Think the Nexus looks a bit unsettling? Just wait.
.flow is a freewareYume Nikkifangame created in the RPG Maker 2003 engine by a Japanese developer going by the alias "lol". Like Yume Nikki, exploration, surrealism, and atmosphere are the basis of the game, but unlike Yume Nikki, this one has a lot of disturbing content and horror elements added in. It is an incomplete game, currently at version 0.18, with "lol" being known only by a few site accounts listed below. As of 0.10 and onwards, the game now has a proper endgame/final chapter and multiple endings, though the "multiple" status is of some debate..flow stars a young girl known only as Sabitsuki, who uses her computer - in one way or another, as the method is not explicitly mentioned - to explore a surreal world while collecting special abilities known as "effects". These "effects" change Sabitsuki's appearance, varying from a witch outfit and a broom to a corpse. Some effects, such as the whistle and the iron pipe can affect NPCs and certain objects, although most only have a small animation or side-effect that can be activated, while some are simply cosmetic.An English translation of the latest version, 0.18, can be found here. Various other versions, both English and Japanese, can be found here. The author, lol, has a pixiv account, a deviantART account and a twitter page.Notably, much like the original there are no provided explanations to what is seen or discovered in the game. Fans are left to speculate, with no names given to anything other than the protagonist - other NPCs, events, and areas are all nicknamed by fans, be it from a filename or elsewhere.Not to be confused with the 2006 freeware life simulation game Flow.Note: Unless otherwise stated, assume all examples below apply to the latest version of the game.
Animorphism: The Cat effect gives Sabitsuki cat ears and a tail, and its side-effect is fully turning Sabitsuki into a small white cat. This side-effect allows Sabitsuki to pass through small gaps.
Anti-Hero: Possibly Rust, speculated to be an alter-ego of Sabitsuki, who is controlled throughout the endgame. Notably, her sprite is paler and more detailed than Sabitsuki's sprites, but only when in the world via computer.
April Fools: .flow had an April Fools update in version 0.16, otherwise known as the "April Fools" version, for obvious reasons. Only one area of events is accessible via the computer, exclusive to 0.16, and only serves in adding more questions. Of course, due to its status as .flow's April Fools joke, its canon status is definitely debatable.
Used in both Corrupted School events, right before either a Sabitsuki-lookalike Kaibutsu kills Sabitsuki/Rust, Smile kills Sabitsuki or a very Kaibutsu-lookalike Rust kills Smile. Unsettling laughter can be heard both times.
All three endings make use of this:
In the first ending, the scene cuts from Sabitsuki standing over a balcony to a black screen.
In the second ending, the scene cuts from Sabitsuki and a gas-mask maid from the Sugar Hole standing over the balcony to a black screen.
In the third and final ending, the scene cuts from the maid pulling out a chainsaw, then Sabitsuki charging at her, to a black screen.
Several events will add to Sabitsuki's "Erosion Counter", and as the counter goes up more and more blood appears in her room, eventually accompanied by what may be life-support devices near the computer. One of these events in particular has Sabitsuki coughing blood from the mouth before fainting.
The best way to distinguish an enraged Kaibutsu from a calm one - calm Kaibutsu resemble normal schoolgirls with slightly bloody faces, while enraged ones have very bloody faces, usually accompanied by some kind of body horror.
Blood can be seen on Smile's mouth, as well as several mouth posters in the school area.
One area of the Womb Level has a very detailed mouth in the background, decayed and bleeding profusely.
Bloodier and Gorier: Oh yes. This game redefines rusting to mean grows increasingly bloodier and there are several events where areas rust, including Sabitsuki herself.
The most disturbing scene in the game, known as the "Dying Girls Event", has Sabitsuki witnessing nine black haired girls spontaneously exploding one after another, and then witnessing viscera splitting out of the stomach of a large black haired girl on the wall. After witnessing this event, Sabitsuki's vision goes blurry and she wakes up.
Body Horror: All over the place. There are very many examples of body horror to be found.
A few of Sabitsuki's effects invoke this - the Arm effect that makes her look like Monoko's five-armed form, and the Viscera effect has her walk around with her intestines just hanging out, and its side-effect is Sabitsuki attempting to stuff them back in.
In the endgame, as you get hit by more and more red demons, Rust decays more and more, causing her to become blood-covered and severely mangled, until she dies.
Brought Down to Normal: "Rust", speculated to be an alter-ego of Sabitsuki, who you play as in the endgame, has no access to any of Sabitsuki's effects. Despite this, Rust can go some places Sabitsuki could not.
Cheshire Cat Grin: Unnerving smiles can be found in many places, some bleeding. Smile, to his name, has one very unnerving one, and the pigtailed Kaibutsu's enraged form has a very bloody one. Occasionally, Sabitsuki or Rust can spout one at times.
Color Motif: Both dark red and orange come up in this game frequently. The dark red is most likely a reference to rust and/or blood, while the orange is one for Oreko and most likely Sabitsuki herself.
Cool Mask: The Gas Mask effect. The maids of the Sugar Hole all wear gas masks.
Cosmetic Award: Obtaining the special Flower, Orange, Rust, and Smile menus simply change the look of your menu when you talk to the Kaibutsu at the front desk of the school. The trope is averted with the Sugar Menu, which actually causes you to buy the meal, as opposed to just the drink, more often in the Sugar Hole.
Critical Existence Failure: The endgame has a glitch that involves taking damage in the FC world. When you leave, Rust will appear to not have taken any damage, but actually has.
Downer Ending: No matter which ending you choose, Sabitsuki does not meet a very good end. However, given the events of the final ending, some have come to interpret it as a Bittersweet Ending.
Dream Land: The world you explore via the computer, though there are hints that it's not quite a "dream".
Dream People: Every NPC in the world via the computer. Except for a single gas-mask maid in the endings...
Empty Room Psych: Several rooms are empty and serve no purpose. Though one room in particular, in the apartments area, if you walk around, causes an orange, smiling blob-monster to fall from the ceiling! In the endgame, however, some of these empty rooms house red demons.
Many posters in the School depict eyes which appear to be either bleeding profusely or heavily tattooed. Smile has + eyes, similar to these posters, which has caused speculation that they are either damaged, missing or heavily tattooed. It's worth noting that the effect you get from a version of Smile is the Tattoo effect.
The apartments area has a wall graffiti of an eye. From version 0.15 onwards, Sabitsuki can smack it with her pipe and cause it to bleed.
Fan Nickname: Nearly everyone who isn't Sabitsuki. Notably, there is:
"Bar Kaibutsu" for the Kaibutsu that can be found in the Sugar Hole on occasion.
Firing in the Air a Lot: The Handgun effect, which has certain effects on certain NPCs, namely causing some to flee from Sabitsuki.
Flying Broomstick: The Broom effect, which both serves the same function as the bike in Yume Nikki - speed improvement, basically - and is also similar to the Witch effect from the same game, down to being able to access a special flying event hidden somewhere in a maze or maze-like area.
Gainax Ending: The game has three endings, each one less coherent than the last.
Good Guy Bar: The Sugar Hole, populated by gas-mask maids, one regular and occasionally a Kaibutsu. Sabitsuki can get a drink or meal there, at varying prices.
Gorn: A good deal of it, as standard for Yume Nikki fangames.
For effects, we have the Tumbling Dollnote Sabitsuki loses all her limbs, Corpse and Visceranote Sabitsuki's intestines hang out effects for Sabitsuki.
Getting hit by red demons - during the endgame only - further and further decays Rust, to the point where her face is mangled and she's coated in blood.
Gotta Catch 'Em All: All 24 effects - plus the 25th "effect", the game's instructions - as Sabitsuki, then the three "empty boxes" as Rust. All of the collectibles correspond to some part of Sabitsuki's mind.
Guide Dang It: You will, at some point or another, need to look up some videos or guides if you want to find some of the effects. Let's not count out the empty boxes either, which can be even more troublesome than the effects to find, especially since Rust can't use any effects to find them.
The more mechanical side of things seem to have been inspired by asgr's designs for cyborgs and machines.
The Broom event is a direct homage to Yume Nikki's Witch event, and Studio Ghibli's Kiki's Delivery Service.
Ill Girl: Sabitsuki is generally considered to be one (either physically, mentally, or both), to the point where it verges on being canon. To get an idea of how accepted this theory is, there aren't any popular alternatives.
The red eye world, or the world north of the Nexus, has a random event where a "door" can appear, leading to an area with three Kaibutsu, known as the Kaibutsu Chase event. If you near them, they chase you and you can only head south... only to get hit by a super-fast Kaibutsu that comes out of nowhere. The only way to evade this fourth Kaibutsu is with the Ghost effect's Invisibility Cloak, which opens up the path to the Corrupted School Events.
When you find Smile and his sister in their house, and decide to hit Smile with your iron pipe. Cue Smile laughing hideously at you while his smile "radiates" in the foreground.
Attempting to attack the Bar Kaibutsu leads to her counterattacking and killing Sabitsuki. Certainly a jump for the unprepared.
One scene of the third ending requires you to hit the action button to continue. Cue a very sudden blast of static, mixed in with creepy laughter.
A minor one in an empty room of the Apartments: wandering around inside has a random chance to make one of those cute, orange blobs fall from the ceiling. The "scare" comes from how the blob appears very suddenly and out of nowhere.
Kill It with Fire: The aforementioned Bar Kaibutsu will stuff you into a furnace after killing you.
Laughing Mad: Creepy, unsettling laughter plays many, many times throughout the game. This laughter is normally associated with the crazy Kaibutsu, Smile, and deranged versions of Sabitsuki and/or Rust.
Sabitsuki translates to "covered in rust". Given the game's darker visual style and audio style, it really fits. The endgame has you play as "Rust", who is speculated to be an alter-ego of Sabitsuki.
Smile, the nickname given to the black-haired boy seen around the School area, with plus-marked eyes and a tendency to give creepy smiles. His little sister is very appropriately nicknamed Sister.
The white-haired, humanoid creatures that may or may not chase you are called "Kaibutsu," meaning "monster."
Mental World: Sabitsuki explores her mind in some fashion via her computer. It seems straightforward until you uncover the effects of the "Corruption Meter"note Sometimes also known as the "Erosion" or "Corrosion" Meters, where certain events can affect the real world. The endgame messes everything up further, say nothing of the endings.
Mind-Control Device: The Whistle effect causes most NPCs to move in the direction Sabitsuki is facing, and the Handgun effect causes most to move away from Sabitsuki.
Mini-Game: Shinsoku Neko, a cute little 8-bit minigame where you control a black cat and try to catch as many fish as possible. It is harder than it sounds.
Money for Nothing: Averted, unlike Yume Nikki: you get money from a random chance when killing NPCs - always 100 at a time - and the money can be spent at the Sugar Hole, either 100 for a drink or 300 for tea and cake. You have to buy tea and cake three times over separate sessions to obtain the Sugar Menu type, and as of v.018 a previously inaccessible event can be unlocked by buying tea and cake up to 10 times, and interacting with one of the gas-mask maids at least once during the current session.
North to the Nexus is a strange world, known as the Red Eye world, filled with eyes and hands and things with mouths, and a red eye in the background. From here you can enter a strange area filled with hands and a Kaibutsu, to a world of red tentacles, footprints and creepy, eerie music... and then you can follow a path of pawprints to a maze of rainbows, upbeat music, cats and an event where you can fly a broom through the rainbow-colored skies!
The alleyway hospital is eerie but otherwise innocuous. Going through the back of the hospital leads to an area with strange music and meat hooks on the ceilings... then you can go into an elevator, which breaks down, and leads to an area of the hospital full of dead and dying children.
Multiple Endings: Three of them - one after collecting all the effects, one after dropping all the effects, and one after collecting all three empty boxes and traversing the last area of the endgame. All of these happen by leaving your room by the Nexus door in the real world. Though they may or may not be all the same ending.
The Kaibutsu develop these when enraged. Depending on the Kaibutsu, they have a bloody face with a giant hole, a giant mouth, or two messed-up eyes. One special type of Kaibutsu, that resembles Sabitsuki, has a definite Slasher Smile.
The world to the north, or the Red Eye world, has strange things with wide-open mouths. In a random event, three of these things can appear in a group, one as a "door" leading to the Kaibutsu Chase event.
In the endgame, Rust's face gets messed up as she takes more damage via red demons. Even if there's not much to see due to the small sprites, your mind will fill in the gaps.
Nothing Is Scarier: There is a sequence involving an open, pitch black doorway with blood and gore splattered all around it. You can't see what's on the other side of the doorway at first, and you never will, as Sabitsuki anyway. Sabitsuki refuses to go through the doorway, and the only way to leave the room is to step back. When you do, Sabitsuki starts oozing blood everywhere, causing her to pass out and wake up to discover blood all over her keyboard. It's one of the few events that gives points to the Corruption Meter, causing blood to appear in Sabitsuki's room. In other words, whatever Sabitsuki saw on the other side of that doorway was so horrifying that it actually caused her physical harm.
People Jars: Two examples of this - both in the looping, orange-glowing industrial maze accessible by the sewers. One is a giant Oreko in a tube, where touching her changes the maze to a simple path. You can smash her tube, but all it does is keep the maze as a maze. Now, in the endgame, you can go deeper in via the simple path. While before the endgame you can't go any further, but as Rust you can go deeper in, and at the end of the path is a tube holding a giant Sabitsuki.
Plant Person: The Plant effect turns Sabisuki into one, and the side-effect causes her to wither. Fittingly, it's found in the plant labyrinth.
Only a Flesh Wound: The Tumbling Doll effect causes Sabitsuki's limbs to become cut off, and the Viscera effect has Sabitsuki casually walking around with her intestines hanging out. However, the endgame trumps both of those effects, as Rust continues to casually wander around even as her body is torn apart by the red demons.
The Corrupted School event, where the Sabitsuki-lookalike, pipe-carrying Kaibutsu kill you should they reach you, and the same with Smile if you interact with him.
In Rust's version of the Corrupted School, the giant red demons kill her if she is touched, and she performs one on Smile when you interact with him. Due to a glitch, the giant red demons don't actually kill Rust, however in the English translation of 0.17, the translator has fixed this glitch up.
The Kaibutsu in the bar will kill you if you try to smack her.
Orcus on His Throne: There is a room in the Womb Level where a black-haired girl sits on a throne of flesh. If you kill her, Sabitsuki can sit there as well.
Randomly Drops: Money from killing enemies, as well as several events.
Relationship Values: There is a value for the relationship you have with Oreko, known as the Friendship Meter. Interacting with Oreko nets you five points, and interacting her with the Diving Helmet effect on can net you an extra five, whilst killing her subtracts ten. Thirty points and up, a ghostly Oreko will appear in the lights-filled area where you obtain the Machine effect, and interacting with her gives you the Orange Menu type.
In particular, there are many that refer back to Yume Nikki.
The Arm effect makes Sabitsuki look like Monoko's five-armed form, and an image similar to Uboa also appears on the wall of a dead end in the maze-area accessed via the Ocean world.
More obscurely, the Tumbling Doll effect is functionally similar to the Severed Head effect, and is found in an endlessly looping area full of Kaibutsu.
Everything about the Witch Effect. An NPC resembling Witch-effect Madotsuki appears in the FC World, and interacting with her gives you the Witch effect. The Witch effect is functionally a mix of Yume Nikki's Witch and Bicycle effects, and can be used to activate a special flying event in the Rainbow Maze area, similar to Yume Nikki's flying event.
The same kind as present in Yume Nikki: Trying to kill a Kaibutsu will just annoy them and make them chase Sabitsuki.
Trying to kill the Kaibutsu in the bar will just get Sabitsuki killed herself. As an added note, swinging around your pipe at everything may result in some serious consequences. Notably, smacking a Kaibutsu in a specific foggy area shall turn the whole place rusted and horrific.
Weather Control Machine: The Watering Can effect makes it rain in varying degrees, from a slight drizzle to a downpour.
Whole Episode Flashback: The general consensus is that version 0.16 counts as this, depending on just how much of an April Fools joke you take it as. It attempts to explain the relationship that Smile and Sabitsuki had as children.
Womb Level: One area is made out of flesh, with a few rooms shaped like organs, and the area' music contains heartbeat-like sounds.
Attempting to enter the bloody room before the endgame will cause Sabitsuki to shake her head and refuse to go in. When you then try to leave the area, she falls to her knees, coughing up blood as her head bleeds profusely and falls apart.
After you activate the event that starts the endgame, this happens if you bump into too many red demons.
Your Mind Makes It Real: There are a number of events can affect the real world. See the Corruption Meter detailed above.
Your Reward Is Clothes: A number of effects are simply cosmetic and either have only little animations with no major uses, or simply do nothing.
In the endgame, if Rust is hit by enough demons to the stage before death, looking closely at her sprite she looks a lot like a red demon, raising this implication. There is also a version of Rust, bleeding, who - more obviously - has horns.
In Rust's Corrupted School event, some of the Kaibutsu get transformed into the giant red demons, complete with screams of pain heard nowhere else in the game.