When it comes to discussing Doki Doki Literature Club!, it seems like the first rule is to not discuss Doki Doki Literature Club!
And for good reason: this dating sim is not your average dating sim, despite what it looks like on the surface. It is so much more. So sooooo much more!
I don’t want to spoil this game for you, so I’m really going to skim this one and try to sell it to you based on what it represents.
For the ultimate enjoyment, skip this review and just play the game. It’s free, so please just invest the two hours or so you need to play this game.
What it looks like on the surface
When you boot the game up, it looks like any other regular dating sim. You’re some guy on the way to school, and your cute neighbor BFF Sayori (and potential love interest) ropes you into joining this Literature Club, with three other girls (and potential love interests).
There’s Natsuki, the cute one who is the youngest and also loves to make cupcakes. There’s Yuri, the dark one who is into depressing and horror fiction. And then there’s Monika, the leader of the club and the most talented and good looking girl in school.
Through the game, you talk to them, write poetry (after all, according to Dead Poet’s Society, language was created to woo women) and you’ll go down different tracks to find out more about the girls.
Doesn’t sound very inspiring, does it?
What it actually is
Doki Doki Literature Club! is to dating games what Scream was to horror movies. It’s a love letter, statement, and complete deconstruction of the medium all in one.
The girls sound shallow and stereotypical at first, but once you get to know them better, their backstories are much deeper, and downright dark. Intense teen problems will come to light, and they will cross the line and become very uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable is the key description of this game. Once you get past the cliched first act (and I beg of you, please have the patience to get through this part because you will really appreciate it later), things get really intense and it goes from fluffy dating sim to horror.
There is a recurring warning on this game and its marketing materials:
This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed.
It is not overstretching the truth.
The game gets really uncomfortable and downright freaky. It starts with the girls and their backstories, and then it just gets even deeper under your skin from there.
It is also clever as hell. I remember the old X-Men game on the Sega Megadrive/Genesis, and there was a bit where a virus was taking over the game and you had to hit the reset button to continue. Like, the physical reset button on your console. There is a sequence in this game just as clever – you have to experience it to believe it.
Why you should play it
This game is going to be remembered. People will talk about it the same way they talk about films like The Usual Suspects, Scream, and Seven. It makes you rethink a lot of concepts you take for granted.
You don’t need to enjoy dating sims or even anime to appreciate this game. I’d say anybody that appreciates games as a medium can enjoy this.
It’s clever, it’s thoughtful, and by the end of it you will feel really emotional. Remember how you felt after you completed Portal and GLaDOS starts singing to you? Yeah, that kind of feeling.
What creator Dan Salvato has done here is nothing short of genius, and you owe it to yourself to experience it now before you get hit by spoilers and memes.
It’s free and it’ll only take you about 2 hours to play. Get through that (intentionally) draggy and cliched first act, and you will enjoy a game that will be talked about for a long, long time.
It’s a tiny investment to experience genius!