At first glance, Doki Doki Literature Club looks like any of a thousand other visual novels available online – cute Japanese girls vying for your affection as you make choices day-to-day that affect the outcome. But hiding right under the game’s pleated skirt is a weirdly dark story that will stick with you long after its conclusion.
Going into this, there will be mild spoilers. I’ll mark them with the SPOILER tag further down the post so you can read this description without giving anything away. However, I would highly recommend you go over to Steam and grab the game (it’s free) and play it completely blind. Not knowing what the game is exactly or where it’s going is a major part of the charm.
The setup itself is deceptively simple. You’re a young man on the first day of a new school year and one of your biggest priorities is finding a club to join for an extracurricular. Your eternally optimistic childhood friend Sayori convinces you to check out the new Literature Club, and you begrudgingly accept. Fortunately it’s filled with cute girls, you decide to stay, and the story begins in earnest. The four girls (including Sayori) all seem interested in you because this is a visual novel so of course they do. To break the ice and the tension Monika, head of the Literature Club, comes up with the fun idea of every member writing a poem that night to bring in the next day and read to the other members.
Okay, so. This is a “game” in the barest sense, as the only REAL interactivity comes from a very simple mini-game you play when writing your poem. You’re given a list of words to choose from with mini avatars of the girls sitting in the corner of your screen, with different words appealing more to different girls. So if you want to impress and get a date with Yuri, the horror fanatic, you use words like “abyss” and “murder”. Sayori, on the other hand, enjoys words like “rainbows” and “suicide”. These choices are where you start to see the shiny optimism of the game flake off and show you what’s really underneath.
You’re given the option the following day of which girl you show your poem to first, which covers the other half of the interactivity Doki Doki gives you as a player. Each girl in return shows you their poem, giving you a deeper insight into their psyche and a pretty good idea of where this game is going. Don’t worry, it goes WAY past where you think it will. Enough that it pushed me to write this review in the first place.
Bottom line, give Doki Doki Literature Club a try. When you first open the game it gives you a warning to avoid if you suffer from “Depression or Anxiety”, and that warning isn’t just for effect. It’s probably a little over-the-top, but you will definitely have some thoughts and feelings affected. Doki Doki Literature Club’s reputation seems to have reached Psycho style levels, being one step away from the game’s creator appearing before the start and saying “Don’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen the game yet!”
With all of that said, let’s get into the light spoiler territory:
He likes long walks off of short piers (usually tricking some lust-ridden damsel to her watery demise while he surreptitiously activates his ring of water walking), and drinking copious amounts of coffee out of his most favoritest kitty mug (may it rest in peace). When he's not showboating his arcane prowess, he spends an inordinate amount of time cataloging and researching tirelessly for each and every episode of Dueling Ogres. Really. No, he really does. I promise.