Don’t Knock Twice is a first-person horror game, based on the film of the same name that was released last year. The story sees you take the role of Jess, a mother who had to give away her child at a young age but is now hoping to reconnect with her. Your daughter, Chloe, is in a bit of a pickle with some paranormal forces and you decide to try and save her. The film wasn’t received too favourably from viewers and critics alike and, unfortunately, it seems the same has to be said about the game too.
The gameplay mostly consists of walking around a creepy house (you know the sort – the ones with dark corridors and blood on the walls that instantly tell you to run the other way). You’ll soon discover that in order to find your daughter you’ll need to find a number of mysterious, seemingly possessed items with the power to summon a witch who wants to murder you or your child (or both). Great! As you walk around you’ll need to interact with items to progress – clues to the story are written on the back of photographs (which works in a very similar way to games such as Until Dawn) and you’ll sometimes find yourself needing to use an axe or make-shift flamethrower to get through broken parts of the house.
Throughout your journey you will receive occasional text messages from your daughter; this is usually to provide hints on where to go next but sometimes just serves to explain the plot a little and flesh out the relationship. These texts were the first of several encouraging signs for the game early on – when you receive one the controller vibrates, along with a phone vibration sound effect coming from the game itself. Every time the controller buzzes you’ll get a short burst of adrenaline and fear - it works really well.
In fact, early on in the game everything seems relatively promising. It has everything you would expect from a horror game: ridiculously dark surroundings (which you can alter if necessary) meaning that you can’t see into the corners of a room; deadly silence followed by mysterious tapping sounds and odd, unfathomable noises; the occasional jump scare to really get the blood flowing; it’s all there. We spent the first 15 minutes or so wanting to cower away behind a blanket, edging towards doors and empty corridors with about as much purpose and conviction as a tortoise doing a marathon.
The problem arises when you have had a little time to get used to your surroundings and realise that nothing ever really changes. After the initial tension it is too easy to calm down; it isn’t long before you figure out what you need to do and how to go about doing it and, as soon as you start to know your way around the house, you’ll be sprinting from room to room without a care in the world. The best horror games make you fearful of everything – even the places you’ve already been before – but here it all starts to become a bit too familiar.
Unfortunately, this is only the start of the bad news; there are several issues with the game that result in a slightly frustrating experience overall. For starters the controls are far from perfect; there is a cursor in the middle of the screen that indicates what you are looking at directly at any given time – essentially meaning that you can interact with it – but it is so small that often you’ll spend five seconds or so just trying to accurately line it up with your desired object. Also, the button mapping seems slightly odd – you use ‘ZR’ to pick up an item (such as an axe), with the ‘R’ button being set aside for actually using that item. The triggers seem like such a natural fit for using a weapon (and usually are for that purpose), but if you press ‘ZR’ again whilst holding the axe you’ll just drop it, which is no good to anyone.
This brings us on to the next problem; dropping the axe can be an incredibly annoying ordeal. At one point, whilst trying to use ‘ZR’ to open a door, we dropped the axe instead and forgot about it, eventually going through the door as planned – several minutes later we needed an axe to progress and couldn’t remember where it was that we dropped it. Eventually we did manage to find it, but it left us screaming for an inventory system to be included for your items, or at least having some actions assigned to anything but the strangely overcrowded ‘ZR’. Another time we accidentally dropped the axe through a locked door (eventually retrieving it by travelling around a different way). Perhaps the less said about that one the better.
On top of all this, the game suffers from occasional frame drops; sometimes spinning around on the spot can cause the image to stutter several times for example. Also, the game’s official website points out that this is a “full length” game – we’re not sure how long they believe a game has to be to become a “full length” experience, but we’d argue that the single hour it takes to complete the entire story probably isn’t it. It also states that you can “interact with almost every object” which, again, doesn’t really line up with the reality of only really being able to open doors, touch key items, and use an axe. Despite its promising introductory moments, the game soon becomes a huge disappointment.
On a platform that is destined to become almost overcrowded with colourful, vibrant, ‘happy’ games, having a burst of horror as an option is very welcome indeed. Unfortunately, this isn’t the game to showcase the genre, nor is it one to showcase games in general. Some promising early moments left us with high hopes for this title – there were times where we felt genuine, edge-of-your-seat fear – but it soon becomes clear that it cannot live up to the standards it is trying to achieve. If you’re looking for a horror fix, maybe wait until something else comes along.