Somewhere in Japan, a high school boy walks to school with his childhood friend like he always has. This friend, a cheerful girl named Sayori, invites you to join the school’s literature club, which is filled with pretty girls who are into novels, poetry, and manga. There’s the brash and assertive Natsuki, the shy and timid Yuri, and the kindhearted club president Monika. The boy soon finds that he is growing attached to them, and must sort out his feelings while exploring the magic of the written word.
Welcome to Doki Doki Literature Club, a freeware game by Team Salvato.
This game has a cheery and upbeat atmosphere that captures the slice-of-life anime feel perfectly. The dialogue, though a bit cliche, is charming and warm, taking otherwise cliched characters and giving them a lot of depth that goes beyond mere stereotypes. The game does its best to endear you to each girl and make you care for them.
Its handling of deep issues like depression and self-harm is quite deft for a dating sim. It doesn’t treat them as cheap drama or political virtue signalling, but as genuine problems that your character tries to help the girls work through. It complements the game’s atmosphere expertly, never feeling out of place.
The music is quite expressive and catchy, making for some good listening. Even better, it changes based on the game’s mood, making the gane more immersive than it would otherwise be, showing the developer’s great attention to detail.
The only real criticism is that it starts off a little slow. However, this gentle pacing is the point of the slice-of-life genre, so those who prefer that style will feel right at home.
Best of all, the game costs nothing, so you can get into it right away and choose a girl to romance. Will you hang out with Sayori? Write your way into Yuri’s heart? Make Natsuki’s harshness disappear? Or will you have some alone time with Monika? Play the game and give it a shot. It’s available both on Steam and on the game’s official website.