Game: Doki Doki Literature Club (Free!)
Time: 4.1 hours (+time spent on YouTube watching alternate endings and Streamers scaring themselves silly)
Doki Doki Literature Club is a psychological horror game pretending to be a cute, cheerful visual novel dating sim. Well, actually, it doesn’t even pretend… you have to agree to a disclaimer before you play the game:
I went into this game fully aware it was a horror game, but without any details about the story itself. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone (seriously, go into this one blind if you’re going to play it), so this post will be a mostly spoiler-less review (with the exceptions of a few warnings at the end).
Last week, in a post, I said:
This week, I’m also slowly playing through Doki Doki Literature Club… which is a free visual novel I wanted to try just because people have said it’s downright disturbing. I guess I haven’t gotten to the disturbing part yet. I’ll keep you posted!
So, yeah, here it is.
Late Friday night, I decided to make a midnight snack. I decided it wouldn’t hurt to keep going in DDLC since I didn’t feel like playing something more intense so late at night.
M̱̫i͏̱̲͕̺̟ͅͅst͚̙ͅa̻̪̫̦k̩̼̘̘̙e̝͝s̤̝͍̜̪ w͕̤e̻͕͙̺r̭e ͉̟̳͚m̩͖̖̩a̶d̸͉̠̪̼̣͎e̹̲̞̠̝̲ͅ.͏͙̯
Half an hour later, I was so creeped out I had to shut the game off and take comfort with a purring cat on my lap. Even then, I went to sleep with the lights on. I beat the game the next day (I didn’t get the best ending — I looked it up on YouTube because I refused to play it again), and the freaking theme song is still in my head three days later.
While there’s not so much a plot, so to speak, the concept and originality of this game just blew me away. I didn’t even get the good ending, but man… what an experience. Props to the dev.
Th̜͈͇̝̳̤i̝s͎ ̛̲̯̙g͖̣̪̙̭͠a͚̠̪͍ͅm͎̺̺̙̹̜͞e͓̖̬̞͢ ̥̯̥̩̝̙i̗̮͕̟͉̥͘s ͉̦̤̲̺h͜a̰ùn͍͓̞̻t͜in̳͚̻̦̣̤̦g̯̱ ̺me̱̱.̘̦̭͈̞̖ ̦̜̦I͉͉̱͟ ̡͔͓͎̠h̟̹͎͍͎o̡̩͉̘p̬̮͈̪̜̀e̶̮͈̰̘͖ ͚̖̥̯w̥͖ri͓̟̮̜̟ṭ͙̱͚̘̳͓i͞ng̀ ̴̼a҉b͎o̴u̘̥͟t̨̰̝͍̦̳̙̫ ̝i̩͓̞̰̟̗t̡͙̫̻ ̳w̫̬͎͠i͜l̦̲ḻ ͎̘͓͞m̥̞̠̩̥͇͍á̯k̟̪̰e̞ ̱͠i̦̦̰t̞͚̟̜͘ͅ ̮̗̯͘g̣͚̩̜ơ̹̰ ̣̣͎̠͝ąw̴̲͇a̘͕̯͞y̶̬̙̰̦͔̖̟.̮̪̲̯̹̹͞ ̝͇̱̖̜͖̜
Granted, your mileage may vary. I like horror. But standard jump scares and zombie stuff doesn’t bother me much. I get a quick scare and it’s over.
Psychological horror on the other hand — you know, when fear is generated by good use of tension, suspense and disarming sound/visuals — that will get me so badly every time. Creepy things. Subtle and out of the norm, building over time. That’s when your own imagination amplifies your internal fear and expectations.
T͍h̟̹͎͉͕͍̙͝a̮t͇̜̹̖ ̹͍̮͍͓͈̳͝s̘̼͍t͍͕̭͖ͅa̙̜̼͡y̻s̬͍͎͍͇ ̴͖̘̤̙w̖̜̪͚̜i̦̤̩̩͍t̗̝̝h͈̼̮͖̜̭͔ ̞͚̮̪͉m͏͉e̞̱̟̞͕̣.͇͙̭͘ͅ ̣̯͖̩̘
This game built suspense and expectations very well. It’s slow to get rolling, but for a good reason.
The first hour and a half or so, it establishes a baseline of “normalcy” so you can identify when the game turns everything you thought you knew inside out. Once the switch is flipped, you can’t go back. You can only go deeper down the rabbit hole.
So if you’re playing this game and it doesn’t feel like it’s getting anywhere, stick with it. Pay attention, even to what seems like just a normal dating sim. Details are important.
This game goes very deep. Check out the wiki for Easter eggs once you’ve finish it. And do yourself a favor – either play for the good ending (it’s not obvious how to get this) or watch the good ending on YouTube. You’ll feel better about it if you do.
I’m going to recommend this game to people who enjoy this kind horror or want to see how a well-crafted game can break genre and gaming conventions. It’s a free game, though you can support the dev by purchasing the DLC fan pack if you decide to.
However, I want to put some serious warnings along with my recommendation.
If you are strongly emotionally effected by topics like depression, self-harm, or suicide, or you’re just easily disturbed, please do not play this game.
Spoilerish warning: Know that this game will write and manipulate files on your computer. I wasn’t aware of this before I played it, and I know some people feel strongly against this. I will say that this was harmless (it only manipulated files — mostly .txt, .chr and image files — within its Steam game folder), and it was part of the game play that you were aware of it happening. (Oh man, was it creepy.)
Yes – but please take all the warnings and disclaimers seriously.
J͔͑̓̄̄͊͋ͭu̷̟̘͍̐͛ͣͯ͒͛̃s̲̯͉̝͔͓̭̈ͭt̵̺͎̣͛ ̲͇̯̬ͣ͐M̑̆ö͔̣̠̘̲͈͓́̂̈́ṋ͕̺͙̙̾͝ͅi͔̋͂̓ͫ̽̚k̞͍̹̳̞͐͒̄̎ͤ̂̀aͧ͂͆͊̇ͭ.̖̙̝̼̝͈̞̈̌͆̍̃͋̎͠ ̥̐̽͐ͫ̓̑̕