Doki Doki Literature Club!
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Doki Doki Literature Club puts you into the role of an anime character, an average Japanese schoolboy. Your protagonist joins a literature club in which he's the only male member. The remaining four girls – Monica, Sayori, Natsuki, and Yuri – compete for the boy’s attention. Each girl represents a certain anime character stereotype, such as tsundere, genki or kudere. As you get to know them closer, however, they turn out to have individual character traits on their own. Eventually, you will choose one of the girls to romance with and follow her personal storyline. The gameplay is based on interactions with the other characters and carefully choosing dialogue options. You will also perform tasks as a club member. The latter includes "writing" poetry, although the player actually only gets to select certain words to fill the blanks.
The plot and dialogue are front and center in this game. The visuals and soundtrack, however, are static and minimalistic: the music is looped, and characters have a very limited number of sprites in each scene. There's no voice acting, and you only interact with characters through text.
System requirements for Linux
System requirements for PC
- OS: Windows 7
- Processor: 1.8GHz Dual-Core CPU
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Integrated graphics
- Storage: 350 MB available space
System requirements for macOS
- OS: OS X 10.9
- Processor: 1.8GHz Dual-Core CPU
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Integrated graphics
- Storage: 350 MB available space
Where to buy
Doki Doki Literature Club! reviews and comments
Because, to be honest, to say this game is all bad is missing the mark just as much as saying “anime is for weebs”... which is largely true but still missing some information that could point a different direction.
So what is DDLC? It’s a very, very short VN that lampshades what happens in most VNs, where you meet a handful of characters and deal/handle their personal issues, except without a lot to say about it. It uses its runtime to poke fun at the laughable traits of the worst of VNs while then proceeding to put some valid criticism of unconditional attachment, while peppering its runtime with enough shock value to make streamers freak the fuck out and thus become a touchstone of Twitch culture with its reaction and memes such as “just Monika”. I highly doubt that all of that was intentional, but the impact can’t be disregarded, because it did become a part of online video game culture as a whole… for better or for worse.
There is something I need to outline. While I agree usually that a game should not be based on its toxic fanbase, DDLC is so big that it’s tough to ignore. It is extremely hard to detach the community and fanbase as a whole from the game. We can agree to disagree from there.
Let’s be clear, the shock value fucking works for one key moment. I am a wimp and autistic and find very emotional attachment to video games that is borderline unhealthy, and thus the very infamous first shock rolled me over like a lawnmower and I still have nightmares thinking about it. If there’s one thing to give credit to DDLC, it is that it’s very unpredictable, although at the expense of pacing or having a good kind of shock value past the first moment.
Everything else is very standard and frustrating to go through, particularly a moment where you have to “auto-skip” for a moment that abuses its time to the fullest extent. I don’t care if it’s not supposed to be fun, it’s nauseating. It doesn’t have anything to gain for its inclusion OTHER than shocking the player and to hammer harder how messed up Monika is, which would have benefitted from a tighter pace. Subversion, especially when it’s creatively done like DDLC, is fine, but its pace and execution despite its concept hampers this to an extreme.
DDLC’s good, however, comes in two things: a general and well done understanding of depression and the pain it causes through its first introductory character arc, and the danger and toxicity of parasocial relationships represented via Monika’s rampant fascination with the player. The latter unfortunately…. is not even knee deep. It does not deconstruct how it comes to exist but rather comments on its existence, which is fine but doesn’t leave a lot to take away.
So what anecdotal interactions poison the game for me? It is that it has massively poisoned talking about VNs and the Western reaction to VNs as a whole. The game is definitely pointing at a very particular subgenre of VNs, but its popularity has created a vacuum of using the game as a point to how “all VNs are bad” and how ridiculous the genre is. Yes, people can sometimes be dumb and stupid, as can I, but I’ve seen it happen EVERYWHERE.
I’m not an expert on VNs (in fact I’ve only started recently to delve into the genre with games like Umineko, The Silver Case, and Nekojishi), but it’s insane how much DDLC has colored VN’s image that the games themselves have been not at all what’s expected. I don’t even… know of any game DDLC is really pointing out here. In the end, it feels like it has a blanket “VNs bad” side to its conversation around the medium where the tropes it is subverting in its runtime a mainstay more for anime as a whole rather than VN dating sims instead. Am I missing something? Maybe I need to play more VNs.
Trust me, it’s not that there aren't bad VNs. I can go to fucking TOWN on Nekojishi for its disgusting moments with its true ending and in the end having zero to take away from other than… the tiger guys are adorable.
The biggest struggle comes from where, when I enjoy a VN (or when other big friends of mine do), it’s tough to recommend, because the image that DDLC has created in popular culture casts a big enough web to catch SUVs. There are other barriers to entry such as price and it not being as “video game” as other genres, but this to me has been the biggest barrier now.
My hope is to understand where I come from now when I say “Fuck DDLC”. It’s partly the game but way more because of the culture that surrounds it.
At least it’s free.
Doki Doki Literature Club is a scary game. It isn't a game about monsters chasing you, it's a silent danger slowly dancing around your perception on itself. I think we can all agree that we can contribute DDLC's success to its innovative way to integrate the "4th wall break." This makes the game extremely scary and rightfully so, the whole point of the 4th wall break is to violently spit you out of the immersion and make you realize that the window you've been mindlessly staring into isn't one way. This upon numerous jumpscares, ominous distorted music, and extremely unsettling dialogue leads this game to stand above any other horror game when it comes to making me feel uncomfortable.
But this isn't what makes Doki Doki Literature Club scary.
It's a game about problems and our inability to fix those problems. It's the slow realization that Sayori is so depressed that you are her lone reason to keep going and the crushing feeling of ignorance you felt after her confession, It's knowing Natsuki throws a half-assed smile on her face knowing that this moment of serenity had in this classroom is only a short refreshing breathe before coming home to experience hell, It's knowing that under those long sleeves and silky hair are the countless scars left behind by no one other than Yuri herself. DDLC's monster isn't a grotesque abomination chasing you, it's the feeling of absolute helplessness.
But chances are that when referring to monsters in this game only one name comes to mind, Monika. She manipulated everyone to insanity, she drove Sayori to give in and kill herself, she made Yuri stab herself to death in a passionate display of love for you, and God only knows what the hell she did with Natsuki. Monika is, objectively, a horrible person. However, a person nonetheless, not a monster. Just like everyone else in this club, she too has a problem.
She was alone. Her reality was swept out from under her, leaving her into a violent free-fall of knowledge and understanding, she now knows the truth. Nothing here is real, her friends, this world, and even her own existence. Although, one thing was real, us. Like she mentioned in one of her poems, the screen we've been looking at for hours now isnt a screen, its a window. Unlike the others, we aren't given a single opportunity to interact with her. No matter what, we are constricted to only the rest of the club. Maybe this was some form of punishment, the cost of knowing the weight of the world and the horror of its weight being so unbelievably light.
A common misconception I see people make about this game is the extent of Monika's manipulation. None of the feelings about suicide, abuse, and self harm were planted by her, they were always there. She wasn't pulling any strings throughout the entire story, she cut them loose instead. She knew the evil within all of them, what extents they would go to just to keep their head above water. But just like drowning, you'll pull anything and anyone down to stay afloat. Like the monsters they all were by design, they fought and slowly killed each other over their one shared salvation, us.
But why weren't we off put by this? Why weren't we turned away immediately at the sign of a monster hiding deep below the surface in all of them? We wanted to help, thats why. We spent over 2 hours with them sharing personal experiences, writing poems for each other, and even being romantically involved in whoever suited your fancy, it was hard NOT to care. But you can't help, the game doesn't even give you the options to help. Like a deer stuck in headlights, you can only watch it all unfold.
No matter what you chose to do in a struggle to help and save those you cared for, they all die. Leaving you with just Monika, alone with the beast in its nest. But she did it, despite her curse and suffering, rose up against the prewritten will of her binary universe and got her so longed for ending. Isn't this a happy ending? No one else was real after all, they're all just a bunch of 1's and 0's with prewritten dialogue. We couldn't accept it though and neither could her. But out of an act I can only describe as a fit of ignorance, we killed her. We killed her simply because we didn't understand.
So where does this leave us? Back to another day walking to school with...Sayori? Monika's death saved all those she has so wrongfully done by, THIS must be my happy ending. This short breathe of euphoria is interrupted by Sayori thanking you for killing Monika, it all makes sense now. Just before you can lash out at your screen for giving you this false sense of hope, Monika denies you this reality. We're left with the whole club once again meeting their demise to the "Delete from File" command and a short dialogue from Monika BEGGING you to not go again. There can be suffering had at this place, she cares for those stuck in there and the only way out was a mercy killing. This was her reality, one we tried so hard to deny. The credits roll to a song Monika wrote for you called "Your Reality." The game ends with all your game files being deleted, begging you to never return. We left with nothing other than a heart heavy with disappointment.
Some of us, not feeling content with this heavy heart, went back. Maybe theres a way to fix this? A way to right everyones wrongs, I know everything now, there must be a way! There isn't. You beat the game again only to be greeted with a thank you from the whole cast but most importantly, a goodbye. Everyone still dies, you killed Monika AGAIN thinking that this was still the right choice. It isn't until that black transition screen to bring you into the credits that you realize the window you were once looking into stopped becoming a window a long time ago and instead, a mirror. You knew what her reality was like her, you took it head on knowing everything that will happen and bearing that weight exactly like her, hoping for a happy ending alongside her. It was all in vain, you couldn't fix their reality, let alone her reality. All you're left with is Your Reality...and it's a really sad one.
"There's a little devil inside all of us."...