Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Doki Doki Literature Club

* spoilers *

You are a high school boy uninterested in clubs, but Sayori, the annoying girl who lives next to you and is always running late, ropes you into to attending one meeting of her Literature Club. It only has three existing members, Monika, Yuri, and Natsuki, and they are all very attractive girls. How could you resist joining if only to spend time with them? The gameplay is conventional for a visual novel as you get to know these girls and start to share poetry with them. You have to choose which one to try to impress and choose words for your own poem that would mesh well with their style. It's all going well as you build your relationships and improve your writing skills by workshopping them with the other girls until something horrible happens. You are forced to restart the game without Sayori and without your previous safe files.

* major spoilers after this if you haven't played the game *

The second play through starts with glitched text that should have been Sayori's, glitches out, and then restarts once more. This game plays generally as it did before with some notable changes. Because Sayori was the peacemaker, the other girls are more argumentative and irritable without her. Natsuki seems much more rude than before as Yuri is much more obsessive than before. What is happening with this game? It is revealed that Monika somehow became sentient and is trying to manipulate the game so that you choose her for your romantic relationship. Through most of the game, she isn't even available as a choice, so she manipulates the game script and the other characters' stats to make herself more desirable in comparison.

The game starts out pretty slow with about 2 hours played with everything going as a romantic visual novel would. It does get a little dull because I was there for the horror, not for the conventional aspects. The music during these conventional hours is adorable, cheery, and catchy, although the piano music may mean a little more than it appears. The first indication that something creepy lurks around the corner is the complete absence of music. During those moments of horror, the music transforms from a conventional instrumental soundtrack to an electronic, ambient one with deep pulses, dissonance, and distortion that gives me that sinking feeling in my stomach. The horrific moments are deeply uncomfortable and suspenseful. I found myself constantly guessing what was going to happen and was only right a couple times.

This game has so many meta moments that puts itself in a game genre of its own. Just the fact that your save files are gone as you progress made me uncomfortable because a basic rule of this type of gameplay was broken. Monika herself is unsettling because she knows your name and that you aren't a game character. She also deletes other characters from the game and knows if you're recording her. She seems much too aware for a character in a game. Her sentience and manipulation of the other characters shows that these characters don't really belong in a visual novel game, as shown in a Game Theory video, and hint at a future game by the same company with a completely different plot and world but the same characters. This other Game Theory video shows the crazy amount of easter eggs and information in the character files showing addition clues that take some time and computer knowledge to crack (which I would never be able to do myself). I can't wait for that new game coming out later next year to see how the two games connect and what other craziness is up the creator's sleeve.

Doki Doki Literature Club is a fairly short game that only took me a few hours, but left a lasting impression on me. Depending on your decisions, a variety of endings can happen from a bleak ending where Monika destroys the game to a sweet one where you are thanked for getting to know the girls so well. The amount of theory videos on Youtube is staggering as people have theories about everything from the music to the meanings to the book inside the game to the endings. This game is completely free and well worth your time.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

No comments: