TRIGGER WARNINGS: This content includes mention of sensitive content.

Indeed, appearances can be deceiving. At first glance, Doki Doki Literature Club! looked like an innocent, romantic game for anime fans. Who would have thought that a simple game would keep me away from my computer for a couple of days? Believe me or not, I still look at my computer screen in fear.

Doki Doki Literature Club! is a free single-player, visual novel developed by Team Salvato. Though it has been a year since the game was first released, Salvato’s unique creation continues to horrify its players to this day. Doki Doki Literature Club! follows the protagonist/player as he joins his school’s literature club after being invited by his childhood friend, Sayori, the club’s vice-president. The protagonist then meets the rest of the members, Yuri, Natsuki and the club’s leader, Monika.

The majority of the game requires the player to make choices that will impact the direction the plot takes. As he progresses in the game, he will build relationships with each one of the characters while taking part in the club’s activities. The choices the player makes throughout the game can lead to three possible endings and a pretty well-hidden secret ending. In addition to holding conversations with the game characters, the protagonist will be capable of creating poems with a list of words that represent three of the four girls in the club which will help to unlock additional scenes for each girl.

Certainly, what first appears to be like a lighthearted, sweet dating simulator, radically changes into a psychological horror game that constantly breaks the fourth wall. The game will suck the player deeper into the game by requiring them to access the game’s files and delete specific ones in order to advance further in the game; the game will take the horror to a higher level by adding and deleting files automatically from the game without the player’s knowledge. And if that doesn’t frighten you enough, then the dark turn that the game takes in Act Two will surely disturb you. Unexpected glitches, freaky sounds, and horrific dialogue will surely make you wonder whether the game is really damaged or something beyond your expectations is about to occur. Eerie, right? The game itself contains themes such as suicide, self-harm, mentions of depression, and graphic images of death which makes the game not suitable for the weak-hearted or those who are easily disturbed.

Though the game has been positively received worldwide earning it a couple of IGN awards such as “Most Innovative Game”, and nominations like “Trending Game of the Year” of 2018, there are certain others that find it to be inappropriate, and even threatening for younger audiences. One father from England, Darren Walmsley, firmly believes that Doki Doki Literature Club! may have contributed to the death of his 15-year-old son, Ben Walmsey this past February. Though there is no clear evidence of whether or not the game was linked to Ben’s passing, parents and authorities from Greater Manchester Police’s Public Protection Division have warned about the risk it represents to children and young people.

Though the game tries hard to hide its true nature to its players, it still warns about its content ahead of playing. Just as the game starts up, a content warning will pop up in the game and alert the player about the content they are about to see throughout the game. Additionally, online stores such as Steam will display in the game’s key information section, another content warning while categorizing the game as a horror genre game. It is easy to say that the warnings are definitely there, the matter is whether the player decides to read them or not.

Doki Doki Literature Club! is a horror game that really gets under your skin. However, if you enjoy the type of game that explores something more than simple jump scares and abandoned asylums and makes you feel uncomfortable, then Doki Doki Literature Club! will definitely be the best horror game you have ever played. If this really doesn’t fit your style, then I recommend staying away from it, unless you plan on disposing your computer afterwards.

Samantha Aguilar Hernandez
Sam is communication major with minors in digital media / video production and marketing. She enjoys watching animated shows and writing about them for the Arts and Entertainment section of The Penmen Press. When she is not working on a new review, Sam can be found in the RadioSNHU booth conducting the first show in Spanish.