While it seems light and friendly at first, the dark twists to this game's story make for a disturbing bait and switch, with mature themes that will frustrate and upset many gamers. Doki Doki Literature Club! is meant to seem like just another dating simulator packaged as a visual novel. Both types of games are popular in Japan (though they haven't caught on as widely elsewhere), and this one uses their typical innocence as a Trojan horse to tease, probe, and finally introduce a variety of heavy themes. The points the game raises are all open to interpretation: the roles we play in relationships, how gaming and the internet have affected our relationship with consuming information, and the willingness players have to go along with clunky stories as long as other elements satisfy their game experience.
Doki Doki tries to force players' expectations to be continually shattered, shifted, and questioned. Unfortunately, there aren't many opportunities here for interacting aside from clicking, clicking, clicking to the next text box. Once Doki Doki has gotten to its grand finale, you're left staring at a static screen with one character staring you in the eye for literally an hour and a half. The first hour is meant to be similarly trying, with its dopey dialogue and bright colors. It's only after the game's twists start playing out that you realize all the dialogue has two or even three meanings, and glitches wreak havoc, pointing out differences in characters' behavior or intentions. Finally, a clear amount of deception is woven into the game; before you even click start, it warns you repeatedly that it's "not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed." You may think it's a joke, but those are probably the most sincere words in the game. While the concept behind Doki Doki is interesting, unfortunately its execution (six hours of clicking) isn't as engaging. And the bait-and-switch storyline has caught many players by unpleasant surprise.