I give this deceptively cute slice-of-life/psychological horror visual novel...an 81/100!
The thing about visual novels is that although they're mainly point-and-click games that don't require much in the way of actual gameplay, they actually open themselves to a lot of creative potential and can be used to tell all kinds of stories, just like any other medium. Lots of people think they're just limited to eroges and harem stories, but recently that stereotype has started to die out once people began to make their own visual novels, both indie developers and professionals. The first one I was really introduced to was the Ace Attorney series back in 2008/2009, which was still fairly different from other visual novels at the time. As I got older, I started playing more of them as they became available to me. To be honest, I never even knew Doki Doki Literature Club even existed until a voice actor I followed on YouTube did a let's play of it a few years ago with other fellow voice actors providing mock voice acting for the characters. Unfortunately, that let's play has been taken down, which stinks because it introduced me to voice actors I would later come to love. But it did entice me to play Doki Doki Literature Club, and while I wouldn't consider it to be one of the absolute best visual novels out there, I think it does have a lot to offer. Note: this review covers the main game, but will also mention the updated re-release, Doki Doki Literature Club Plus, and the various new additions it includes, which influenced my rating.
At first, it plays out like a typical harem anime game: You play as a male main character whose childhood friend Sayori forces you to join the school's literature club. Its members consist of Sayori, said childhood friend and a bubbly ray of sunshine; Natsuki, the pink haired tsundere with a sour attitude; Yuri, a shy girl who loves horror and fantasy novels; and the beautiful, composed club president Monika. If this were your regular visual novel, you would choose from one of the four girls and pursue their storyline. If you play your cards right, you may even experience romance with them. But halfway through the game, it changes genres completely, turning into a psychological horror that relies heavily on intentional glitches, breaking the fourth wall, tinkering with the game's actual files, creepy imagery, and exploring the idea of finding out that your entire world and existence is little more than a fabrication and how someone deals with this knowledge.
So yeah, this is one of those games that starts out as being one thing, then really changing things up in the second half. I won't spoil the twists that make this happen, but I will discuss some aspects in detail to provide some degree of context.
(more to come soon)