Review: Doki Doki Literature Club

This review will not contain any spoilers.

Release Date: September 22, 2017
Developed By: Team Salvato
Console: PC/Mac
Cost: Free
Games Main Page: Steam

So you have just seen the title screen for Doki Doki Literature Club as the image for this review. I’m curious as to what your first thoughts were. Mine were “another cute anime game that is more focused on cute artwork rather than actual story. This game is not for me.”
As a fan of anime, I started to get use to avoiding anime girls on the covers as it usually means the anime is more targeted towards people who just want to see cute girls do cute things. That is not the case here.

Objective

Doki Doki Literature club is a dating simulator visual novel. The goal of this dating simulator is to find true love with one of the girls the game has to offer. You do this by writing poems that fits with the girl’s personality, spending time with that girl who you wrote a poem for, and then get them to confess their love for you.

You have 3 girls to choose from: Sayori, the bubbly personality of the group, Yuri the shy bookworm, and Natsuki, the tough girl with a soft interior. Monika is your beloved club leader who will give you advice as you progress.

It is a very straight forward concept, for a not so straight forward experience.

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Mechanics

As mentioned before, the way to get a girl to spend time with you is to write a poem for them. The main theme of Doki Doki Literature Club being poetry. And even the most hardcore gamers have fallen in love with this game’s mechanic.

You write poems by picking 20 words at the end of the day, each word connecting to a girl’s interest and personality. You can figure out what each girl is into by talking to them and reading their poems.

Even if you are not a big fan of poetry or literature, don’t let this one mechanic stop you from this unique experience. Famous Youtuber gamers as obnoxious as Pewdiepie have enjoyed reading and writing poems for the girls as they are always great reads and garner mixed reactions.
As you start to share poems with every girl, you start to learn more about where they are coming from and why they do the things they do. You really start to feel like you are getting to know and connect with each girl. That is what makes this game so captivating. These are not just girls you want to date, these are girls you want to get to know and be there for. The character lore in each poem will give any person who loves to over analyze something to dig their brains into and dissect.

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Storyline

As you dissect, you start to notice that the poems aren’t exactly what they seem. And you are reminded that poems always have an underlying truth to them.  This game sticks to that concept of poems exceptionally well. What you are reading isn’t always what is being said.

This game is a poem.

What you thought this game was about is changed completely as you progress. When you click onto the games main page linked above, you will see the games popular tags.
Anime. Visual Novel. Psychological Horror?
The last tag isn’t a typo or a glitch. It is 100% accurate on what this game is. But even if you are not a fan of horror, don’t let this turn you off. It is not Horror in a sense of mindless jump scares, bloody gore, torture, or anything that you would see in a cliche Horror movie. It is a dating simulator that borrows elements from Horror.
A good comparison is video game Silent Hill. Silent Hill is infamous for using unsettling atmosphere and environments where you can’t see what is coming next. This element immerses the player into the games world, keeping Doki Doki from becoming so static even though all you are doing is reading text.

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This light hearted and innocent game turns into a dark and saddening experience that has created a once in a life time experience for gamers. It starts to focus on themes of mental health such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorders. That is the only spoiler I will reveal as I know many people who do enjoy writing and reading have had experiences with these before. The game becomes more relatable in how you deal with your everyday problems. I highly suggest you play this game completely unaware of what happens next. You WILL regret it if you spoil this experience for yourself.

Final Words

If you are not a gamer, but love reading, then I still recommend you check this game out. It is a book you would keep on your shelf. It is a book that creates amazing conversation. It is a book you will go back to read to find things you missed.

If you are still skeptical about a dating simulator visual novel being anything more than that, then put those feelings aside and just give it a try. There is a reason this game has been featured on Top 10 PC games of 2017 over and over again. Doki Doki Literature Club has demonstrated that a video game is not just about action scenes, big boss fights, and blood and guts. A video game can truly just be about a story. A story of 4 girls who are looking for love.

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My rating for Doki Doki Literature Club is Cute Anime Waifus out of 10.