When presented with this game in a folder just labelled: “Play me” I was initially sceptical. I don’t dislike visual novels, at all, but there comes a cutesy saturation point when you can only take the same doe-eyed look so many times.
Danger, there be SPOILERS beyond this point.
To my unaware horror this is not one of those games. Perhaps the best way to enjoy it is to have someone else play this game unaware of the mind-wrenching “what the fuck”-ery that awaits them. This is precisely what The Boy did to me, and the results were interesting.
From the start you’ve got to be curious when a Visual Novel game called “Doki Doki Literature Club“ advises the player of disturbing content. I assumed that this meant it was an erotic visual novel. Boy, was I wrong.
As you would expect you are presented with your line-up of potential romance partners complete with typical tropes attached: The next door neighbour you’ve known forever, the Tsundere loli type, the shy busty intellectual, and the most popular high achiever in school. Only problem is the most popular girl isn’t a dateable option, and she knows it.
Given the warning on the opening of the game, (confirmed by a suspicious questioning text to The Boy), I felt that the lead up to the disturbing content was far too lengthy. There were some bits that were odd, but nothing that had me twitching like the later game content. Perhaps this is intended to draw you into a false sense of safety, but given the pre-game warning, you know something is coming.
When it does come, and trust me you’ll know when it does, the game amps up like a guitar solo at a Muse concert. Visual horror, creepy sound bites, and quite a distressing motion sickness inducing scene are just some of the methods this little horror gem employs to completely throw the player off balance. You keep going to find out what on earth is going on, but you don’t really want to and there’s this aching feeling throughout that you’re just not going to win in any of the the scenarios it keeps pushing towards you.
The aforementioned motion sickness scenes is one of the worst parts of the game, where it happens so subtly it’s only once you’ve started feeling sick do you notice what is going on. Sadly it’s about the only subtle part of the game, every other horror moment hits you like a brick and you know more is to follow. It becomes unrelenting in its efforts to push you off balance.
The conclusion was unexpected and our villain was not who I anticipated until the reveal. A clever system, similar in nature to “One-Shot”, where additional tricks and shock pieces are hidden inside the files of the game, adds a meta twist to the horror nature of the game. I suspect this is going to become a more prominent feature of PC gaming in the future, as developers try to find new ways to draw people specifically to their game in a sea of excellent titles. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I suspect it will be overdone very shortly. In the meantime there will be titles like “Doki Doki Literature Club“ that keep the market fresh.