What’s all the fuss about?
It’s easy to be lured into this line of thinking when you first play Doki Doki Literature Club! especially if you go into the game completely cold and spoiler-free. It is a simple visual novel that masquerades as a dating sim, but in truth is a disturbing psychological horror that will stick with you long after your last click of the mouse.
Players assume the role of a young man who is talked into joining a rather dull-sounding literature club at his high school, only to find it is completely made up of good looking girls. Each night after school the club meets to recite poetry to each other, and in some cases, bitch about the end results. For an hour and a half, the game runs exactly how you’d expect a dating sim to work, as you casually wheedle your way into the circle of trust, so-to-speak, and into the hearts of the ladies. Occasionally you are presented with a string of seemingly random words and must “create poetry” – in the loosest term of the word. Beyond that, you are completely bound by the linear nature of the story, at least until things fly completely off the rails.
A word of warning and triggers ahead
Self-harm and suicide are prevalent themes throughout the second act of Doki Doki Literature Club!, slowly boiling to the surface at first before climaxing in the most horrible ways you can imagine. There are plenty of warnings prior to playing the game that the themes contained within are not for people who find such themes triggering, but even this doesn’t prepare you for the horrors that lay ahead.
Outside of the overtly dark themes, the game is very well put together, and has some neat little Easter eggs if you can handle multiple playthroughs. An awful lot of work has gone into making the game attractive, and the anime style will appeal to lots of people. However, in typical visual novel style, the constant clicking through of dialogue does become tedious very quickly, and doesn’t get any easier with the sense of creeping dread that accompanies it.
Ending a review for Doki Doki Literature Club! on a high note is no easy task, and it would be easy to assume from this review that we didn’t like it, but that is not the case. This is a truly cerebral experience like nothing else on the market, and if you can stomach the violence then it does have some replay value. For everyone else though, it’s a one and done experience that you’ll be glad you tried but won’t necessarily be quick to experience again any time soon.
Insanely clever, frequently annoying, haunting as Hell. Doki Doki Literature Club! is like no game we’ve played before. It is not for the faint of heart, nor the easily upset. It is every bit as triggering as you’ve heard, if not more, and must be experienced to be believed. If you can sit through the impending doom that comes along with it though, it’s about one of the best psychological horror games on the market – and it’s available for free!