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Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! (PlayStation 5) artwork

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! (PlayStation 5) review

"After School Special"

Scenario: as a student who does nothing but play video games and watch anime all day, what after-school club activity are you most likely to join? Clearly, the Literature Club is... not even close to your first choice. However, through some pleading and the promise of cupcakes, you reluctantly attend a meeting. Eventually, this faceless male protagonist you control in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! agrees to join the club for one main reason: to be surrounded by, in his own words, "...incredibly cute girls!!" Considering this is a visual novel, it's not really a surprising set-up, especially in games that give players the opportunity to be paired up with another character.

Guess what Doki Doki is designed to do?

This initial meeting introduces the principal four characters you'll be chatting with for the duration of the game. In order of appearance, you have the childhood friend Sayori with her cheery persona, loves to eat, was the person to goad you into checking out the club, and also the vice president. Then there's Yuri, tallest of the group, shy, and really loves being engrossed in a good book. After her comes Natsuki, who constantly speaks her mind, hot-tempered, and loves manga. Finally, you have Monika, the president of the club, popular, and appears to be the most levelheaded of the group. Each one is programmed to have a very distinct personality, so players have the likelihood of gravitating towards at least one of them.

The method of choosing which girl to hang out with is interesting, since it actually ties into the club's theme. By suggestion, you have to put together a poem and then present it to other members the next day, and vice versa. However, you don't really make a full poem gameplay-wise, instead selecting one word on a page with ten words, doing so for 20 pages. Such words can range anywhere from "candy" and "frightening," to "heavensent" or "misery," with each selected word pushing you closer to the girl you will chill with in the next club session. How will you know what word goes with which girl? Most of the words usually pair with each girl's personality or their preferences, not to mention there are chibi representations that react to words being picked.

For all intents and purposes, this is the general flow of Doki Doki, which is not too far off with other visual novels of similar substance. Now if you're unaware of what the game is truly about, whether intentionally or not, then this is just the surface level. Underneath the optimistic atmosphere, the upbeat music themes, and the vibrant characters, there seems to be something... off. The devs are doing this purposely, such as certain phrases or sentences possibly having double meanings. But it's executed in such a good way that you sense something is amiss, but you don't exactly get what it's implying; you might be overthinking something when it just might be nothing. Or... was it nothing?

It's not necessarily a secret that there's something lurking within this story either, as the game has two warning screens before you even start the plot, one of which has to be consented to. There's also a very good reason why it has earned an M rating. However, Doki Doki is one of those titles where you get the full "unhinged" experience if you go in knowing as little as possible other than its initial premise. That's not to say the story as a whole falls apart if this one factor gets removed. For instance, the characters you spend time with are legitimately developed outside their basic interests, making them more than one-dimensional goal posts. This in turn makes it so, when certain surprising plot elements come to light, it actually adds layers to the overall story since you got to know these affected characters.

Perhaps the best way to classify the game's narrative without giving anything away is that it's a thriller. There's twists, there's moments of anticipation and surprise, and attempting to hint at what it all means will ruin the experience. You wouldn't want that, because it is quite the experience. That's why if you're genuinely thinking of trying it out, do so without looking stuff up... because you will get spoiled. Considering this review is based on the updated version of the 2017 original, that makes things a little tricky; the company flat out tells you what type of game it is on the PlayStation Store page, on the blurb right before you launch the game, on the back of the physical release, and even on its website. Advert you eyes! And for those curious what the Plus! version entails, you get additional music, a built-in "interface" for easier access to "stuff," and side stories that further develop characters.

But those are just extra goodies to coincide with the core feature, which is in itself a must as a first-hand experience for a story-driven title. Just make sure you take its warnings and M rating seriously, because when Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! hits, it hits hard.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (August 16, 2022)

With Double Dragon Gaiden, it only took me nine months into 2023 to submit a review for a game released in 2023!


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