Warning: the following review contains plot spoilers for Doki Doki Literature Club. It’s recommended you play the game before reading this review.
Given it’s the end of the year, and that I had to complete one more game to achieve another year of 52 games, I proceeded to look through steam for new games I could play that weren’t too long. That’s when I remembered Doki Doki Literature club, the quirky game from Team Salvato that the internet seems to be going crazy for. Looking it up, I couldn’t believe my luck: it was free! So I got on with downloading it asap and proceeded to play it one Sunday afternoon.
First up, lets get this out of the way. Doki Doki Literature Club is a Visual Novel game whereby you play as a school kid who happens to find himself in a literature club with 4 very attractive girls. Each day you write a poem for them, and cater it to individual girls, for example, Yuri like’s dark, edgy words and themes, where as Natsuki (the more childish of the group) prefers cute and lovely things. Depending on the words you choose for the poems, each girl will fall ever closer to you, showing custom art pieces of the girls and you becoming quite intimate.
So far, so typical waifu* game. But Where Doki Doki Literature Club changes is in its approach to bringing about a bigger narrative of these types of waifu games. You see, half way through the game, one of your best friends starts acting weird, writing poems that talk about getting someone out of their head. This all comes to a head when said best friend comes out as having depression, and proceeds to commit suicide one day later. Rather than live with these consequences in game, the game then rewinds, taking you back to the start of the game all with the exception of your best friend now being missing.
N.B. Waifu games cater to single young men, presenting them with a bunch of ladies, of different personalities and body types for the purposes of making them grow attached to these fictional characters so that they buy products with said characters on/invest more time and money into the franchise.
Play another week in the game and you’ll soon start to notice that the girls are acting up, to the point of wanting the player at all costs or even just acting weird. The character I was romancing, Yuri, even proceeded to start giving me poems which had her “scent” on, and even would have outbursts of how she would play with herself using the pen I dropped one day. Whilst this was all weird, I found it a fantastic narrative of how far gamers who like waifu’s are willing to take their relationships with their imaginary characters.
To put it another way, Doki Doki literature club takes waifu games to their logical extreme, pushing the player to question what is right and wrong when it comes to games that create female characters purely to be maids to the main character. I mean, how long would you take being stared at in a cupboard before it no longer feels cute and affectionate, and instead is taken as the creepy and weird action it actually is? In putting the player in these circumstances, Doki Doki Literature Club manages to be both one of the best Waifu games on the market, whilst simultaneously showing how awful the games can be.
The fact that the ending literally screams “this world and the women within it were made entirely for you!” pushes this point home even further, so much so that I’m unsure how anyone could conclude anything different from the game.
Play even further, and you’ll eventually have Monika (pictured above) come out and specifically say that she’s been altering the game files to get closer to you, the player. Having to navigate to these files just to delete this crazy character was a fantastic touch, one that drove the point home even more about how this game, and world, was created just for you, to the point an “AI” would want to delete all competition to be with you.
Hmmm… this is usually the point in the review where I talk about the game’s graphics and sound – and whilst the cute anime girls are certainly detailed and do the job, graphics is definitely low on the list of priorities for Doki Doki Literature Club. Being a narrative driven game the images on screen are merely there to communicate what girl is saying what to you, and whilst it’s all pretty, it’s not really the point of the game. Don’t get me wrong, there are points when the art and particle effects on display are fantastic, but overall, don’t go into Doki Doki Literature club expecting to push your PC to it’s limits.
So all in all, as you may well be able to tell, I thoroughly enjoyed Doki Doki Literature Club. It’s a pleasant (read: enjoyable) game that really has you wanting to know more about the characters and the world they inhabit. I liked the overall tone of the game, and felt that the twists and turns the narrative took helped keep me interested when I started to get bored of interacting with the same people over the course of the week. Give Doki Doki a try, I promise you won’t be left disappointed.
P.S. TEAM YURI FOR THE WIN