Let me just start off by saying that Doki Doki Literature Club is a game that I would never normally have been interested in playing as I’m not someone who’s typically drawn to the visual novel genre. It was highly recommended to me by a friend so I figured I would give it shot, but I had no idea what I was in for.
The game is definitely a slow burner. It starts off with the main character being recruited by a childhood friend to join a literature club she belongs to in school. You attend a meeting and meet the other three cute female members who quickly start vying for your attention. Sounds kind of fun right? Well it’s not.
The first hour or so of the game is nothing but long drawn out dialogue between you and the other girls as you learn little bits of their personalities and writing styles (it is a literature club after all). It’s so mind numbingly boring that I was sure my friend had to be pulling a prank on me. Just as I was about to call it quits, some darker undertones with some of the characters began to appear. At this point I thought I had a feel for what the game was becoming. It was going into different types of personal struggles and afflictions people can suffer from and try to keep secret. I thought it was a game that used its narrative to educate the player on the personal trials that seemingly normal people can have. It wasn’t. It really wasn’t.
A traumatic situation occurs that signals the changing point in the story. I thought I had a beat on what what the game was turning into, but then it took a bizarre left turn that I was completely unprepared for. From then on it picked up the pace and got progressively weirder and darker before finally finishing with a deeply disturbing twist.
Being a visual novel style of game, there isn’t much gameplay I can really critique. I mean, I can say that I expertly mashed the “next” button to progress the story and it fluidly moved to the next page, but that’s not really saying much. There are a few times that you’re made to create a “poem” by selecting a word from a list of words and, depending on which you choose, you’ll cater your poem to one of the girls and gain her favor. Aside from that and the occasional choice on how you want to react to a certain scenario, there’s isn’t anything else to speak to in this category.
The art style looks like a traditional anime dating sim. The characters are well drawn, the backgrounds are clean and simple, and the colors are vibrant. All in all it’s very well done.
The sound design is simplistic and effective. The happy go lucky music compliments the lighthearted feel in the beginning, somber tunes for some of the more depressing moments, and utilizes clever glitches and silence at times to deliver an unsettling feel.
I have to say that I was actually pleasantly surprised by Doki Doki Literature Club. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it, especially with how excruciatingly dull it is in the beginning. It uses purposeful glitches at times that I found refreshingly inventive and twists that I definitely didn’t see coming. It’s a bizarre journey that delivered the disturbing experience it warns you about in the opening screen. If you like sick and twisted things, then you should check this game out.
Doki Doki Literature Club is available now on PC.