“Doki Doki Literature Club“ is a visual novel created by Team Salvato. It was released on Sept. 22, 2017 in several places such as its own website teamsalvato.com, Steam, and itch.io. While the appearance is bubbly and cute, the game itself is categorized as a psychological horror and is warned to be so on all sites.
Team Salvato is a game development studio formed in 2017 run by the lead director Dan Salvato. Two other members of his team include character artist Satchely and background artist Velinquent.
As stated on their official website, their mission is “Through our games, is to tell stories and express creativity in ways not possible using traditional media. As an interactive art form, games can become a part of your story, as well. Through that, we aim to inspire others.”
Salvato’s inspiration for “Doki Doki Literature Club“ came from “His mixed feelings toward anime, and a fascination for surreal and unsettling experiences.” The project took around two years to complete.
Upon release the game was praised by PC Gamer as “one of the most surprising games of the year” as well as Gita Jackson of Kotaku calling it “a truly special game.” She continues by saying that fans of horror games, “especially ones that really get under your skin,” would possibly enjoy the experience.
The game focuses on the male protagonist who joins his high school’s literature club because of his childhood friend Sayori. Once in the club, the player can interact with Sayori as well as the three other female members.
The cast consists of four memorable characters: Sayori, the bundle of sunshine; Natsuki, who’s cute, yet snide; Yuri, the timid and mysterious one; and Monika, the club president.
Because this game is a visual novel, the majority of the game is simply reading the dialogue between the other characters. Most of the gameplay comes in the form of creating a poem when given a list of words. Certain words correspond with different members of the literature club and will lead to the protagonist going down that specific girl’s route.
These poem mechanics will have an effect on the ending the player receives. More specifically, the choice of dialogue options and the quality of the poems the player writes can lead to alternate scenes or different endings.
In spite of the cute outer shell the game presents, the warning labels plastered everywhere state that this game is not for children, or those easily disturbed, is not to be taken lightly. The game is rather merciless in terms of the content it will show to get its story across, including graphic depictions of violence, self-harm, suicide and blood.
“Doki Doki Literature Club“ also talks about depression and anxiety, as well as abuse, making it clear why the developers take extra caution in warning their possible players in advance to keep people that wish to avoid these topics safe.
All in all, there’s one question that is left to be answered: will you be able to write your way into your favorite club member’s heart?