Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! at first seemed like an odd pick to port to consoles, considering the original launched as a free-to-play PC game in 2017 and made heavy use of mechanics you can only find on PC. Thankfully, this updated version was developed with a lot of care and still remains a masterpiece to this day. For this review, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! and focus on how the new content and jump to consoles affects the game. However, this is very much a game that you should go into with as little story knowledge as possible, and this review will have to discuss some details surrounding key moments of the story and overall experience. Consider yourself warned.
Not your average romance story
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! follows your character, an average high school boy, as you navigate the pressures of joining a school club and preparing for the upcoming festival. Coerced into joining a club by your neighbor and childhood friend Sayori, you humor her by attending a meeting of the school’s Literature Club, of which she serves as vice president. In doing so, you come to meet Natsuki, Yuri, and the club’s president Monika, who are collectively the only other members of the club. While you have no real interest in literature, you can’t pass up the chance to hang out with this cast of cute girls, and thus you join the club hoping to eventually romance one of them.
Things take a darker twist later in the game, however. Anyone who plays Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! should take its content warnings at the beginning of the game seriously. New to this version of the game is the option to get a detailed breakdown of the content the game contains (although it necessarily contains spoilers). It also adds the option to turn on content warnings in the middle of the game, indicating sensitive topics as they’re about to come up. This only applies to the major events in the game, so it’s not a perfect system, but it’s as close as you can get given that everyone has different sensitivities to different things. I found it to be largely noninvasive, although it does naturally spoil things that are about to happen. It’s a nice touch for those who need it, but if you don’t, do yourself a favor and ignore it.
During the course of both the main story and side content, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! plays out like a standard visual novel with some extra features included. Outside of following the story, you’ll occasionally be asked to write a poem to share with the girls at the next day’s club meeting. This process consists of selecting a word from a list of 10 randomly generated words. Each word assigns a hidden point value to the girls, which acts as an affection meter of sorts. Do this 20 times, and you’ll wind up with your poem. While you don’t get to see the end result of your efforts in poem form (probably a good thing), this is how you determine which of the girls you’ll spend time with during the next club session, and thus which of their events you get to see. This does play out a bit in the story as well, as favoring one girl over the others can cause your relationships to deteriorate.
Where Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! deviates from most visual novels is in its clever use of file manipulation. After certain story events, you may notice additional files being created or deleted to correspond with where the story is at that moment. Normally, you’d be able to access this via the game’s directory on PC, but obviously, you can’t do that on consoles. To counter this, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! features a virtual machine from which you can access the game, bonus content, file system, and an email client of some sort. For the game’s purposes, anything it does with the files can be accessed from here. While it doesn’t feel the same as actually digging into the game’s directory on a PC, it is the best possible alternative and works just as well.
Speaking of bonus content, there’s a lot to be uncovered here, depending on how detailed you want to get with things. The first major addition to this version of DDLC is the Side Stories. This series of short stories can be unlocked by going down the base game’s different routes. These stories are unrelated to the events of the main game, with each focusing on the budding relationship between two of the four girls in the Literature Club. Each pair gets their own moment to shine, and each story is divided into two parts, with the first setting up some sort of conflict and the second wrapping it up.
I can see why each pair is separated into its own story, but I would’ve preferred they all be lumped together in one package. This is because the stories all tie together to form one cohesive narrative — they’re more like chapters of a single larger story than separate entities entirely. It’s then possible to play these segments out of order and lose out on background information that would make the experience more complete.
That said, these stories are touching and make a nice addition to the main game as they flesh out aspects of the characters that get overlooked normally. Much like the main game, these stories also provide some food for thought, and I came away dwelling on their themes more than I would with most other games. Overall, these stories took me about an hour and a half to get through, and coupled with the 3 hours it took me to get the game’s best ending, my playtime came in around 4.5 hours. That said, my experience with the game definitely brought that time down, so most newcomers could expect 6-8 hours out of the entire package.
Outside of the Side Stories, there’s an entire photo gallery you can unlock via certain actions in the main game. Some will come naturally, while others are a bit more obscure and you’ll have to go out of your way for them (such as picking a specific word in the poem minigame). There’s also a nice little music player that adds songs as you play through the game’s content. Thirteen of these songs come from the main story, while the remainder come from the Side Stories. You can create your own playlist, and once a song gets going, you can exit the music player and have it continue. Not all music players do this, so it’s nice to have as you start poking around the virtual machine more. And if you’re anything like me, you will want to poke around the virtual machine.
If you’re familiar with the original Doki Doki Literature Club, you’ll know that outside of the game’s file manipulation, there’s a whole metagame to be found. Hidden codes and secrets are sprinkled around the game’s files if you know where to look. New secrets can be found in this updated version as well, with all versions having access to the same content. You don’t need to interact with any of this to enjoy the base game and Side Stories though. It’s purely there for those who want to delve deeper into the lore.
Join the club in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
I did experience a few small issues during my time with the game. On occasion, I noticed one song would skip ever so slightly during the main story. It only ever happened in one place, though it did seem fairly consistent. I would also occasionally get a little lag when switching between options on the virtual machine menu. It seemed to happen most often when leaving the picture gallery. The biggest issue I had though was that using the touchscreen to access the menu in either the main story or Side Stories was a little hard because the options are so small. This can easily be circumvented by using the Joy-Con or another controller, so it’s still a pretty small issue all things considered.
That said, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! is nothing short of a masterpiece, and I highly recommend it to anyone who can handle darker content. I’ve yet to play anything quite like it, and even after going through the story five or six times across both the original and updated versions, my love for the game remains as strong as it ever has been. I’m pleasantly surprised that the jump to console didn’t hurt it as much as I thought it would. The system Team Salvato came up with for dealing with those mechanics works well, and while it doesn’t perfectly replicate the original PC experience, it’s probably the best that could’ve come out of this. I also really enjoyed the extra content, especially Side Stories, but I’m not entirely convinced that there’s enough to justify a $15 price tag given that the original game is still free on PC. If you absolutely have to have it on consoles or are an existing fan looking to support the franchise, it’s a small price to pay, but for newcomers or those who are only interested in the new content, it’s a bit of a harder sell.
A review code for Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! was provided by the publisher.