STAFF REVIEW of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus (Xbox One)

Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus Box art I’ve been reviewing long enough that there isn’t much that surprises me anymore. Sure a plot twist here and there will take me by surprise, but it’s quite a rare occurrence. The credits just rolled for Doki Doki Literature Club Plus and the only thing going through my mind is “What the **** did I just play?”. Oddly enough, that’s a huge compliment, as I’ve never quite experienced anything even remotely close to what Doki Doki Literature Club Plus offers.

Developed by Team Salvato, Doki Doki Literature Club originally released back in 2017 but is getting some improvements and additional content, hence the Plus in the title now with this release. I implore you that if you’re going to play Doki Doki Literature Club Plus (DDLC+) to go in completely blind if at all possible, just as I did. If you simply look at the screenshots you would most likely come to the conclusion that this is a basic run of the mill dating sim visual novel, but you would be way off base. Every description you read mentions disturbing content and how it’s a psychological horror experience. I almost didn’t believe them given that the screenshots and trailer don’t hint at this at all. I was so wrong. DDLC has quite a following, and now I see why.

Primarily played as a visual novel, you play as the protagonist who reluctantly gets coerced into joining the Literature Club at your high school, focused on reading and writing poetry. Sayori, your childhood friend, eventually talks you into joining, though you tend to tire from her overall positivity and constant excitement. When you finally make your way to the club for the first time you’re introduced to the other members. Natsuki is the one that tries to act tough but can bake an amazing cupcake. Yuri is very soft spoken and quiet, quite the bookworm and will take some time for her to open up about her thoughts and poetry. Lastly is Monika; just Monika, the President of the Literature Club and will constantly give you hints on how to write better poetry.

As you progress through the story you’ll chat with the girls from the club, learning more about them and their poetry writing styles. This of course will lead to different choices depending on how you decide to write your own poetry, but honestly, this isn’t really where the game starts to take a hold of your attention. As mentioned above, DDLC+ is best experienced if you go in completely blind, so because of this I’m not going to spoil anything to the best of my ability, but this also means many portions of this review are going to be vague and ambiguous, this is on purpose.

If you’ve played the original DDLC you might be wondering what’s new in this Plus edition and if it’s worth a rebuy to experience. Not only have the visuals been upgraded to full HD, there’s also six new side stories that add a couple more hours of content that in quite unique. You’re able to unlock and view more than a hundred images, art, wallpapers, sketches and more. A built in music player that you can play all of your favorite DDLC songs including 13 new unlockable songs. That might not seem like a lot of new content on paper, but I’m simply happy that I now got to experience such a memorable game on my console of choice, as I’ve actually never heard of it beforehand.

The very first warning you get when booting up DDLC+ is “This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed.” There's even an option to receive a warning before the disturbing content happens should you wish. This isn’t going to many any sense for the first two hours or so, as it starts out like any other visual novel, but when things start to ‘happen’, it goes in a completely different direction. I hate even mentioning that there’s a ‘twist’, but I’m not sure how I would feel if I had bought the game expecting a completely run of the mill dating sim visual novel but got ‘this’ instead. If you suffer from depression, anxiety or are easily disturbed, DDLC+ is not suitable for you. Again, I know this reasoning is vague, but it’s warranted.

The first two hours plays out like any other visual novel, having you sit through tons of over the top dialogue as you spam the ‘A’ button to progress each line. I’ll be honest, I was starting to fall asleep during this opening section while playing late at night as it can be a bit of a slog to get through. But then things get... weird to say the least. I normally have a good sense for twists coming, but I didn’t see this one, that’s for sure.

One of the main hooks of the game is how you need to create poetry of your own and then share it with the other girls in the club the next day. To create a poem you’ll be given a page full of different words and you simply choose any one you like. After you choose twenty or so you’re done and the narrative will progress. Depending on your word choices, you’ll notice the chibi avatars for each girl jump up and get excited if it’s a word that they approve of. If you have a keen eye, you’re going to notice that not all the words offered are cheery, bright and something you’d expect from a dating sim game. The girl who liked your poem the most will give you some extra dialogue and scenes with them.

The music and art style are disgustingly cute in the beginning. Everything sounds and appears so cheery, bright and colorful. The hand drawn artwork is fantastic and the soundtrack very memorable and already added to my Spotify playlist. This of course changes, even down to the music when things alter. The cute and cheery feeling in the beginning completely shifts in a different way, making it such a memorable experience, though I do wish the dialogue could have been voiced throughout.

Doki Doki Literature Club Plus isn’t exactly what it looks like on the surface. Again, if at all possible try and go into playing DDLC+ completely blind if you don’t already know anything about it. Like some of the bests twists out there, DDLC+ was just as shocking when you first watch Fight Club or The Sixth Sense, because if you knew their twists beforehand, it wouldn't have been the same memorable experience. DDLC+ is no different and I wish there was some way to experience it for the first time once more.

As a game on its own, DDLC+ not all that exciting when it comes to gameplay nor does anything unique mechanically, but because of how well it's executed it's incredibly memorable and has turned me into a massive fan. There are very few games that stick with me after the credits roll, and even days later, I’m still thinking about DDLC+. While some of the content and imagery may be difficult to take in for some, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus is truly something unique. I had no idea what to expect and got something twisted far beyond anything I would have even guessed. It won’t get out of my head. Welcome to the club and remember, Just Monika.

**Doki Doki Literature Club Plus was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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