Some games are an exciting rush from start to finish, captivating our senses all throughout the game, and then they join our memories until they only exist within our memory. The Uncharted series comes to mind for me. I played them all for the first time back to back on PS4 a few years ago and I haven’t really thought about them since. They were good games. I enjoyed them. But they didn’t weigh on me or squeeze my soul after putting the discs back in the case. And there’s nothing wrong with games leaving our immediate thoughts after rolling credits but it’s remarkable when a piece of art is able to stick with you long after you’ve stopped engaging with it. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus is an example of a game that will inhabit my thoughts long into the foreseeable future.
Doki Doki Panic?
It’s difficult to explain what makes Doki Doki Literature Club so special without taking away the thrill that comes from exploring the game’s contents and getting to know the characters. I’m going to try to do it without spoiling anything but it’s worth mentioning that the game is better if you go in without knowing anything. Something I need to start with is mentioning that the game deals with some heavy themes players are told about right away. This is where I have to spoil a little bit in the interest of being considerate: this game features discussion and events surrounding suicide, depression, anxiety, and death. The developer has a really good content warning system that will let players decide if they’d like to peek behind the curtain, which is nice for accessibility. Some people may want to experience the story without being surprised by some of the themes and events present in Doki Doki Literature Club’s story.
Doki Doki Literature Club is a visual novel featuring a group of students in a literature fan club where they read and discuss books together. The game is mostly dialogue and menu screens, but it slowly grows more complicated as the game shifts from a standard and occasionally cliché visual novel to something sinister and otherworldly.
Conversations start innocent and things feel almost too normal. I was actually a little bored at first and it’s not because the game is bad or anything negative. I successfully avoided spoilers when the first version released. The Plus version is my first time playing the game and all I knew going in was the original game was really good and a lot of people liked it. I heard it was scary. I heard it was weird. But my experience felt so different at first; this game wasn’t exciting or weird, it was just a regular game. I didn’t understand but kept playing — and things slowly changed and became one of the greatest games I’ve played. This innocent game transformed into something else entirely. I can’t stop thinking about it and I don’t know if I’ll ever really stop playing it.
It would be a disservice to the game and take away from what the developer has accomplished if I shared details from the game’s story. I’d rather encourage more people to play it than let too much of the game’s magic slip into view and risk giving anyone a reason to think they don’t need to play it. Visual novels are cool games and it’s okay if they play it safe. There’s nothing wrong with being a fun simulation or story between you and other characters. But Doki Doki Literature Club takes things in a unique direction and relies on player assumptions before proceeding to subvert everything and run straight toward you.
The writing and story blend into the player experience in a way that few games attempt and even fewer are able to successfully achieve. If you’ve already played the freeware version then this is an opportunity to support the developer while also receiving extras, including side stories and hours of additional content. If you haven’t stopped by the literature club yet then this is the perfect time to experience the psychological horror adventure that is sure to occupy your mind long after you think you’ve finished the game.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.