Doki Doki Literature Club! has been dominating social media for the past month. It’s a psychological horror game presented as a cute dating-sim.
The game has been making waves for challenging how fans view the visual novel genre, real depictions of depression, and Monika. Here are a few reasons why you should check out Doki Doki Literature Club! if you haven’t already done so.
Doki Doki Literature Club! has the look of a cutesy dating-sim. You play as an anime-loving slacker who is convinced to join the high school literature club at the behest of your childhood friend.
Naturally, you are surrounded by four beautiful girls that fit neatly into anime tropes. You have the bubbly childhood friend, the shrinking violet, a cutesy tsundere, and a popular club president.
All of that is expertly used to mask the psychological horror. Slowly, the bandages are removed and true horrors are exposed. Without spoiling too much, depression, abuse, suicide, and manipulation play huge factors in the story.
Unlike most horror works, Doki Doki Literature Club! doesn’t use jump-scares or detailed gore to disturb the player. Instead, it takes real-world issues that millions of people face – the hopeless of depression and abuse. It’s an intentional contrast with candy-like designs of the cast and bubble-gum soundtrack.
The underlying “otherness” is effective in making you feel uncomfortable and dread creeps around you as plot points are put together. It’s rare for horror stories to show restraint, which helps Doki Doki Literature Club! stand out in a crowded genre.
Dan Salvato, the writer and lead developer of Doki Doki Literature Club!, told Kotaku that the story stems from his love/hate relationship with anime. Salvato doesn’t specify what factors drive those feelings, but it’s clear that he knows the medium.
On the surface, the cast appears to consist of stock character archetypes. As you spend more time with the story, it’s revealed that each character has a true reason for why they act as tropes. Unlike most “dark parodies” of anime, the girls’ personalities aren’t cartoonishly exaggerated but used as masks for their true selves.
Doki Doki Literature Club! isn’t terribly long – it’s about 7 1/2 hours for a full play-through, but the time is spent on developing the characters and creeping you out. Spending time with each girl explains their actions, but it’s their poems that reveal their mindsets. These elements come together to create a surprisingly rich cast.
3Excellent Use of Meta
One of big selling points is the game’s use of meta to freak you out.
At first, the fourth-wall is broken to mock conventional tropes. “Don’t forget to save to undo poor decisions,” and other cute jokes are used. And then you get a “bad ending.”
Except, not really. This bad ending only serves as the closing for the story’s first act. The client glitches, the dialogue is warped, game files are deleted or added in a way to mess with you outside of the game as you continue on. Or more like the game is playing with you.
It’s a refreshing and effective use of meta-mechanics. Instead of winking and joking about tropes, Doki Doki Literature Club! uses it to provide new scares.
You will feel hopeless and lack control, especially if you play visual novels.
Doki Doki Literature Club! seems to enjoy taunting the genre’s mechanics. Visual novel fans are known for using multiple saves and overriding past decisions to achieve their desired endings. It’s a perk of the genre and is a way to maintain control over the story.
But taking that away adds to the meta-horror. You are no longer in full control of the story and you will be taunted for it.
It’s not all fear. Social media is buzzing about the game’s expertly crafted story and twists…but in true visual novel fashion, you can get a perfect ending with enough dedication.
Doki Doki Literature Club! breathes new life into the visual novel and horror genres. Fans looking for the unique experience can legally download the game for free from Steam or the game’s official website.