Game Review | Doki Doki Literature Club!
Game summary: The Character is a member of the literature club, along with four girls. In each chapter, the protagonist will create a poem based around twenty words selected by the player, which the girls will comment on and compare to previous poems. (IMDb)
How the hell do you write about a game like Doki Doki Literature Club! without completely ruining the story? This might well end up the least substantive review I ever do thanks to how little you can talk about anything outside the first 1-1.5 hours without spoiling anything - in fact, telling you that there's something major to watch out for is in itself a spoiler.
Let's start with how the game opens, and I don't mean the 'game' part itself - which is very much a visual novel in nature, so prepare for a lot of reading - but rather the content warnings that are shown when you start the game warning about some of the themes the game covers. Please, please take those seriously, Doki Doki Literature Club! is not messing around with those messages.
The story starts with you playing the part of a high school boy who is convinced to join a literature club by an old friend, Sayori. In this club, you meet Natsuki, Yuri and the club president, Monica, who are all visually distinct from each other, despite wearing the same school uniforms. You get to know them and choose from a list of words each day to 'write' a poem for them to read the next day while you also get to read theirs.
Sounds pretty basic, right? The set up is very much like a generic dating story where you have to pick the girl you'd most like to impress and end up with. This carries on for quite some time, with the cutesy visuals and peppy music very much drawing you into a false sense of security before things take a very dark turn.
That isn't a spoiler - again, the game does warn you about its content when it starts and nothing relating to those warnings happens (at least, nothing obvious) in this opening section, so bear that in mind. This first act is excellently paced though, with it just starting to wear out its welcome when the shit hit the fan and the story goes up several levels.
I genuinely can't go any further than that with regards to the story without completely spoiling what happens and it absolutely deserves to be experienced while knowing as little as possible. The only 'spoiler' I'll give is a to advise that you keep the game folder open while you play - the story isn't confined to just the game.
One of the best things about Doki Doki Literature Club! is that it simply couldn't be made for any system other than PC without being heavily modified. It's very nature just wouldn't work on any console or handheld device, which is a pretty unique thing to say about any game. A lot of titles may suit certain platforms more than others, but to outright require one specific format to be played on? That's rare.
Oh, I will actually add one more piece of advice: keep playing until the end credits roll. That might seem like a strange thing to say, but you'll see what I mean if you do play it. And honestly, there's no reason to not play it as Doki Doki Literature Club! is free to download and play, plus it only takes a couple of hours to get through - although this does depend on your reading speed.
In fact, the only 'criticism' I have of Doki Doki Literature Club! is that you can really only play it once to get the full experience. Like Her Story, once you know - or have an idea - of where things are headed, the events that unfold don't have quite the same impact they do first time around. That first time through was amazing and it's simply impossible to recapture that feeling a second time through, all you can do is see what hints you might've missed.
Doki Doki Literature Club! is a great game that takes full advantage of being on PC and honestly wouldn't work on any console or mobile device. It takes a while to get going, but that's just to get the player in a certain frame of mind before fully earning the content warnings that appear when you start the game - ignore the cutesy looks, this is not a game for kids or those who are easily disturbed.