System: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch (VR: PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive)
Developer & Publisher: Wales Interactive | Reviewed On: PS4 & PSVR
Released in 2016, Don’t Knock Twice is a Welsh horror film which, like England in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, didn’t do as well as expected. It featured a story about a mother trying to rekindle her broken relationship with her daughter, who went into care as a result of her mother’s drug addiction. Unfortunately, this was cast aside in favour of paranormal clichés involving an entity of Slavic folklore; acting like a shiny Charizard using Fire Spin to engulf whatever intriguing plot it could’ve offered.
In my search for a new horror game a few months back, I noticed this entry popped up. The name felt familiar & it took me a moment to realise that this game was an adaptation of the movie. Plus it had VR compatibility; always a nice prospect. Developed by Wales Interactive, who have released a number of full-motion video games such as The Bunker & Last Shift, I forego mixed opinion on their back catalogue & decided to give the game a shot. The opportunity to be in the house of supernatural activity was too promising to ignore.
Will this be a door worthy of entry or one you should walk away from? Or will it slam straight in your face? Best pre-warn your local health facility as we take a look at the 2017 video game based off the movie of the same name; Don’t Knock Twice.
The story of the game is loosely based off the film’s plot. You play as Jess, a mother currently at home with her estranged daughter, Chloe. Following Chloe’s berating of her mother via text messages, strange events begin to occur in the house. We learn that a demonic witch wishes to steal Chloe away from her mother & you are tasked with trying to uncover the mystery of this entity, to prevent them from taking your daughter’s life.
Further details of the plot are largely uncovered through items around the house & text messages sent by Chloe during this ordeal, giving you clues & her perspective throughout. I will give the game some credit, as it does add some new content that coincides with the film, which I thought was a nice touch of integrity. As the story progresses, it does maintain an unnerving aura throughout & will keep you on edge. The jump scares were good; some just give me a little jolt & a couple of them did give me a good spook.
What really drives this game forward is the immersive nature of the house. Its large grounds are a wide playground, set within a modern household with classic elements such as its display of vintage portraits & artwork (that will eventually change) with candles that can be manually lit in most sections. Unfortunately, the nature of the game’s plot dissolves the potential the house could’ve provided & doesn’t really promote any reason to explore, with doors locked until you reach required stages in its plot. The house’s dimly lit settings does create a delightfully creepy atmosphere, perfect for sudden scares & building suspense.
In terms of gameplay, your primary task is to locate 5 key items that are required to advance to the game’s end sequence. Throughout, there are minor room puzzles to solve in certain rooms in order to advance to others, but majority of these didn’t really feel challenging; they were just “use this object here” or “uncover this using this”, which was disappointing. Controls felt a bit clunky at times, which did cause the odd moment of frustration. You do have the ability to pick-up items around the house, even shooting some hoops in the garden, although they weren’t great as the mechanics are primarily there to pick up items & not to launch them, without a damage mechanic on the more fragile items.
The game does feature two endings that depend on your actions at a certain time. Unfortunately, these also felt underwhelming . There wasn’t much difference in the endings, apart from a spoiler that I can’t reveal & once you make that split decision, the game ends 20 seconds later anyway. It turns out you must also read a particular note & adhere to its advise, in order to obtain the good ending. Beats me which note this was! Because the overall story felt light already, this regrettably just came off as a negative.
From a presentation perspective, the graphics aren’t too bad. As noted, it delivers a creepy atmosphere with an effective use of lighting. Rooms feel lived in & what you would expect from a 21st century residence. There is a lack of music to help build suspense, but the minor tracks used are what you would expect from a horror production; sharp noises for sudden moments & eerie atmospheric highs for creepy situations. Sound effects were good too, as the amount of times I checked my own phone because the text vibrate noise of the in-game phone kept going off; it was very convincing!
Playing this game in VR, greater immersion is almost always guaranteed & being placed into this house with every going on, it‘s a horror fan’s dream. Unfortunately, it turned into a bit of a nightmare because of its controls. The movement choices include either a teleport mode (where you point to a spot on the floor and push a button to move there) or using the joysticks on a standard controller. The former felt strange; like I was hopping forward like a kangaroo. You also have to use the bumpers to pan in a 90° angle. If you play this game standing up, teleport mode isn’t as bad as using normal controls, which I found to be a bit nauseating. Even sitting down, the game’s view had me practically on the floor, which I had to awkwardly adjust the height settings to try and fix.
Using the Move controllers wasn’t much better. Being able to pick up objects with in-game hands was nice but when you get a text, your phone is holstered to your leg and I often found it troubling trying to grab it, in order to read a message with the vibration noise continuously playing. In the end, it felt uncomfortable & I just opted to play with a standard controller instead, as I felt it was a more preferable means of navigation.
Don’t Knock Twice is a simple horror experience, but an underwhelming game. Clocking-in at over an hour in runtime, it’s a very short journey that provides a good atmosphere, an adequate story but plagued by its basic room puzzles, clunky controls & a heavy reliance on the experience being the sole driver of the plot; making it difficult to recommend. Playing in VR did have a slight positive with its more immersive experience, but was neutralised by its controller issues and settings; especially with the Move controllers. I’ve heard the Switch port is even worse, which doesn’t help the game’s cause.
If you are still intrigued by this, I only recommend that you pick this up when its on sale, as its retail price seems way too steep for what the game offers. I would argue there are other horror titles, at the same price or less, that would provide you with a longer & more fulfilling experience.