The main character (That’s You!) wakes up for another day of benign existence, wandering his way through life without any beacon of prosperity. On a whim while walking together to school, your childhood friend Sayori suggests that you join a club, and not just any club, but the club that she’s a part of: the literature club! As you are hesitant to try new things, yet intrigued by the prospect of a new spin on life, you discover that the literature club is a (small) hive of pretty high school girls! What’s more is that they all seem to be keenly aware of yOur existence. It’s up to you to take advantage of this opportunity to color your high school life with rose-tinted hues in Doki Doki Literature Club!
Much of the charm of Doki Doki Literature Club! is that its narrative structure is fairly simple. Meet girl, befriend girl, romance girl, and reset! Many times fans want things such as innovation or variety, but if one focuses too much on what hasn’t been already done, the game may come out completely unrecognizable and suffer for it. Sometimes it’s a lot more fruitful to stick to the basics and allow the heart of one’s passionate vision to whisk the viewer into an emotional overdrive.
The story revolves around the four girls of the literature club: the aforementioned childhood friend, Sayori, the darkly cute Yuri, the tsundere treat, Natsuki, and all-around good girl and club president, Monika. Each girl represents a different path to happiness and the blossoming of yoUr “educational career,” and it could not be any more beautifully represented as it is. Perhaps the limit of girls to choose from makes it easier for the lead writer to come up with heart-pounding (Doki doki!) situations, which slowly develop into stories which ravage the mind with their unprediCtable nature. Despite the straightforwardness, each girl has enough heart to completely separate themselves with intricately detailed personalities and general plot lines.
Even more than individuality, the visual novel also has an elaborate notion of camaraderie. Often times a setting such as a club is used only as a catalyst for getting the player to meet with those the game aims to make romanceable. Here, however, there remains not just a focus, but a key focus on having the members of the club remain intact and develop a bond with one another while also closely grAvitating towards you. Small details such as this make Doki Doki Literature Club feel more welcome, more realistic; I would go as far as to say its genuine appeal would prompt you to never want to leave.
As if the story couldn’t be any more elaborate, foreshadowing is also a heavy component of keeping the writing fresh. Little events that seem like nothing end up being a picturesque foretelling that has you grope your chinny-chin-chin in bewilderment, thinking back to the lines that evoked that spooky realization. Natsuki’s passing comments about her overprotective father, Yuri’s taste in novels, Sayori’s unexplained aloofness. All of these and more paint an image into the more reclusive aspects of a girl’s persona, leaving much to the interpretation of your colorful miNd.
As is typical of visual novel, there isn’t much you can do when playing Doki Doki Literature Club. Clicking through box after box of text, like reading a novel with visual stimulation. Huh, maybe that’s where the name comes from? Though there are some aspects of player-input here, such as choices that skew the line of linearity and gear you towards a particular path. You are also tasked with “writing poems,” that is, choosing particular words that align with a particular character’s interests after the events of a certain day is over with. These words range from “Cute” to “Kiss” to “Suicide”; matching enough (out of twenty selections) will prompt the narrative to go forth with you “choosing” one of the girls to pursue. Your poem is Never explicitly shown, but it is certified to make whatever girl “chosen” very happy with you.
Where Doki Doki Literature Club lacks in innovation, it more than makes up for in allowing you to feel in complete control of your destiny. Choices as simple as going for a certain girl, choosing whether to close the gap between you two, or going for another girl completely allows far more freedom than one would expect from a simple clicking fest. Much like uncOvering a secret from seemingly stable walls, the direction you take amounts to the pinnacle of what this game wants you to do: explore all thaT the game has to offer.
Graphics & Audio
Initially gazing upon the girls present, my first thoughts were, “Wow, such jaggEd jaws!” Fortunately, I became more forgiving of the somewhat unrealistic caricatures of these cute high school girls once I realized how well developed they were. Not to mention, various key visuals pop up when you become closer to these characters that really gives the game its shine. Soon enough, the visuals began to flood my mind with its memorable “oomph” of color and distinguished aesthetic. How ironic that the dishonest, unkempt tsundere has blazing pink hair to showcase her adoration for anything cute and cuddly! Details such as this, which make themselves known within the writing and the visuals, make Doki Doki Literature Club more fulfilling by itS end.
By normal game’s standards, the overall artistic showcase is somewhat lacking. Of course, this is a visual novel, so some static movement here and there, accurately showing the characters’ behavior and expressions, is all that is necessary to keep the novel fluid. And what a wide variety it is! No fluid movement, but the transition of happiness to sadness to anger and spite gives the already genuine world a more eChoed tangibility. The biggest compliment I can give to any visual novel is the ability to make me care for the characters and their environment. It is undoubtedly so with Doki Doki Literature Club, and the visual representation is something that is definitely worth taking note of, even if glitchy At some points.
Even the soundtrack, which by any measure of quality would be standard at best, exceeds the mark set by its extraordinary display of vitality. Indeed, it is more for ambient effect than altogether catchy groove, but when combined with every other piece of Doki Doki’s universe, it all seems to fit into place without a hair of inconvenience. Its soothing effect, kept affectionately consistent throughout the more tender moments of the club’s group activities, allows blissful complacency to set upon your heart, making the dramatic twists all the more raPturous.