Are there Lesbians? No
Your childhood friend convinces you to join the school literature club, and it happens to be full of cute girls!
I didn’t find this game that bad but that’s because I did plenty of research before playing so I knew what I was in for. If you want to play DDLC please please take the content warnings seriously.
Tw: suicide, self-harm, jump-scares, child abuse, horror
A literature club dating sim that turns into a psychological horror? Yes please! I am completely enamoured with this concept and I think the devs did an amazing job pulling me into the world of their game. DDLC starts off like any average dating sim but there is only one ending – a bad end where Sayori, your childhood friend, kills herself. At this point the game ends and you are presented with the title menu. This time however, the game reacts to Sayori’s presence as if she was a glitch – where her image used to be on the splash page is now an amalgamation of the other girls’ sprites. Your save files from your first playthrough are deleted and you are now thrust into a horrific version of the same world, only this one becomes increasingly aware that it’s a game. Your control is slowly taken from you as Monika, the President of the Literature Club takes your choices away so that you can be with her forever inside the game.
To be honest, from reviews I’ve read I was actually expecting to have even less control over this game than I actually did – I was so worried that it wouldn’t let me save at all on the second play through! I’d been so careful to play on a day where I had plenty of time free. If save-points are one of your main worries then fear not! While Act 2 deletes your Act 1 save files, you can still make plenty throughout the second part, and you’ll probably want to because it gets pretty intense! From what I’d read I was prepared for the game to completely take over my computer, but apart from a few mouse control issues in the window the game only really deals in its own files. The loss of mouse control might feel scarier if you’re in full screen but if you’re a wuss like me who played it in a window you can just hold it over a different part of your screen to regain control and mental stability. There are a couple of jump scares throughout the game – some of which are random. Personally I found the first time the characters glitched the most surprising. Even though I was expecting it, it still managed to catch me off guard each time!
Unfortunately, while you can enter the name if your choice at the beginning, throughout the game you play as a guy. This does get flipped on its head a little at the end when Monika reveals she knows it’s a game and that you are therefore not who you say you are (she also explicitly states the she doesn’t know what gender you are), but I still feel like it might have been nice to set the pronouns of your choice, especially as you never see/hear the playable character anyway.
I can understand why the game chose to go a heteronormative route – dating sims are, after all an excessively hetero thing – and I like how DDLC plays with your expectations in that regard. I do also like that once the game breaks down there is an expectation that it’s not only males who are playing. So while I can’t give the game a yes to lesbians, I think it does deal with gender in an interesting way.
One thing I found particularly weird was the character design. Now I have seen a lot of anime in my time but even I was weirded out by the proportions of these girls – their heads were very large and their waists very small!!! At first I didn’t really find any of them particularly “cute” at all, but (and forgive me while I sound like a massive tit) their personalities really shine through and the game invests a fair bit of time in you being able to form emotional connections with them. DDLC is after all, a dating sim first and foremost.
Of course the primary issues DDLC deals with are suicide, depression and self-harm. If you experience these things it is advised that you don’t play. I am of mixed opinions regarding how the game deals with these issues – on one hand it can be quite exploitative and uses suicide and self-harm for shock value, but on the other, it has the capacity to treat the depression of a close friend in quite a candid and thoughtful way.
Overall, DDLC is a fun game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a refreshing take on what is often a terribly misogynistic and heteronormative genre. I think it would be particularly fun to play with another person, even if only so that you can laugh at each other’s reactions!
Doki Doki Literature Club is free to play and you can download it here