Throughout my many years of gaming, I’ve encountered a handful of titles that have dared to stray WAY off the tracks and try something a little different. And by “a little different” I mean a LOT in this case. So in this review, let’s take a look at a very unique approach to the visual novel genre with Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
First up, I have to mention that this article will be as short and concise as possible. As there are certain games like this that really should be experienced without much prior knowledge. Though I believe that’s what makes this game so intriguing.
Not Letting The Audience Settle
As this title’s marketed as a dating-sim-meets-horror experience, you’ll be sitting through the game’s initial few hours waiting… And waiting… And waiting some more for something creepy to happen – but the game just won’t give it to you. Then you’ll realise how clever all the initial setup was for Doki Doki’s latter half. Where the tension starts to ramp up considerably and suddenly you’ll wish you could stop playing. But deep down, know that you just can’t. With each scene compelling the player to glare a hole into the screen, analysing every word spoken, every moment that seems off or out of place, every subtle distortion this game throws out… It’s surprisingly addictive!
Doki Doki Literature Club is horror at its finest; not settling on one particular method of scares. But instead, opting to constantly keep its players on their toes, priming them to hard-pivot outta there at a moment’s notice… What makes the atmosphere even more chilling, is the game’s lack of animation. Since the entirety of Literature Club is spent in class, staring at text bubbles, static backgrounds and static character artworks, any subtle or over-the-top change in these elements stands out a like a sore thumb. It’s honestly amazing how well these horror concepts work in a small-scale setup like Doki Doki Literature Club Plus.
Even with the music; since most of the tracks are relatively catchy and upbeat, an off-note here or a glitched-out section there can really throw you for a loop, contrasting heavily with the game’s cheerful tone to great effect. The majority of the game is set during the morning and afternoon too, in which scaring someone at all whilst full daylight beams down on them is an impressive feat on its own.
The Mixed Presentation of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
That being said, there’s barely any gameplay to be found in Literature Club, and the horror-themed content wraps up a little too fast for my liking. Also, if you’re not a fan of the visual novel style presentation, you’ll still be forced to sit through hours of cliche, dating-sim dialogue at the start. Nevertheless, it undoubtedly pays off in the end and doesn’t make the great writing and story any less engaging.
I’m not gonna talk about the characters in this review, because they’re best left for the player to discover. But the seemingly trivial interactions with the 4 main girls hold a much deeper subtext once the player discovers what’s truly happening. However, there are multiple endings to discover that’ll reveal new insights into the cast. Although it can be a bit confusing to figure out what you’re actually supposed to do, especially when it comes to the true ending. Look, I might’ve missed the memo, (that’s definitely a possibility) but there’s a specific type of thinking required at certain points of the game which’ll most likely fly over a few players’ heads.
What’s New in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!?
Now let’s go through some of the Plus! features. There are six new side stories about how the members of the Literature Club became friends, along with new HD visuals and 13 new tracks exclusively made for the optional content. Plus, Team Salvato have included a built-in music player and gallery, with over a hundred unlockable wallpapers and concept art. They’ve even added in some selectable content warnings that’ll alert the player before the more disturbing scenes are about to start.
The 6-hour affair will scare you in all sorts of different ways and leave you rattled well after the credits roll. Which of course, is the sign of a great horror title. The story and characters are engaging, the music is on-point and the new features give veterans a solid excuse to revisit the original narrative. While there is a fair amount of dating sim dialogue to run through at the start, don’t let this style of approach put you off. Literature Club is one of those games that needs to be experienced, at least once.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! thoughtfully subverts your expectations of typical horror tropes. Although unlike The Last Jedi, the flipping of expectations makes the bulk of this visual novel extremely captivating. While there certainly are aspects that detract from the game, it’s just one of those experiences that need to be ticked off your bucket list.
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