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Don't Knock Twice; A Game of Zero Explanation Or Replay Value
Too Little Horror
With few offerings on The Switch in the vein of horror titles, the one year old system has both The Coma and Don't Knock Twice in their E Shop appearing the strongest entries in the category of the games that I love.
While my love affair with video games began in the early days of side scrolling fun in the Mushroom Kingdom, as soon as titles like Castelvania emerged I understood that being scared in games is a very special thing. By the days of Playstation, I was huddled under couch blankets in darkened rooms committing the floor plan of the Resident Evil Spencer Mansion to memory, and finding a true phobia of fog after my true love Silent Hill entered my life. Although I gravitated to Playstation as I got older for my more horror titles, Nintendo stayed in the game with releases of later Resident Evil games and and weird original titles like Zombi U.
Whereas my husband and I got The Switch with the agreement of it being our future/back catalog machine for everything Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda, we felt it only fair to give the system a fair shake at having entries that weren't party games like all the Jackbox titles we quickly downloaded. I had heard about Don't Knock Twice on Steam and decided to give Nintendo a chance to wow me with that its newest hardware could do on a horror game.
I wish Nintendo was given a little more game to actually work with here.
Thinking we had to bypassed some key elements to game after completing in nearly forty-five minutes, my husband took the joy cons in hand and tried his own attempt at the house.
I'm pretty sure we explored every crevice and there was still little more to be found.
Thinking I was missing something, my husband did a quick replay and we came to the same confused conclusion.
Remember How Layers Of Fear Is Great, This Not So Much
I get where Don't Knock Twice was trying to go in a bevy of amazing first person horror that will yet to be released like the ever delayed Allison Road, the phenom that was the cancelled Silent Hills/ P.T, and the ever creepy Layers of Fear that was so good that for a simple point and click first person that asked nothing of the player but to read clues around a dilapidated mansion and open doors, Layers of Fear really got the heart racing. Given these successes, even the revival for its 20th birthday as a franchise, my beloved Resident Evil 7 went first person and more stealth than brawn.
I get where Don't Knock Twice could have stacked up well against its horror genre peers had it followed the simple rules needed for such a simple game dynamic.
From the moment I entered the house in insert-name-of-any-other-franchise-here, I knew my first objective was to find out a little more about my predicament, the surroundings, the rules of how this universe works. Is it supernatural element terrorizing me? Am I being hunted? Can I use tools or craft weapons? What is the purpose that I am here?
Even in the slowest of starts like in Layers Of Fear, I found enough notes around to get that I was crazy painter that maybe caused the death of my family due to my alcoholism and instability. P.T. had enough audio clues from the radio clips to infer who I was and where I was.
The only things given in Don't Knock Twice are a few notes and pictures scattered about that don't really invest in the characters in a way that I feel any sense of story or connection to what is taking place.
Don't Knock Twice gives no sense of connection to the characters of what is taking place in the game.
Don't Play Twice
Don't Knock Twice has a lot of misses on its attempt to derive a horror story in its very short game play.
Two play through and all I understand is that I am the mother, Jessica, who has gotten into ritual magic- it doesn't exactly specify Satanism, but you know how games love to go with any sort of black magic as that sort. Jessica was a once prized sculptor that drifted into addiction and alcoholism from the amount of pills and bottles found around the house and notes of her own self admission. She has a child, Chloe, that she gives up during her addiction and there is one document about where her husband, Ben has testified that Jessica should be allowed to regain custody of their child.
Beyond that we assume that Chloe is back in the home from the strange text messages sent to our cell phone that eventually lead us down to the basement to where the rituals had taken place.
The story also speaks of the Baba Yaga, a folklore witch type that fed on children and implies that somehow Jess, through her ritual practice had called to the demon. Missing posters throughout the house implied that she offered children to it or once it had crossed over the Baba Yaga had been killing nearby children.
The story could have been really compelling...and longer, but that is when Don't Knock Twice stopped trying.
Maybe It is Better In VR? I Hope.
Don't Knock Twice had in interesting idea but then it was dead from the get go. Playing as Jessica, you are never in any danger. There is are few items that you can interact with in the environment: a candle stick to light from various fireplaces, turning off and on things like water and the gas line for the oven, open and or bashing the handles off of doors. You can examine most items like the Nesting Dolls, which I'm still not clear on the second game play if those are just a collectible or if they add anything to the actual game play. There are small puzzles like that repeat like "However do I get through this mash of cobwebs or overgrown shrubs" and feet from you is literally a strange rig of hairspray wired to a candle to act as a makeshift flamethrower. You have several axes that come along in the game but they are not a defense item as nothing ever touches you, just to knock the handles off doors...for some reason.
The lack of puzzles in this game, no real challenge except for finding the combination of a safe that was simple if you read the clue on the back of the photo in the bathroom, this one hour little "gamette" too short to even be considered a real horror game also lacked any real sound design.
Except for the sound of something breaking, no ambient noises except for the occasional rain that really added any atmosphere in the game space.
Nothing was trying to kill me, the path was all but laid out in front of me, and there was no soundtrack to the game. Maybe it was scarier in VR, but I really doubt it.
I thought I had to be missing some key element here so after I finished I tossed my controller to my husband and had him take a go.
Ending, Endings, And Lack Thereof
Maybe the writers on Don't Knock Twice took a sick day when the final script was presented and thought that the game hadn't just come to an abrupt stop after you chase Chloe towards the doorway and are suddenly trapped in the cage with the Baba Yaga grabbing at you.
I defaulted to Reddit and users said this is the pivotal moment of choice if you are going to fight back or accept your fate. Now from things like my sweet Silent Hill how you handle the last conflict in the game, I can't even call this a boss fight in Don't Knock Twice as I was never even tested anywhere in the play through- I can either take the ax that hangs on the cage and chop at the hands attacking me and in hopes somehow save myself and Chloe or there is the Do Nothing model of ending.
I hacked and when that big hag of a face came into mine, suddenly I was transported back to the living room with Chloe dead on the floor in front of me getting the ending credits. There had to be something that I did wrong here. I went back to the area from a continue and this time did nothing where you only get the sounds of a crackling fire and a black screen unable to control anything which users on Reddit confirmed was a glitch that several people had gotten if you choose to do nothing.
So...is Chloe's death the real ending? I searched online and this is all I am coming up. And why does the game allow you to continue from that point for infinite amount of play through if this is the ending every time unless you get the black-screen of death?
The reviews for this game on just about every site I came across call it easily forgettable, a mistake to buy, and mock its inability to keep in the vein of other horror games that are winning gaming right now.
Don't Knock Twice has little too enjoy. It's too short. There's no element of danger, nothing to push on the story that is so lackluster you don't even care if you ever save Chloe. You learn nothing about if Jessica is involved with the other missing children, which was thrown in there just to allow the use of the Baba Yaga as the Big Bad even though it makes no sense why a child eating witch demon thing would be attacking an adult that allowed her to pass into this world.
Don't Knock Twice is a real mess and it lowers my expectations that The Switch is really going to try to get any actual horror titles on its platform.
Playing it twice, was a little too much for a game that warned us in its title that Twice is a little more than you should invest.