Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! adds some additional features to its unique visual novel subversion, bringing some truly chilling and smart scares.
Doki Doki Literature Club! was a sensation upon its release in 2017. What at first appeared as a cutesy visual novel soon became something much more, with some excellent genre subversions as the game descended into something dark and whip-smart. Now, developer Team Salvato has created an updated version called Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!, complete with plenty of bonus content.
In Doki Doki Literature Club! the player is invited to join the new high school literature club by their childhood friend Sayori. There, they meet the other three club members – Natsuki, Yuri, and Monika – and through writing poems appears to be growing closer towards a budding romance with one of the other club members. However, Doki Doki Literature Club! instead quickly turns into a meta psychological horror.
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Part of the reason why Doki Doki Literature Club! is so successful is that it truly emulates the visual novel dating sim genre. Aside from its initial content warnings the game appears twee from the off thanks to its visual style and score, while its four characters all fit established archetypes, which makes its descent into something entirely different more impactful. It’s a level of delicate design akin to Undertale.
Doki Doki Literature Club! is deliberately basic from a gameplay perspective, with the player only able to click through dialogue, make the odd choice here and there, and take part in small minigames to write poems. This works well within both its visual novel structure and its more horror elements, as the game is able to switch from cosy simplicity through to the feeling of being trapped without agency extremely quickly. Meanwhile, Doki Doki Literature Club! carefully uses repetition of play to build fear, particularly with visual and audio glitches, and manipulation of the game’s soundtrack.
There is a more acerbic note to Doki Doki Literature Club! too, cutting into the sometimes uncomfortable tropes of the romantic visual novel genre. The title undercuts the stereotypical characters that often populate said games, which also helps build the eventual horror steps. Meanwhile, its discussion of mental health is also successful in this regard, deliberately undermining the usual trope of character actions being able to ‘fix’ someone’s mental health issues.
For first time players, Doki Doki Literature Club! Plus will undoubtedly be a surprising and unique experience, but that’s not to say that revisiting players won’t also enjoy it too. The title has a fantastic sense for foreshadowing that returning users will likely spot for the first time, be it through dialogue, through writing poems, or reading the poems that the NPCs create. There’s a craft here that is very impressive, using its visual novel vehicle impressively.
Then, of course, there’s the additional content. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! gives repeat players lots to sink their teeth into, particularly through access to the game’s Side Stories, which cover off some excellent contextual history between the characters. These can be unlocked through playing Doki Doki Literature Club! and therefore pushes the player towards repeat plays, alongside some other unlockable items.
It’s not all perfect, of course. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! adds a hub outside of the main game, which is where the Side Stories can be accessed along with additional content such as music and text files. However, a knock-on effect is that some key narrative components are held within this hub, rather than in the player’s own system files, meaning that there is an unfortunate but inevitable slip in immersion in comparison to the original release, no doubt in part thanks to its console ports.
Overall, though, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! shows that the original game has lost none of its power. Those wishing to visit the game again will find its new content deep enough to warrant a replay, and its excellently-told story will still hold weight with newcomers. Go in spoiler free where possible and enjoy its twists and turns.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and Nintendo Switch. Screen Rant was provided with a PC download code for the purposes of this review.
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