels at making the player uncomfortable. One of the greatest experiences that the game offers is allowing the player to feel specific feelings that cannot be explained or rationalized, feelings that are synthesized and extracted from the player as they wander an alien world with strange music filled with characters they rarely can interact with.
But is Yume Nikki a game that is designed to scare its user in the same way a horror film would or a horror game would? For instance does Yume Nikki produce the same kind of scaring experience that a game like Cry of Fear or Amnesia does? I don’t think so. The game can be seen as psychologically tormenting because of the grotesque imagery that appears throughout the game and the possible interpretations that abound from these images.
However, it often saddens me how much Yume Nikki is discussed as a horror game. The most written about events in the game are Uboa by far and Monoe. These are the only two times throughout Yume Nikki where there is something close to a jump scare, yet these two events must become the poster children of the game. While these instances may be important as they provide short releases of the tension that’s inherent in playing Yume Nikki I think this discourse about Yume Nikki as if it is a horror game is extremely devaluing.
Yume Nikki is a game that is disturbing but it is not because there are two jump scares in the game, it is because the game disturbs the viewer with with the concept of the unknown and the other. This is one of the many factors that makes the game so unique. The game succeeds at scaring its players not by being a typical horror game and having constant jump scares and a disturbing plot, but by forcing the player into a world that they can’t explain or even try to understand, an absolute terrifying unknown.
To call Yume Nikki a horror game or to only discuss the few instances in the game where players are scared in a traditional sense takes away from the genius of the game. Players who enjoy the constant roller coaster ride of a horror game would not enjoy the open and slowly unfolding world of Yume Nikki. Instead what they will receive is a slow dull injection of fear, a toxic disturbance that creeps through the players veins steadily as it spreads itself thin.