This is a very hard review to write. DDLC is not what it appears to be, and it makes a strong effort to warn you of this. Several times before you start a new game you are warned of the disturbing content. Nevertheless, it's best if you go into this game completely blind. If you are reading this and have any intention of playing this game, skip to the final two paragraphs. Also don't look at any of the screenshots.
! *** Click to reveal spoilers *** !Before going into this game I honestly did think it was a visual novel/dating SIM type game, despite the warnings. I thought maybe it touched on more mature themes, but I don't think I could have guessed the final twist. In fact, for the first three hours or so of this game, I was convinced I was correct.
The basic premise of DDLC is you are a high school student whose childhood friend has convinced him to join the Literature Club which already includes three other members. The game starts out very slow in my opinion, and I'm on the fence as to weather or not this is an effective plot device in itself. It almost lulls you into a false sense of security. After a whole lot of standard high school dialog, only a few odd things seemed to have stood out to me. The poems written by the other characters range from normal and straightforward to dark and abstract. The minigame in which you "write" your own poems hints at what's to come pop up with words like "loneliness" and "suicide."
A few days into the narrative, your childhood friend seems to be upset and finally reveals to you that she is suffering from depression. The pace really picks up after this conversation. Quickly things escalate to the point that one of the characters dies. The story restarts, and all your save files are gone, as well as any trace of that character. From here on, glitches and other scary images are scattered throughout the conversations. The characters start acting erratically and you are left feeling like you're in a time loop. Eventually, even the inner monologue of the main character is gone. (You are now the main character.)
Finally, the game completely breaks the fourth wall, referencing the platform your playing on (in my case, Steam) and inviting you to look into the game directory for clues as to what is going on. Even the little blurb from the store page is referenced. To beat the game you have to delete the character's file who trapped you here. The only way to go from there is to the credits and after that you are told you need to reinstall the game because the files are corrupt.
From the conversation about depression on, I was much more interested in the game than the first half and more motivated to finish it. I don't think I could have given my honest opinion without beating the game. The whole set up was well done for the eventual twist and I was honestly taken aback at some of the scenes. I knew this game was going to have a big twist, but I didn't expect it to break the fourth wall and have me poking around in the game files. I wish I had been keeping a closer eye on those the whole time, but maybe I will play it again some time.
I do want to come back to this and think on it more. I feel like the game is trying to make a point about how main characters (often men) are portrayed as irresistible to the group of women around them. In this game, those qualities backfire, and drive the antagonist insane, but at the same time it is revealed the person she was after the whole time is you. There is a deeper message here than even the surface level craziness.
~ no more spoilers ~
I enjoyed the overall presentation of the game. To start it is bright and colorful with upbeat music. The characters all have a variety of expressions throughout their dialogs and their design is cute and well done. I also really liked the subtle shifts in the music, though in the beginning of the game the one song that played most often started to annoy me a little.
In summary, I think this game is definitely worth playing, especially for the low price of zero dollars. You will almost certainly be surprised. The beginning can feel slow, but stick with it, and look for the small details.
PS - I took over 40 screenshots of this game.