Warning: You should NOT play this game if you are easily disturbed by topics such as depression, self harm and / or suicide accompanied by heavy imagery of said topics. You have been warned!
Doki Doki Literature Club is Team Salvato's first game and they have already gotten a big fan base around Doki Doki, all thanks to their originality and concepts that I personally, had never seen in a Visual Novel genre. And this is the sole reason that I decided to pick up this game in the first place, I wasn't disappointed with what I got. And what's best, it's completely free to play and you can find it on steam.
Doki Doki starts off as a slice of life kind of a story, with the main character living a happy, peaceful life even joins a literature club despite not really being interested in any kind of literature besides manga. He starts getting to know the four main girls, Monika, Natsuki, Yuri and Sayori which is the first girl that the player gets to meet in the game, and the first one that shows him the club. After a while things start getting... interesting to say the least.
The game itself is a good, four to five hour read to complete the game and get to the true ending.
Visuals / characters:
This game has a really nice art style that looks smooth, well polished and is just pretty to look at meanwhile you immerse yourself in the story. As you can already tell from the picture above, this game (much like any other visual novel) has an anime art style, and you should be thankful for it if you decide to play the game. This is probably the best style that Team Salvato could have gone for in this game, as having everything be much more realistic would just make the game a lot less bearable. Due to the content of the game itself, which I will expand on a bit later in the review.
Each of the characters look a lot different and are made to appeal to different demographic, personality and visual-wise. Let's take Natsuki, the pink haired girl for example. In the game she is portrayed as a Tsundere personality type. For those of you that don't know the meaning of the word, it basically goes a bit like this "I love you but I won't tell you that I do, I'll just give you small hints instead... idiot". Not to mention she also denies whenever anyone calls her cute. This kind of personality goes well with the pose that she as on the title screen of the game, as she stands there looking at the viewer with her hands on her waist accompanied by a slight blush on her face. There are a lot of people that do like this kind of personality, or even they portray it themselves, especially in the anime community, which already makes her an appealing character for a lot of people. Same thing goes for each of the other characters, there are also other girls, Yuri (black haired girl that is standing the furthest away) and how she acts shy and but does cute things at the same time. Sayori, the brown-ish short haired girl, she almost always acts like the "happy-go-lucky" type of a girl, which once again can be seen in her posture. Last but not least, there is also Monika, the brown, long haired girl that has a pose as if she was inviting the player in. Frankly enough we don't get to know her all too much until we get to a certain point in the game. And even that can be appealing. Speaking of late-game, each of the characters show more and more of themselves as the player progresses, which means that have a lot of depth into them. Sadly enough I can't and don't want to mention it in this segment as it would be spoiling the game too much or would just ruin the experience that this game wants the player to go through.
The first time I launched the game and played it for a couple "minutes" I found myself for longer that I have anticipated to, thanks to the game play and the overall story telling of the game. Doki Doki follows the usual Visual Novel HUD which is just completely filled with happy, positive colours such as pink and white. But it adds a nice little mechanic to the game, "writing" and reading poems". And no, it's not completely pointless, in fact it's a good little mechanic that helps the player get to know more and more about the characters, especially the ones that they want to go for. "Writing" poems consists of choosing one word from a list of around ten words. Each of the words are linked to one of the characters, Natsuki, Yuri and Sayori. Choosing words for a specific character will help the player get on the specific route that they want to go for as the character they were writing for will start liking them a bit more. In return the player can also get to know more about the characters through reading their poems.
Then after that comes the so called "Act 2" of the game. At this point in the game Horror/Psychological horror elements are really starting to kick in and mess around with not only the characters, but the player as well. However, I won't talk about those parts of the game as I don't want to ruin the experience for those who decide to play it.
My personal experience / conclusion:
I would say that my relationship with this game is more of the "Love/Hate" type, due to the fact that I adore how well it was made and how it kept me on the edge of my seat as soon as the horror elements kicked in, all the way through to the true ending of the game. And also the fact how this game completely messes with the player towards the end, but I couldn't talk about it here since it would be too much of a spoiler. On the other hand I hate what has been happening in the actual game (some horror elements) and how the "story" ends.
In the end I really enjoyed and wasn't at all disappointed with the good four to five hour read that this game has provided me. I would go as far as to giving it a perfect ten out of ten score. True, it was disturbing, more than anything else that I've played but it was meant to be that way, it was meant to engage the player and then make them stay with its game mechanics and with how the story progresses.
I highly recommend checking this game out as long as you don't get easily disturbed by the topics that I've mentioned at the start of this review. It is a free to play masterpiece of a game after all, at least in my opinion.