Doki Doki Literature Club

Another week another weird Japanese like game is making its way into the spotlight. This time around we have a dating sim called Doki Doki Literature club. Hopefully, this one will be less of a drag than the other I played as it promises to give me more anxiety than I already have. Doki Doki falls into the visual novel genre meaning I had to do quite a bit of reading to get through it and this game even had fewer choices than most other dating sim games on the market. The good news for Doki Doki Literature Club is that it’s free, the bad news is I can’t recommend it for most people.

Story

You are an unarmed protagonist who has so far avoided joining any clubs at the high school you attended. Your childhood friend has plans to drag you into the one she’s part of, however the main character is seriously reluctant to go along with anything she says and even acts like he doesn’t like being around her. Sadly, just as you’re about to leave she finds you and drags you to meet the rest of her club. What a surprise though the whole club is nothing but cute girls!

As you find out quickly this is actually your school’s literature club. The club is currently in the process of trying to be officially recognized by the school and they want your help to do it! They even bribe you with cupcakes to persuade you to join them on their reading based adventures. The main character is still hesitant stating that he would rather join a club based on anime. He does finally decide to agree based on how cute all of the girls around him are. That’s right we literally join this club just to date the cute girls!

The only problem you will face is that you barely read as it is. How can you ever impress these girls with your lack of knowledge? Luckily for you, the ladies are more than happy to teach you about their love for literature. The biggest challenge you may face is choosing what girl you want to lecture you about words. Don’t forget though you will also have to write a few poems for the club. Everyone does in fact, and you all get to share them with each other. Doesn’t this all sound just wonderful?

Characters

Yuri

Yuri is the token shy girl who has no idea how to talk to you. She blushes whenever she’s around you and constantly hides her face behind her hair. Despite her timid nature though she slowly starts to warm up to you if you choose to spend time with her. She also writes some really pretty poems on top of her pretty looks. If only you could really understand the meaning behind them. She is one of the first girls to step out of her way to introduce you to ligature. She even gives you one of her favorite books to read to help you get started!

Sayori

This is your childhood friend that lives on your way to school. She loves walking back and forth with you and obviously has a huge crush on you. She is a little air-headed and has a hard time waking up like she needs to. You state that you to don’t have that much in common anymore, but is that really the case? As the girl who brought you to the club she is the one who pushes you to have fun with it the most. Just watch out you may make her sad if you crush on another girl.

Natsuki

This is are the snarky girl of the bunch. She would never in a million years admit she liked you or anything. She is the cook of the club and constantly makes tasty snacks for everyone to enjoy while reading. Her poems are the simplest of the club and honestly aren’t that great compared to the rest of the club. Give her plenty of encouragement to win her over and give you a place in her heart. Just watch out though she may be a little more than you can handle at times.

Monika

Monika is the club president and a total perfectionist on most things. As the game goes on the player is pushed more and more to get to know her better. At the beginning, you won’t get to interact with her as much as the other girls, but this speeds up the further you go into the story.

My experience

When it comes to the high school life trope and Visual Novels most times you won’t enjoy the story. A lot of high schools based Japanese media are known for being the same thing rehashed over and over again with minor changes. This makes reading many of the Novels available on Steam a pretty harsh struggle. The dialogue is generally dumbed down and character tropes can be found literally everywhere throughout the storyline. Doki Doki is no different with a basic story at first that will have you really trying to trudge through it.

At times the dialogue seems to go on forever and its pretty hard to care about what the girls are saying. Even people who have never been exposed the tropes before will quickly get bored of the dialogue between the characters. In my opinion, I couldn’t click vast enough to get through the piles of dialogue set forth in front of me. There are also segments where you pick words to write a poem with. Different girls responded to different words. You have to select 20 words for whatever reason and the whole process is pretty unexciting for the most part. In general, the game is just really hard to play through.

It does get more interesting later on as the horror elements are added in. After you have made your way through walls of boring texts a character will kill herself. This starts a chain of events and you are taken back to the home screen of the game. Only this time you can’t choose to play a new game, you can only load up an existing file. You will also notice that the character that killed herself in now replaced with a glitched out image. In fact, when you start up the game you soon learn that any mention of the dead character is glitched out and there is no way to bring her back. Even some of the boring dialogue is replaced with darker tones now.

The game keeps going down the same path and more and more horrific incidents occur. The point of this is to make you, the player feel like you have no control over the game whatsoever.

As you watch each character suffer and the game becomes more and more sentient the horror aspect of the game starts to grow. At the end of it, all the game will be able to do all sorts of things on its own. This is all because one of the girls is super lonely and just wants your affection all for herself. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

As far as gameplay goes this uses some pretty interesting techniques to try and be a horror game. The game wants you to feel helpless in order to heighten your senses and even make you want to turn off your computer. Sadly, this isn’t until after you have played an hour or two of the boring content that comes before it. I feel like most people wouldn’t even make it through the first hour of the game to get to the horror elements. I understand that the slow build up really helps with the surprise, but 20 - 30 minutes would have been enough for me.

Honestly, I have no idea who you could convince to sit and play this game for long enough to get to the elements. I also feel that its surge in popularity was only due to Youtubers playing the game for their streams. On its own I couldn’t see most people downloading this game even though it’s completely free. Maybe, if a shorter version was release you could get more people wanting to sit through it. I feel like this game was made more as a scare tactic than a passion project. This would explain the extremely flat characters who do nothing but embody basic anime tropes.

Do not play this game if you can avoid it. Watch a Youtuber play it to at least get some funny commentary when the more boring parts are going on. If you want a good horror visual novel there are tons out there with engaging writing. Overall, Doki Doki Club is a game you should try to avoid altogether for your Steam library. Let’s hope that the popular games after this week get a little better the last few haven’t been that promising for your to play on your own.

Jessica has been working with the gaming industry for about two years now. She enjoys playing quirky Japanese games and learning about the newest trivia in the industry. When not working with games you may find her chilling with her naked cat Prince Noko... he's pretty cool we guess.
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