Developer: Wales Interactive
Publisher: Wales Interactive
Release Date: 05/09/2017
Format(s): Playstation VR (Reviewed), HTC Vive, Oculus Rift
You don’t get to see that many video game adaptations of movies these days. In most cases it’s a good thing – I mean, gamers have seen plenty of fantastic movies get horrendous video games released alongside them in the past, so I don’t really think we’ve been missing out on too much.
With the prominence of VR these days though there has come an opportunity for gamers to actually feel like they’re part of a movie. It’s been done with mixed success already, with films like The Martian and Passengers releasing their own VR experiences that allow you to actively play around with things that you’ve seen in the respective movies. Now, British-produced horror film Don’t Knock Twice has got in the action and received a creepy VR tie-in.
Does it actually offer a frightening adventure that’s worth taking part in though? Kind of, but not without a few hiccups along the way.
Don’t Knock Twice puts you in a creepy mansion, with the player witnessing a lot of frightening events occur as they look to save their daughter from the wrath of a mysterious yet malicious Witch. How does the Witch come about? By knocking twice on a peculiarly disturbing door of course, which is the first thing you do in the game. Whilst the story doesn’t go into too much depth at first, there are plenty of things to be found in the environment that clue you in to what’s going on. You’ll receive texts from your daughter too, which helps keep the story progressing seeing as you don’t get to share a lot of up-close interactions with her. It works well for the most part, even if it might be a bit difficult to fully grasp what’s going on at times.
Don’t Knock Twice is based off the movie of the same name, so naturally you’re going to understand a lot more of the story if you’ve seen it. The game doesn’t really go into detail about the turbulent relationship that the main character shares with her daughter (in fact it rarely speaks of their relationship that much at all), whilst in the movie it’s told in a lot of depth with it actually being one of the main elements that’s explored. To really get the most out of the game, the movie is worth watching – it’s actually available on Netflix UK right now, so it’s easily accessible.
You’ll spend your time in Don’t Knock Twice exploring a creepy mansion full of jump scares and eerie activity. The game relies heavily on sending the unexpected your way, with some rooms seemingly normal at first glance but then dishing out some creepy sights when you least expect it. The scares are helped out by some great sound design too, with the Playstation VR headset’s 360-degree audio being perfectly utilised to remind the player that there are plenty of things that go ‘bump in the night’ all around them.
The eerie atmosphere is certainly helped by the darkness of the mansion though. The player is armed with a candle that they’ll use as their main light source. They can use it to light wall-mounted candles to illuminate their path too, but of course, this is a horror game – you just know all the candles are going to be mysteriously blown out at some point just to remind you that you’re meant to be frightened. It’s effective though and just one example of the ways in which Don’t Knock Twice uses clever environment design to help maintain a fear-provoking atmosphere.
One thing that was a little disappointing in Don’t Knock Twice though was the lack of fail states. Whilst a lot of these horror exploration games typically don’t have the player die, it actually quelled the fear factor for me this time around. I was never wary in my approach or worrying that the Witch was going to get me, but rather trudging through and accepting that I was going to be startled by the plethora of jump scares found throughout the mansion. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t really stop the game being frightening because there are some genuine scares to be had, but knowing that these scares weren’t ever going to harm me did alleviate the terror that other VR horror titles like Resident Evil 7 or Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul have offered.
A lot of your time exploring the mansion will be spent simply working out where you need to go. You’ll venture through different rooms, get scared, and then a door would typically open for you. Which door you need to get to isn’t always obvious though, especially during the first half of the game where a lot of them are simply left locked at first. It never felt like there was a consistent path forward, with the player instead having to look for a visual clue or test out all the doors they can find until one just so happens to open. At least there are a few puzzles thrown in to spice things up a bit, though they’re hardly taxing and never force you to think too much.
You’ll use a pair of Move controllers to make your way around the mansion, with Don’t Knock Twice utilising the popular teleportation method that’s common place in VR titles. However, there were a lot of inconsistencies to be found in where exactly you were able to teleport to. The game clearly indicates to you whether or not you can travel somewhere, but there were too many instances where I needed to reach a location only for it to be marked as restricted. The only solution would be to teleport somewhere else and then try and teleport to the required location again from a different angle; not only is it annoying, but it takes you out of the experience a bit too. Alternatively, you could play the game with the Dual Shock controller, but given that you’ll be playing in VR and grabbing at objects it’s a lot more immersive to use the Move Controllers – even if they don’t always work properly.
Don’t Knock Twice isn’t a particularly long game. VR games are known for being quite short and sometimes it can be a good thing, especially since they can be nausea-inducing. However, it took me just over an hour to finish Don’t Knock Twice and that was after being stumped for a while by the game’s lack of direction – I could easily imagine it being finished in around forty minutes by some players. In some cases, a short running time can be forgivable, but with a £15.99 price-point I was hoping for a little bit more here.
You can actually play Don’t Knock Twice outside of VR, but it loses a lot of its atmosphere almost immediately. In fact, a lot of its downfalls are made more obvious as soon as you lose the immersion that VR offers; the locale feels a lot drearier, the jump scares are less frightening, and the lacking puzzle mechanics feel even more tacked-on. You’ve only got to look at other non-VR horror titles like Outlast or Amnesia to realise that Don’t Knock Twice misses the mark quite a lot.
Whilst Don’t Knock Twice offers a fairly competent horror experience for players to plough through, it doesn’t offer the same buzz that similar horror titles in VR have featured thanks to some slightly lacking gameplay mechanics and a sketchy control scheme. I never felt tested by anything that the game threw at me, whilst the fact that it’s never made clear where you need to go ended up feeling more annoying than trivial.
Those who like their creepy experiences will appreciate the eerie atmosphere that Don’t Knock Twice offers, but there have been too many better horror games released on VR headsets for it to really stand out. It’s not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination and it’ll certainly provide some frights, but it’s not one that’ll really blow you from a gameplay perspective.