It’s been yonks since I last accessed my Steam account, as I forgot my password a few months ago. Rather than reset my logins, I chose to capitalize on the lapse in memory. If I cannot visit the store I can’t possibly waste money on discounted games that I will never have the time to play. Just like David Dickinson, I cannot resist a bargain that is cheap as chips. My exile of Valve’s service is now over however, as several readers persuaded me to give Doki Doki Literature Club a try. This award winning visual novel, from fledgling developer Team Salvato, was recommended to me when I put the call out for quality titles that can be finished in less than ten hours.
When the game begins players, who assume the role of a high school student, are coerced into joining the titular club by their chirpy childhood pal Sayori. The protagonist isn’t much of a bibliophile, but like most male teenagers he can’t resist the allure of hanging out with four lovelies after class. Doki Doki Literature Club’s members are Monika, Yuri, Natsuki and the aforementioned Sayori. Monika is the club president and most popular girl in school. Yuri meanwhile is a timid intellectual who is passionate about horror novels. Last, but not least, is Natsuki the pint-sized tsundere. She is my favourite, of the quartet, as her written fiction of choice is manga.
Like with most visual novels, Doki Doki Literature Club involves reading text and enjoying the music/artwork that accompanies it. The narrative (specifically which girl the protagonist will date) is influenced by the poetry sessions that Monika has organized. Each day the club members need to write up a poem and share it with the group. During these segments players need to construct a verse by selecting twenty words from a notebook. The choices one makes will improve their reputation with a particular girl. Natsuki, for example, has a soft spot for cute things – so choosing words such as “kitty” will make the protagonist more attractive in her eyes.
Sounds simple enough. Click on phrases, snag a girlfriend and live happily ever after. Well, that’s what you would expect in a traditional VN. Doki Doki Literature Club is a little different though. All the ladies are thirsty for the main character’s package and will therefore get jealous when you begin to favour one of them over the others. This all culminates in the story taking a sinister and unexpected twist.
My rating for Doki Doki Literature Club is five stars. Just like Moirai, this is a memorable experience you can download off Steam for nowt. I actually feel bad about not rewarding the developer financially, for their efforts, so I may toss them some Shekels by purchasing the soundtrack/art-book DLC. Doki Doki Literature Club resonated with me because it is similar to some of my favourite anime. Cast in the same mould as Madoka Magica, it starts off sweet and fluffy before subverting your expectations with an unsettling scene. I suppose that’s a bit of a spoiler, but the game itself does open up with a disclaimer that warns against playing if you are easily disturbed.
Doki Doki Literature Club also gets bonus points from me because its set pieces are something that would only work in a video game. Unlike some other visual novels, this title wouldn’t transfer well to the movie screen or a comic book page. The interactivity you have, although limited, plays a big role in proceedings. Given that the game can be cleared in five hours, it’s something I can recommend to everyone. Power through the unassuming first act and I guarantee you will be hooked. Things are not oki doki at the literature club. In hindsight the protagonist may have been better off signing up for another club. Maybe the School-Live club would have been a safer choice?