Playing through the original Doki Doki Literature Club is a singular experience, unfolding with a dark and twisted magic that cannot be recaptured once set loose. It can be expanded upon, however, enhanced with new stories, structure, and secrets that make this week’s Doki Doki Literature Club Plus a worthy reason to revisit Monika and the girls a dozen or so more times.
If you’re wondering what the hell Doki Doki Literature Club is, great! Stop reading this and grab a copy of today’s enhanced release for the PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X/S, Switch, and PC. All you need to know is that it’s a visual novel-style “dating simulator” with a little something extra. The story follows you, the unseen protagonist, as you join an after-school club at the behest of your childhood friend. To your character’s chagrin, the club is filled with pretty girls who desperately want your attention. Can you craft poems and make the right decisions to win their hearts? Are their hearts worth winning? It gets a little bit dark at points, which might be a bit of an understatement, so proceed with caution. Report back when you’re done so we can revel in your fresh reaction.
As for the rest of you, welcome to Doki Doki Literature Club Plus. It’s everything the original 2017 psychological horror masterpiece is plus a bunch of exciting extras. There’s an expansive gallery of images to be unlocked, a music player that I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time listening to, and cryptic emails between a fictional game development team curious about how the game they’re working on seems to be progressing.
The Plus in Doki Doki Literature Club Plus is much more than a bunch of tacked-on extras. For one, the game has been restructured so some of its more clever mechanics work in a console setting. One of the coolest features of the original release was the ability for you to manipulate the game’s files to affect how the story plays out. Since you can’t drop to a DOS window on your PlayStation, Xbox, or Switch, the developers have created a virtual shell around the original game, a faux operating system that gives you access to a cryptic file system filled with strange text files and scripts.
Choosing the “DDLC” option from the fake operating system’s menu launches into the game proper, complete with content warnings and more content warnings, none of which ever seem to be enough.
While the faux file system gets the job done, allowing you to poke and prod about in the game’s innards, it’s not quite as immersive as the original release, in which you had to delete actual files on your computer’s hard drive in order to affect change. It pulls you out of the experience somewhat, but that’s okay. Doki Doki Literature Club Plus also comes with a series of unlockable side stories crafted to pull you right back in.
Have you ever wondered how the Doki Doki Literature Club was formed? How did Monika, Natsuki, Sayori, and Yuri get together in the first place? What was the club like before your player character came along and fucked everything up? The new side stories included in Doki Doki Literature Club give us insight into the events leading up to the original game, including hints at the various trauma some of the club members might be holding inside.
There are six side stories to unlock plus an epilogue, and unlocking them is pretty straightforward. The main way is to tailor your poems, created in the game’s poem mini-game, to the three specific characters you’re meant to “woo.” The poem game involves choosing 20 words from a large list, each tailored to a specific girl’s interest. I may have cheated a little by googling “Doki Doki Girl Poem Words” to find a list for each character, but I will never admit this.
Playing the game over and over again is the key to unlocking all the special scenes and side stories. Fortunately, like all visual novels, there’s an option to skip previously read text, so subsequent playthroughs go by pretty quickly.
If you’re thinking, “But I played this game dozens of times on PC, there’s nothing more to discover,” know that I played the game dozens of times on PC and I’m nearly at a dozen on the Switch version of Doki Doki Literature Club Plus. This new, definitive release of Team Salvato’s cult classic gives us more reasons to laugh, more reasons to cry, more reasons to stare in abject horror, and most importantly, more reasons to play.