I recently stumbled upon an interesting freeware game called Yume Nikki (meaning “Dream Diary”), and it is probably the most atmospheric game I’ve ever played. Have to say, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how fascinating it is, considering what the gameplay actually entails.
Yume Nikki is a 2D horror game of sorts, where you play as a character named Madotsuki. She stays in her room, which has a TV (for playing a strange mini-game), a desk (for saving gameplay), and a bed (for sleeping). When she goes to sleep, she enters a dreamworld with many doors to enter, each leading to a different landscape of some kind.
I haven’t finished the game yet, but really the main point of it is just to explore… I generally don’t like it when video games send me wandering around aimlessly–but in Yume Nikki, that is what you do. You wander around aimlessly for hours, and it’s brilliant. This is the exact sort of landscape I’ve wanted to explore in a video game (without knowing it). The creatures are really strange (though harmless), and the landscapes are really trippy. As you travel about, you will gain special abilities called “effects,” and they will let you do… interesting things.
The game was created in Japan by Kikiyama, but there is an English version available to download. (Granted, there is no dialogue in the game, so it’s pretty much just the instructions and the menu that needed to be translated.) Download the game here or here, and enjoy the sights and sounds of a hundred wonderfully horrific environments in Madotsuki’s mind!