Gaming

Doki Doki Literature Club!: A Surprisingly Subversive and Disturbing Horror Game

Delving Into the Unsettling World of Doki Doki Literature Club!

Doki Doki Literature Club! presents itself as a charming anime dating sim. However, beneath its adorable facade lies a psychological horror experience that’s as subversive as it is unsettling. With its unique approach to horror, this game manages to shatter your sense of normalcy and manipulate your emotions like a master puppeteer.

Unveiling the Unexpected: A Game That Defies Expectations

I decided to dive into Doki Doki Literature Club! on Halloween, fully aware that it was a horror game. Little did I know just how it would deliver its scares until I experienced it firsthand. Creator Dan Salvato, in an interview with Kotaku, explained that he aimed to create fear through discomfort rather than gory visuals. And Doki Doki Literature Club! certainly lives up to his vision, expertly establishing a familiar setting only to strip it away from players. It’s a game that pulls you in with a false sense of security while warning you to tread carefully through its dialogue.

A Seemingly Ordinary Romance Takes a Dark Turn

ddlc members talk about club

As the game unfolds, Doki Doki Literature Club! initially follows the tropes of a typical high school romance. Playing as a plain male protagonist seeking excitement in his mundane life, you find yourself entangled in the Literature Club, filled with charming girls. Naturally, you view this as an opportunity to explore more than just literature.

To win over specific characters, players compose poems using carefully selected words that resonate with each girl’s preferences. For example, Yuri, an introverted bookworm, appreciates evocative imagery in her poems, so words like “starscape” strike a chord with her. On the other hand, Sayori responds to romantic words like “daydream.” Depending on which girl is captivated by your poems, you witness different cutscenes that delve into their personalities. You even have the chance to make choices during festival preparations and navigate club disputes. However, all of these choices become inconsequential once the game takes a bloody turn.

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how to write poems in ddlc

The conclusion of the first act shatters the illusion of control: your choices no longer matter. As the first character meets a tragic fate, they reappear as glitchy abominations on the title screen. All your saved progress vanishes, leaving you without the option to redo your decisions. If you start a new game, you’re presented with a rewritten premise that excludes the deceased character. The game subtly reveals that it won’t adhere to your expectations, leaving you to ponder the depths of its deception. It truly makes you think, “Well, they had me fooled in the beginning.”

Characters Unhinged: A Disturbing Twist on Familiar Personalities

natsuki confiding in protagonist

The unsettling nature of Doki Doki Literature Club! goes beyond its mechanics; it seeps into the behavior of its characters. By the end of the first act, players have enough insight into the characters’ personalities to expect certain consistent traits. Even within the game, the characters themselves acknowledge that they don’t feel like their usual selves and that something is amiss. The subtle deviations from their normal behavior create an atmosphere of uncertainty, making it difficult to anticipate what will happen next or who will become the next victim.

Though I didn’t approach Doki Doki Literature Club! completely blind, I still felt a sense of dread with each new text box during the second act. Subtle changes in facial expressions and distorted black text bubbles hinted at the upcoming surprises. Just when I thought the tension had subsided, the game would throw me back onto an emotional roller coaster once again.

Sayori talking to Monika

A Fluffy Dating Sim Turned Dreadful Nightmare

Doki Doki Literature Club! subverts the expectations of a lighthearted dating sim by transforming it into a harrowing high school horror story, where even your closest friends meet grim fates. It forces you to question your choices while simultaneously limiting your agency. If a game could have a mental breakdown, this would be it. And that’s precisely what makes it so terrifying.

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Doki Doki Literature Club! is undoubtedly one of the finest free PC games available, offering an unforgettable and thought-provoking experience. Additionally, an expansion is available for purchase on multiple platforms. I highly recommend it to those seeking a horror game that defies conventions. However, please note that it is not suitable for children or individuals easily disturbed by unsettling content.

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  • We played Tribeca Fest’s 2023 game selections and walked away amazed

OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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