Saturday, March 17, 2018

A few thoughts on Doki Doki Literature Club

If you want to get me excited about a game, tell me it's short.

It has to be "good," too, of course. But short is right up there in terms of importance when I'm considering which games to play these days.

That's not to say I decided to download and play Doki Doki Literature Club solely because someone told me it's short. I also liked that it's a visual novel--a gaming genre I've enjoyed quite a bit over the last few years. (See my write-ups on 999, Hakuoki, Hotel Dusk, Sweet Fuse, and VA-11 HALL-A for proof.)

What intrigued me most about this free PC game, though, was that it's known for being weird--even a bit (or a lot) freaky.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I played through the first hour or so of Doki Doki Literature Club and found it to be fairly typical, if a bit cheap in terms of production values, as far as visual novels are concerned.

OK, so maybe "typical" isn't the right word to use here. After all, a couple of the protagonist's handful of apparent love interests definitely made me a bit uncomfortable--and not in the comparably wholesome way most potential paramours do in these kinds of games.

Following a rather by-the-numbers opening salvo, during which one of the above-mentioned ladies (a neighbor and friend) twists your arm into joining the eponymous literature club, the atmosphere of this game slowly veers toward the sinister.

Even then, though, it never goes far beyond feeling "off," which makes the shocking twist that pops up almost out of nowhere all the more dramatic.

And after that? Woof. Buckle up, kids; the remainder of Doki Doki Literature Club is a bumpy ride of eye-opening situations and conversations.

To be honest, I didn't find the overall experience as enthralling as many others have, but it certainly didn't bore me. Actually, I take that back; it did bore me for a while. The first half drags on a little too long, if you ask me. Still, I couldn't help but appreciate how that imbued the game with a sort of mounting tension that otherwise might not exist.

Specifically, although Doki Doki Literature Club makes it clear right from the start that you're going to encounter some crazy shit at one point or another (hence the regular warnings that the game is "not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed"), it keeps the "when" a mystery right until the end.

Does this "twist" and all that comes after it make up for the game's less than thrilling first few hours? Not entirely, in my opinion. Thankfully, that doesn't really matter. Doki Doki Literature Club is free, after all, which makes it hard to complain about such things. Plus, the overall experience is enjoyable enough that it's easy to overlook the title's handful of missteps and shortcomings.

Have any of you completed Doki Doki Literature Club? If so, what are your thoughts on it?

Download: Doki Doki Literature Club

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