I’m not usually into dating simulators; however, Doki Doki Literature Club is probably one of the games that break that exception. It may come across as a cute high school simulator on the surface, but in reality, it’s a psychological horror experience hiding in plain sight that will chill you to the core.
Doki Doki Literature Club came out in 2017 and almost became a cult classic overnight due to its unassuming nature. Now the story is being brought back with new additional content in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! and this time around, it’s also heading to modern consoles with improved HD visuals. I want to emphasise that this experience is not for the faint of heart and explores many difficult subject matters surrounding mental health, unhealthy obsessions and suicide. If you’re someone affected easily by these themes, this is probably a game you should avoid.
Release Date: June 30th, 2021 (PSN) August 31st (Retail)
Developer: Team Salvato
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Availability: PSN, Retail – Buy on Amazon
For those who didn’t play the original game, your childhood friend Sayori keeps bugging you to join an after-school club. You later discover that her ulterior motive is for you to join the literature club. Initially, you are reluctant, as your time is better spent with anime and video games, until you discover that the club consists of four beautiful girls named Sayori, Yuri, Natsuki and Monika. Being the gentleman you are (or chad, depending on what way you look at it), it would be rude to leave all these ladies alone with only books for company. So you take it upon yourself to join the club and its activities even though you’re a bit aliterate.
With the festival coming up, the group decides they can demonstrate the skills of the club through the art of poetry. This is where the main gameplay will appear, as this presents the perfect opportunity for you to romance a girl of interest, as you can pick particular words that will appeal to different girls when writing your poems. Sayori will prefer poems that are direct but bittersweet, Natsuki will favour lighthearted poems, and Yuri will lean towards poems that explore dark themes with nuance.
However, you will soon discover that the pen is mightier than the sword, and whoever you decide to romance will have consequences. It’s best to leave it there as saying anything more would be heading into spoiler territory, but expect many horror elements with graphic depictions to come into play after this point.
Even though I played the game several years ago, nothing prepares you for the events that transpire. So it was nice to be reminded of how cleverly written the dialogue is and how they drop subtle foreshadowing of future events. This atmospheric switch in tone creates a perfect concoction for a truly impactful yet disturbing experience.
The story itself is incredibly short and will take you around three to four hours to complete, depending on what ending you get. Although the chances are you won’t be too happy with the first ending you achieve. This will entice you to play the game differently to achieve different outcomes, and trust me; you’ll be intrigued to see all the possible endings available.
For veteran players, you might be wondering how you’ll achieve some of the conclusions on consoles, as the game gained a reputation back in the day for being somewhat elaborate as you would have to access game files to enable you to accomplish certain endings. This time around, there is an in-game computer desktop where you can quickly access things such as game folders. By no means is this a perfect transfer from PC, as something felt very daunting about accessing computer files that will directly impact the game, but in spirit, it attempts to bridge the gap, and for the most part, it works.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! will have six new linear side stories to explore that are broken into two parts. After you’ve completed all six side stories, one last story will unlock that rounds ups all the events. These new side stories explore how all the characters met one another and how the literature club was formed. As the stories are centred around the past, you will have no choices to make as your character hasn’t entered the scene yet.
When I heard these new side stories were based on the past, I was nervous that the storytelling could perhaps fall into the trap of feeling somewhat forced. However, I’m happy to report that these stories feel authentic to the characters. However, it does have to be said; if you’re looking for any creepy horror undercurrents, you won’t find it. That may sound disappointing, but I found myself not minding this. Because I was so invested in the story and the characters by this point, I rather enjoyed seeing the dialogue exchanges between characters. If anything, it makes the events in the main storyline even more tragic, as you see the characters’ bonds develop and grow.
Altogether, all the new side stories are roughly two to three hours worth of content, which is accompanied by thirteen brand new songs composed by Nikki Kaelar. The new tracks blend into the side stories rather well and keep in line with the narrative’s pacing. You’ll be able to access all these new side stories on the in-game computer desktop after unlocking them by playing through the main game. However, the desktop will also have other unique content, such as a built-in music player where you can listen to the soundtrack at your leisure and over 100+ unlockable images that can then be set as your wallpaper.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is definitely worth departing with your pennies and caters for old and new fans alike. The main story still holds the same impact as the startling contrast between the themes explored crafts a game experience like no other. The new side stories may not embody these parallels, but they add to the overall experience, and seeing these heartwarming moments about how the club came into existence adds an even more sinister undertone to the main story, as words cut deeper than knives
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! PS5, PS4 Review
Overall - Must Play - 9/10
Don’t judge a book by its cover, especially when you’re part of a literature club. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! brings the cult classic back with improved visuals and six enduring side stories that explore the characters’ backdrops. What first may appear as a lighthearted dating simulator will quickly spiral into a psychological horror experience that will leave a lasting impression on anyone who plays it.
- Hiding a horror game behind the facade of a cute dating sim is genius
- New content adds a lot more depth to the cast
- Lots of new content to unlock
- Multiple endings encourage multiple playthroughs
- The game explores many dark themes that certainly won’t be appropriate for everyone
- Some may be disappointed that the new side stories don’t feature any psychological horror elements
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Primary version tested: PS5. Reviewed using PS5.