Review: Doki Doki Literature Club! (Computer)

Reviewed by Taleweaver, posted Feb 6, 2018, last updated Feb 12, 2018
Note...this is my first review on gbatemp. I had an idea in mind when creating it before I saw the template. I hope it'll work out. As to the game...I just love writing, and I've heard someone requesting it. I was already playing the game, so it was a logical conclusion. Not sure, but depending on the editing work/possibilities, inspiration and feedback, I might do it more often. :-)
Feb 6, 2018
  • Release Date (NA): September 22, 2017
  • Release Date (EU): September 22, 2017
  • Release Date (JP): September 22, 2017
  • Publisher: Team Salvato
  • Developer: Team Salvato
  • Genres: Visual novel
  • ESRB Rating: Adults Only
  • PEGI Rating: Eighteen years and older
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
"THIS GAME HAS YOU DATING HOT GIRLS!!!!!" That caught your attention, right? Don't think I didn't see it: you accidentally stumbled upon this review and already got bored after reading the title. I can't really blame you: "Doki Doki literature club" sounds about as exciting as "Paint dry simulator 2018" or "Mr. Smith's super exciting tax filing adventure". So I had to start by throwing in something that'd titillate your interest. So let's get one thing straight from the start: doki doki literature club isn't about literature or about "doki doki" (which is, apparently, Japanese for "[url=]the sound of a beating heart[/url]"). So rest assured, dear audience: you won't be burdened with Shakespeare's ninth symphony or Socrates's opinion on Freud's psychoanalysis. The game is as much about literature as pony island is about pony's. In other words: not at all. Doki doki literature club is *actually* about poetry and girl drama.
Doki Doki Literature Club (hereafter abbreviated to DDLC) is an interactive story revolving around a pack of high schooling girls and an equally high schooling boy, who come together in - you guessed it - a book reading club. What follows is an intricate plot that mostly consists of people talking to one another (you know...that thing people did before smartphones took over?). The style is this cutesy rainbow anime style, that...

" it's a weeaboo dating game?"

...would you mind not interrupting me when I'm reviewing? :glare: But I admit it's a question that has to be tackled soon: it's not a dating game. At best, it's a satire on a dating game. I starts with the warning that it shouldn't be played by children or easily disturbed people. Let's just say it's there for a reason...

The background on it

DDLC is a visual novel on the more reading-heavy side of the spectrum. For those unfamiliar: most visual novels I know tend to break up their storytelling every once in a while for puzzles, minigames or traditional point 'n click antics. It adds variety and helps in the roleplaying part. DDLC is about 90% reading and 89% picking words to use in a poem, meant to flatter one of the girls. It may not be the most engaging minigame but it serves its purpose. On some other occasions, you'll be asked for your opinion, which comes down to taking sides. I haven't properly checked, but I'm fairly sure DDLC doesn't do the telltale games route of throwing a whole bunch of seemingly trivial choices your way but that may end up tipping unbeknownst scales in the future. Unfortunately, even the choices you DO have to make won't always alter an outcome either.

Screenshot - 30_1_2018 , 9_27_24 PM.png

The game itself is barely more than a means to advance the text and animations and save your progress. If that sounds a bit demeaning I've got to apologize: DDLC has all the bells and whistles visual novels need. It matches the theme, doesn't get in the way and works as expected. Not bad for a game for the price of zero doll...

"WAIT!!! IT'S FREE???!!!???" :blink:

Why, yes it is. I would've mentioned this sooner, but "free" raises some red flags nowadays. This is a solid exception in a myriad sea of required DLC, shady account tricks or product placement. The game is just that: an honest interactive story, wrapped in a game mold.

The characters

DDLC consists of five - and only five - characters in the entire universe. In alphabetical order:
-Natsuki: the youngest and most emotional one of the bunch. For a girl, she's the most straightforward one. Likes manga and baking cupcakes.
-Monika: the popular schoolgirl stereotype. She's the president of the DDLC and a bit of a know-it-all. Also plays piano.
-Sayori: the girl next door. Always bright, she tends to diffuse the discussion as things get to tense. Likes to make others smile.
-Taleweaver: a Neanderthal when it comes to understanding women, but has the heart in the right place.
-Yuri: the introvert one. Does a lot of blushing and hiding in books. She'd be dressed in goth if everyone wasn't wearing uniforms

Screenshot - 31_1_2018 , 7_10_05 AM.png

As you might have guessed, the main protagonist is someone I named Taleweaver at the start. Perhaps I should address him as "I", but to my opinion there isn't enough identifying material in it to get that close to him (similarly to books: they're okay when written in first person perspective, but that doesn't mean I automatically consider myself to be the protagonist). I can't say to what degree you might identify with the protagonist, but I personally didn't felt it. The reason is that Japanese oversimplification: school girls always have to have perfect measurements and teases, boys overenflate their sense of insecurity toward them. Granted: that four-girl combo throws enough allegations, hints and intrigue to make a tactician's head explode. But come on... Is it really that far-fetched that girls may actually, y'know...find someone attractive? Yet the protagonist acts as naive as a five year old.

But clumsiness aside: there are some truly intimate moments in the game. Not in the traditional erotic sense (there's no nudity in this game), but moments that are borderline sensuality. I'd give a couple examples, but to be honest I think that without the context in which they happen, they just sound creepy or perverse. They're actually neither: these moments serve as a means to show bonding with one of the characters.

Visuals and sounds

DDLC uses this system found in many visual novels and low budget RPG's that is perhaps best described as "theatrical performance". That is: the graphic designer draws the character in a handful of body poses, draws a few extra facial expressions and calls it a day. The writer then writes the dialog and uses these drawings as advanced smileys at the end of each line sentence. It's more effective than it may sound here and gets the job done. Aside one or two quirks (Monika has one forward lurching pose that's just stupid) it works fairly well.

Screenshot - 1_2_2018 , 7_11_54 AM.png

Music and sounds are meh at best. Most of the time it's a happy synthesizer pop tune. Works with the pink environment and the theme, but at the very least I'd say that it loops too fast. It can just be me, though. I've seen people praise the music.
Then again: that can also be because the soundtrack (and a few extra goodies) are the only way to actually *pay* the developers for their work. In other words: some are rallying for a buycot for this game.

Into the darkness

Most visual novels start out with a bang. Danganronpa and 'The wolf in you' start with someone being killed. Ghost trick with you being killed. 999 with Saw on a sinking ship AND someone being killed. The walking dead starts with almost everyone being killed. DDLC starts with...joining a literature club. So...why is only the last one getting this warning message at the start?

"Sexual content?"

Nope...sorry. It's a good guess, but the game having an (albeit small) erotic undertone isn't the reason. However, I can't talk about it without spoiling things. I'll get to this in a few paragraphs, but for now, it's important to stress that DDLC is a slow boil. You didn't accidentally got a "wimpy version" of the game, and the mature stuff isn't behind a pay wall either. But it's there. So last up for the asking price (zero bucks!) and play DDLC now. Or just click below and ruin the experience for yourself...

Warning: Spoilers inside!


If you ask me, playing (or reading, so you will) DDLC is time well spent. For a free game, the quality is top notch. But I've got to be honest: I can't leave out the "for a free game". As this is a visual novel, the quality of the game first and foremost depends on the quality of the writing. And as much as some love DDLC - I've seen people proclaim this the best visual novel ever - I can't agree to them. The plot is good, but IMHO not brilliant. Visual novels aren't my main preference, but I honestly think Song of Saya and 999 are better on this field. But don't let that discourage you. If you're an adult, have never played a visual novel before and just want to see what it's about, then this is a great entry.
+ A free game that can easily compete with indie's best
+ Pretty engaging if you put your mind to it
+ A solid experience that stays with you after playing it
+ Runs fluent on practically anything
- Choices barely matter
- Pacing could've been handled better
- Not that long (2-3 hours max)
7 Presentation
The game is basically 'what you see is what you get'. The music's passable, the artwork okay. Nothing that really pops out in incredibility value, but there's no negative point at all
4 Gameplay
Face it: you can play this game with one finger. The only real "gamey" element is picking words for a poem, and even that doesn't have a fail state. Note, though, that I would've preferred a "not applicable"...gameplay isn't a part of book reviews either, is it?
8 Lasting Appeal
This 8 is an answer to the question "to which degree does the game stay with you after playing it?". It's good. I've seen others claim this to be even great, and while I think they're overrating it, I can see their stance.
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
Overall something I would suggest to try (one last time: it's free). The time you put into getting into the game will leave you with a decent experience. It may not be what you're used to in a game - let's face it: this IS a niche kind of game - but that doesn't mean it's bad. Perhaps you should just try it?