Sure it looks like your standard pervy anime dating simulator, but if you give it a fair chance, Doki Doki Literature Club is a very enjoyable game with rich characters and a deep story. Wait, don’t close the tab!
Look, I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t anime dating sims for weirdos who will never know the warm touch of another human being and so they emotionally imprint on drawings of girls whose ages are of questionable legality? Well the answer to that is: not always! Please keep reading and I will elaborate. You’ve already stopped, haven’t you? I’m just gonna keep going in case you’re still reading.
See, and please hear me out, in addition to playing host to a cast of adorable schoolgirls, DDLC does a lot to play with the conventions of the genre and the medium of gaming itself. That’s what good games do, right? So why the ‘tude on this one? Did someone show you fan art of the high school-aged characters in bikinis? Fuck. What if I told you this is a horror game? And no, I don’t mean horror as in “you get to imagine some middle aged perv masturbating to an anime dating sim and it’s horrifying,” I mean, like, an actual horror game. OK OK, I’ll get to the point.
Story wise, things get off to a fun start with the player being invited to a poetry club by their childhood friend Sayori. There you meet the other lovely young beauties: Natsuki, Yuri, and Monika. That sounds pretty standard, sure, but there are some neat quirks beyond your standard selection of dialogue options, including a really clever poetry writing mechanic to let you woo your choice of lovely lady.
Stick with me, because this is where it gets really good. You’re still paying attention, right? The story gets pretty grim from here, and the game challenges your preconceptions of what a visual novel should be without sacrificing or compromising other important aspects. You know about the important aspects of visual novels, right?
Hey don’t wander off yet! There’s still more to it!
Now, like you’d expect from a game with such a cast of nubile young potential love interests, there are multiple endings. Perversely, they all build to one “True Ending” that will absolutely blow your mind. No, not like that.
Ugh, you’re gone. I didn’t even get to explaining any of the game’s three gruesome suicides. This is definitely my fault.
It’s just me in here now, I guess. Hm… what to do today… I guess I’ll go shopping, I really need some groceries and—OH FUCK YOU’RE STILL HERE.
I, uh, give Doki Doki Literature Club a solid 9 out of 10 stars.