Doki Doki Literature Club Plus Review – Lost Like Tears in the Rain, Time to Kawaii
Developed by Team Salvato
Published by Serenity Forge
Available on PC, Nintendo Switch
I’ve got a confession to make: I never played Doki Doki Literature Club during it’s initial release. “spooky anime game, got it”, I’d say to people suggesting it to me. “Corpse Party exists, I’m aware.” I’d say to others. When I initially sat down to play the new definitive edition of the game, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus, I thought I had been right. That’s the beauty of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus. I spent the first hour and a half just playing through an angsty teen love story. I was sleepy. It was so much reading. I didn’t much care about which of the 4 girls I pursued. there’s Monika, the president of the club. Sayori, childhood friend to the main character and vice president. Natsuki, angry pixie who bakes. And Yuri, a shy and withdrawn bookworm.
I didn’t attempt to win their affections. Now, I understand that’s kind of the point. I approached the game like I would anything: Skeptical, but willing to be surprised. The first bit didn’t surprise me. There were a few understated moments where the true nature of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus was slightly teased. I wrote those off as a bit of clever writing. I didn’t understand that it would tie into the overarching narrative so well. As time went on, and I got sleepier, I was considering coming back to the game later, with a fresher eye. I’m glad I didn’t. Somewhere around an hour and forty five minutes in, one of the members of the club kills themselves.
This shocking moment is actually the real start of the game. It takes a lot of time to get there, but it’s very much worth it. After the death, the game ends. You get an END screen, and are given the option to quit. If you choose to return to the desktop, the game doesn’t end. It punts you out to the games built-in desktop. There, you’ll be introduced to so many story threads to pull that you could make 4-5 sweaters. There is a gallery of backgrounds and special moments with the characters. These can be set as the background on your fake desktop. There’s a built-in music player, so you can listen to the upbeat and chill tracks from the game.
You really get into the meet of it when you go into the directory files. There are files for each characters, and most of the internal workings of the game. I’ve got about 5 hours in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus right now, and I haven’t even come close to figuring out what the hell is happening in most of the desktop. From this screen, you can start the game over, but things are…different. The girl that killed herself isn’t there anymore. This is a fresh restart of the game. She should be there. She just isn’t. The other characters don’t really comment on it, but the game has obviously become corrupted. Visuals glitch, keening wails are heard. It seems as though the game’s internal machinery is malfunctioning. You, the player, have damaged it to a point that it cannot operate.
The actual gameplay of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus is fine, if a bit time-consuming. It’s a visual novel, so you’ll spend a lot of time reading. I’m a voracious reader so it didn’t bother me. You’ll be joining the literature club and trying to get closer to one of the four girls. You do this by writing poems. Every day in the game you write a poem, and based on your word choice, you’ll impress one of the girls of the club. This seems straightforward but quickly becomes a waking nightmare. It is an exercise in futility and damage. The game warns you up front that it can hurt your mind if you’re predisposed to certain illnesses. It may come off like an edgy, “Oh my game is so scary you better not play if you’ve got any conditions”, but it’s not.
The creator of the game seems genuinely concerned about the well-being of the players. Take the warnings up front seriously. If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, then maybe skip out on Doki Doki Literature Club Plus. I say this because the game gets dark. I mean pitch-black-holy-shit dark. There is suicide, there is blood, there are unhealthy relationships, there is a bit of cosmic horror. I didn’t expect to be writing all of these things about a simple anime visual novel. I’m impressed wholly by Doki Doki Literature Club Plus. I don’t want to spoil the story for you, because it has to be experienced. I will say that nothing is ever as it seems, and it’s almost never over.
Buying Doki Doki Literature Club Plus is like buying a multi-layered puzzle box. You’ll feel triumph from solving it, until you realize that you’ve just opened the first of a multitude of puzzles. You’ve barely scratched the surface. The only thing to do, is to dive back in.