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Doki Doki Literature Club!

Developer / Publisher: Team Salvato
22 September 2017
Doki Doki Literature Club! - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.06 / 5.0
0.5
5.0
 
 
1,375 Ratings / 11 Reviews
#1,503 All-time
#69 for 2017
A male high-school student is persuaded by his childhood friend to join the school's Literature Club, where he meets and becomes familiar with the all-girl group. Each of them becomes infatuated with the main character, and conflicts escalate to a point of irreversibility.
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Title
Embarrassing
Doki Doki Literature Club is a really embarrassing Visual Novel created by a pretentious edgelord whom I didn't know before reading. I first read this when it was brand new, found it to be one of the worst things I've ever experienced, and proceeded to witness it somehow skyrocketing in popularity afterwards. It was really strange, because noone I talked to seemed to like it. It's really sad that this gets so much attention whereas amazing Visual Novels like the behemoth Subarashiki Hibi barely got any attention in the west and only sold a few thousand.

SPOILERS from here but really, I would advice you to just spoil yourself and not waste your time with this wretched game.

DDLC basically starts out as a deliberate caricature of some kind of EVN-Galge. I'm not really sure what it is supposed to be parodying to be honest. I've read many Japanese visual novels and DDLC doesn't remind me of any of them at all in writing or content. I've read everything from charage and moege, to horror, mystery and surrealism, and even nukige. Listen to me closely here, because I'm assuming most of the fans of DDLC have no experience with VNs. THIS IS NOT INDICATIVE OF WHAT VNS ARE LIKE. The culprit is the writing which is so bland you wouldn't believe. I mean, even the blandest Moege I've tried out (Dal Segno) had more personality than this, and the characters more individual. I'm bothered by how characters act in DDLC... you can tell they are all written by the same person with his own distinct personality, and he has a long way to go to make distinctions between his characters. The only character who is a little bit different is Monika and that is because she is the source of the games gratuitous and anti-intellectual metafiction. This is the most embarrassing use of meta I've ever seen for sure. Basically what happens is that you spend barely any time in this regular caricature setting with cute girls who write poetry. Then shit hits then fan and one of the girls commits suicide. At this point, the genre shifts into a vaguely unsettling abstract horror game. Honestly, I won't fault people for at least finding it interesting if they're new to all this, but come on, be critical for a moment here. As another reviewer described, the horror is incredibly lame and reminds of SONIC.EXE (which has been panned whereas this has not, interestingly). The fourth wall breaking is so annoyingly in your face and pretentious that it just makes me feel embarrassed for the author. Compare it to other Visual Novels with elements like that, like Forest and Subarashiki Hibi and this seems like child's scribbles in comparison. I get that people think they're cool because they're reading something subversive and they think this is better because it's parodying "those dumb dating sims", aka something that might not even exist or at least is not particularly well regarded by visual novel folks... but yeah, if you're one of them, then read that sentence again. Do you get it? This doesn't really subvert anything relevant. This isn't what those things you'd call "dating sims" are actually like, unless maybe if you're playing some wretched EVN that might be popular on a stupid website like Steam. DDLC fails to even set up to start to subvert your expectations because it doesn't even know how to be a caricature. Can you really not tell how freakin' badly written this is? If you can, are you really gonna defend it saying that it's meant to be bad as if that makes it clever? Get real

Ultimately DDLC has 2 great problems.
1. The first half is too bland and horribly written and fails to establish any kind of interest in the setting, characters and story. The one good thing I can say about it is that it is definitely decidedly "off" though this is perhaps a little too subtle for some readers (maybe even unintentional? could just be bad writing seeming off) which could explain why some people, despite the triggers warnings at the start, insist that they were "surprised" later on. In that regard it dd accurately prepare me for that this is not a "normal" game, which meant that I didn't drop it instantly. That's not good enough, though, because it is incredibly tedious to get anywhere. The game has an idea, a gimmick it wants to pull off, and this gimmicks relies on investment from the player. Without said investment, anyone who experiences the usage of teh gimmick in the game (unless it's their first time ever experiencing fourth wall breaking or dark themes in anything and they have their first "whoa" moment over that) will just go "ok, and why am I supposed to care about this?" Again I will point towards Subarashiki Hibi for trying something in a similar vein, and also having a "bland" first chapter. Go read that to see just how far VNs can take this sort of thing. Then go back to DDLC and shake your head. In order for the gimmicks in the second half to "work", then there needs to be a sufficient substance and investment, in order for there to be a real "payoff". Otherwise such gimmicks ring hollow, resulting in a shallow game.
2. The horror and fourth wall breaking is incredibly juvenile, lame, and obvious. I don't get why any of this is supposed to be cool, or funny, or anything interesting, really. It's all in bad taste and it's not even so bad it's good, because if it were, then at least I would've laughed from time to time, but I never did. It was just... a very boring experience of waiting for the next silly little thing to happen. And whenever it did, it's just the same usual boring edgelord trash. Oh no, the yandere kills herself. Oh no, the loli tsundere says she gets molested by her dad. Oh no, everything is so horrible, and oh no, you have to delete the character files, and... ok, why is any of this interesting!?!?!? I don't understand why! I like things that are good! Subversive media can be so much better than this!.


I've also heard that it's a rip-off of Totono but I haven't read it so I dunno if that's true. Either way, it could just be a ripoff unintentionally because that's how obvious the ideas and gimmicks presented are. Update: Totono sucks too and this isn't exactly a rip-off but I obviously do see the similarities and why they were compared.

Doki Doki Literature Club is a good example of artistic pretension and serves as a great reminder to all creators and artists to not get ahead of themselves. If you want to freak out readers, then take better care, and create a better story first, create more interesting characters, work on your scenario seriously, work on establishment of themes, definitely work on your way with words and better yourself as a creator, THEN try to make something subversive. If you can't even get the "baseline" right then why try to be "better" than everyone else? Seriously this game isn't "upsetting" because of its themes or horror or whatever, what upsets me about is is how full of itself yet inept it is.
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Title
Intimacy in Between the Cracks
Spoilers Throughout.

Doki Doki Literature Club! achieves a level of intimacy that pushes it above most of its indie brethren. Before the game twists into the discussion of consciousness and self-awareness that it nails so well, Salvato uses his strong understanding of poetry and VN-tropes to slowly tear apart the fabric of the status-quo. It is this realization that things are terribly, terribly wrong that is so masterfully built up to, and that has stuck with me for so, so long.

It is in between the cracks of the tropey visual novel that DDLC develops into characters into real, very tragic people. Sayori's joy, Natsuki's anger, and Yuri's shyness are all peeled back and are revealed to be coping mechanisms or symptoms of deeper flaws. The player is reeled in -- asked to empathize with these three, to focus their attention on them -- and then the world is torn apart once more.

Monika is simultaneously an homage to the side characters who are deemed unworthy of screentime and agency -- and a living, breathing person. That the player can empathize with and fear Monika is a testament to Salvato's subtle and complex portrayal of reality through the lens of the fictional characters trapped in our screens.

The game and its community helped me realize my love of poetry and literature. I cherish it for its strange glimpse into the media I consume and for the impact its had on my life. An intimate, unforgettable experience.
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zachtookthem 2021-05-16T21:47:45Z
2021-05-16T21:47:45Z
4.5
1
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For all the effort it spends building up its characters, there really isn't much here after that first initial scare. It just doesn't really know what to do with itself after that first spook, so it just does a barrage of glitchy creepypasta tier spooks for the rest of the time and it's just not scary. It's even more polarizing considering the game's first half and how much it takes its sweet time easing you in and then letting the dark undertones rise to the surface and had it really embraced the side of its mentally ill characters as its plot it would've been a bit more interesting, I think, or at least something a little more interesting than glitchy creepypasta stuff. What doesn't help the game is how much it feels like a novelty, but the novelty is ruined by how hard it is to not know the game is off. If you weren't already mildly aware the game is something a little subversive by it's fanbase that giggles in excitement for someone to play it, then the game's countless warnings on its store pages and the games intro would and that somewhat spoils the novelty, which doesn't have much depth because the novelty is just glitchy creepypasta stuff and it's just uninteresting. I can see why the game exploded, seeing people's reaction to being scared is a really easy way for a game to get popular especially at the game's release and a game that starts off normal then becomes scary is really perfect for that, it's just outside of it being that there really isn't much to get here.
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KINGSCHNUFFELIII 2022-04-21T05:43:41Z
2022-04-21T05:43:41Z
1.0
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when i was 13, i put an uncomfortable amount of effort into a gacha animation about this game to impress a (ultimately lesbian) girl who was with one of my best friends at the time, so that's something i suppose
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theswanna 2021-11-13T23:36:34Z
2021-11-13T23:36:34Z
0.5
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Visual novels as literature and Sayori's burden
DDLC is likely one of my favorite gaming experiences. I only got the guts to play it recently, and, although I was roughly aware of the horror beats, I was still pretty disturbed. (I am an easily startled person though who can't handle real horror games)

I have seen a few reviewers state that the game feels bloated or maybe too long in Acts 1-2. I can see why someone would feel this way, and, to be honest, one of the reasons I avoided playing it for so long was my understanding of the game's pacing. I definitely spoiled it a bit for myself by watching a playthrough. Perhaps after 3 years since DDLC's release, I developed a rosy view of the game, likely leading me to finally try it.

The game's strongest asset is its characters. If I allowed myself full suspension of disbelieve, I genuinely came to care about each girl's opinions. When I finished my playthrough, I thought "Wow, give me more scary anime VNs pls," but, simultaneously, I am too wrapped up in the DDLC headspace to enter a new game world. Basically, it feels the same as when you finish an excellent novel; after completion, you feel a bit lonely and anxious to start a new story. If the characters are particularly engaging, this feeling is amplified significantly.

-------SPOILERS HERE-------
Secondly, I'm going to talk about Sayori. So, I don't know how many people actually relate to her depression, but it hit hard for me- especially in DDLC+. Her unshakeable feeling that she is always a burden to others and urge to make everyone happy to remedy this are sincerely "real" feeling. I know I have said the same things before seeking therapy, and the weight of Sayori's depression is captivating to me. (Maybe this is because I haven't played many "indie games about depression.") The playthrough I watched in 2017 took the route of telling Sayori "I love you," and, when I played, I took the opposite choice. I was kind of surprised to see that both outcomes lead to here suicide. So, at first, I interpreted this as a natural path- highlighting that depression is not logical. Depression is a rejection of reality to some degree, so it would make sense that nothing the player could say would matter. BUT ALSO--- one could argue this was just Monika messing with her brain-code. I think though, that Monika's tinkering more so exacerbated Sayori's (and Yuri's) problems/personality flaws than created them.
-------SPOILERS OVER-------

Lastly, I want to mention that I enjoy the through-line of "What is literature?" theme within the game's dialogue. This is an interesting choice given that the medium this story is presented is a visual novel. I wouldn't say VNs are literature, but this question is identical to the manga/literature conversations had in the game. I really appreciated this. I guess, what other reason could there be for the game to be held in a literature club than a meta nod to the VN format?
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evangayleon 2021-06-30T18:30:13Z
2021-06-30T18:30:13Z
4.5
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(For those very sensitive to spoilers: This review does not contain mentions of specific plot events, but if you're not sure what the core hook of DDLC is, what makes it different from other VNs, you may want to skip this.)

As a previously active participant in the Jacob Geller discord I have heard more than I could ever want to about this game and whether novelty in itself is valuable if nothing else is being meaningfully explored, and I have to chime in with a hearty who cares.

This game provided an interesting experience upon release and while it's not the only game in its genre with this twist (YOU and ME and HER) it was a novel take for a lot of people when it was released and the experience of baiting your friends into playing this zany weeaboo game and participating in those conversations was a large part of the fun. Even if the process of marketing the game to a friend means tipping your hand a little, the implementation of a lot of the scares is clever and means you'll all see the big events but all the little unnerving bits along the way can be completely different from person to person.

I can't really bring myself to go back and play it in 2021, though, with the novelty vanishing so long ago. As a game it is much more invested in shock than true horror, as there are plenty of unexpected events but very little investment in these events unless the reader is actively trying to invest themselves in it. For all the arguments about "best girl" you would be forgiven for skipping over the fact that we don't get a tremendous amount of characterization from any of them. Other than the large amount you can learn about Monika through sheer volume of lines, the girls typically average a quirk and a half in place of a full personality.

If this is deliberate, then... uh, good job I guess? If it's meant to be some parody about shallow or shitty dating sims then I'm not really a fan, as making a dating sim worth playing relies on a great deal of writing to get people invested in the characters. I'm not really cynical enough to assume this is just bitter satire, though - I do unfortunately think that this is just an unintended result of writing "a game where unexpected things happen" instead of "a story that sucks you in with a narrative about the members of the literature club before taking a dark turn".

Unless the big twist here - that of a dating sim switching genres - is that impressive to you, I don't think anything is going to blow your mind. I think it was new enough for enough people (with good art) that it got some attention, and just spread because it was kinda neat and short and free and no really dude, it looks like a weeaboo thing but its pretty cool just check it out. If you check it out in 2021 I don't think your time will be wasted, but perhaps it might be better as a group event - get people together and watch as someone pilots the story. That might be the best way to experience DDLC going forward, the best way to replicate that environment where these kinds of games thrive.
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jobosno 2018-05-31T05:16:48Z
2018-05-31T05:16:48Z
6.0 /10
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Catalog

westernyamyam Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-10-04T02:56:11Z
2022-10-04T02:56:11Z
3.0
2
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
THE_SOUNDS_OF_THE_HILLS Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-10-03T11:52:45Z
2022-10-03T11:52:45Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
5_dogwood_drive Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-10-02T18:57:43Z
2022-10-02T18:57:43Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Madcinder Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-10-02T10:23:26Z
2022-10-02T10:23:26Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Ca_Game Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-10-01T16:23:25Z
Windows / Linux/Unix / Mac
2022-10-01T16:23:25Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
cameronruse Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-10-01T09:17:59Z
2022-10-01T09:17:59Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
chriskelley Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-10-01T01:51:50Z
2022-10-01T01:51:50Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
CourtneyCottontail Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-09-30T18:31:10Z
2022-09-30T18:31:10Z
89
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
elijahjbell Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-09-30T15:15:43Z
2022-09-30T15:15:43Z
3.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
eschaton1000 Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-09-30T04:03:27Z
2022-09-30T04:03:27Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
boekplate Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-09-25T23:18:11Z
Windows / Linux/Unix / Mac
2022-09-25T23:18:11Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
talkingradioheads Doki Doki Literature Club! 2022-09-25T17:50:03Z
2022-09-25T17:50:03Z
2.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Player modes
Single-player
Media
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  • Previous comments (75) Loading...
  • Fowlawneeshafow 2022-04-23 09:38:50.384065+00
    I think it's based specifically because the popularity of this game triggers pretentious uptight VN nerds to no end, which is hilarious
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  • Arcadia_Fades 2022-05-23 17:51:16.601068+00
    probably the most i've ever gone THAT WAS IT??? upon finishing any media
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  • koybz 2022-05-26 03:15:14.916565+00
    cant believe i have nostalgia for 2017
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  • debaiion 2022-06-02 21:10:19.264569+00
    woah so meta O_o wasnt expecting that #omg
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  • holyhearted 2022-08-28 09:16:21.036802+00
    look guys! i’m not like other visual novels. i’m different. look at how different i am. did you see that? that’s different. no visual novel has ever done this before. i hate other visual novels. they’ll never be as deep as me
    reply
    • holyhearted 2022-08-28 09:18:29.408886+00
      ignoring all the miserable attempts of the creator to make an “anti-VN” the dialogues aren’t too bad and conceptually could be really great, but it still all falls so flat for me
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  • jakothy 2022-09-21 21:41:36.261455+00
    say what you will, it's got great pacing and that puts it ahead automatically
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  • feargm 2022-09-23 07:36:28.496609+00
    happy 5th! :)
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  • talkingradioheads 2022-09-25 17:49:13.110529+00
    I guess it's kinda cool that you actually have to fuck with the files to progress but other than that it's really nothing special
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