Don’t Knock Twice is a first-person horror/puzzle game, based loosely on the 2016 movie of the same name. The game starts in medias res and follows the story of Jess, a guilt-ridden mother trying to deal with the broken relationship she has with her daughter Chloe. Through newspaper clippings, magazines, personal diaries and text messages, it becomes apparent that Jess had to give Chloe up for adoption and that the recent reunion was not a happy one. It also becomes quickly apparent that Chloe, in her anxty teenage rage, has been messing with forces that she shouldn’t have, letting an evil presence into the giant house they both share. As stories go, it’s pretty generic. The collectibles help to pad out the lore but it still falls a little short leading to a somewhat unfulfilling conclusion. I think it’s worth mentioning that I have yet to watch the movie version in an effort to view the game as an isolated story, which may be why I felt the story was lacking.
Don’t Knock Twice looks pretty on the surface and uses light to great effect to create a very gloomy and atmospheric house. When looked at a little closer however, the graphics are very bland in comparison to other titles of a similar ilk and I found a huge lack of textures throughout, making the game seem somewhat dated for a modern console. This is particularly apparent when character models are onscreen towards the end of the game as they look blocky and old fashioned. That being said, the game does fire and embers well and the way light behaves creating shadows and moonbeams helps make the game look a little less dated. Another graphical oddity in my opinion was the use of mirrors and reflective surfaces. It seems like a lot of detail was put into having mirrors and shiny surfaces but these don’t seem to be used for any purpose. This combined with the fact that the player has no reflection at all seems like a very strange choice. Many games cover mirrors or depict them as broken in order to avoid this but Don’t Knock Twice seems to go to great effort to include them but does nothing with them, and I found the lack of a reflection an unnecessary irritation.
In terms of gameplay, Don’t Knock Twice is a walking sim through and through. It plays like any other walking sim and it is very apparent from the start that nothing is going to attack you which takes some of the potency out of the experience. As a walking sim, Don’t Knock Twice does however manage to be creepy throughout using subtlety rather than monsters to unnerve the player. The usual jump-scares are there and I admit, they managed to get me once or twice, but it’s the subtle changes throughout the house that kept me engaged. The house itself is a small area and you will find yourself visiting the same rooms multiple times and each time, minor changes are used to induce fear. This could be footprints, an ominous message on the wall, the view from a window not being what it should, or defaced paintings. In my opinion, these were much more successful at inducing fear than the relatively predictable jump-scares that are often overused in this type of game.
The game itself is very very linear, almost walking you through each area step-by-step and the puzzles used to break up the story are disappointing. The game uses a knocking sound to give hints to the player, the louder the knocking, the closer to your objective you are which really helps to ramp up the tension. This mechanic is sadly underused and most of the puzzles are so obvious, it isn’t useful at all. One puzzle that impressed me involved following the knocking to a rattling faucet which is used to steam up a mirror and receive a message to continue the story. This felt like a very clever puzzle but unfortunately, there are no others like it which seems like a waste of potential. The game does break away from the linearity towards the end slightly when an axe can be used to hack door handles off and open any door, but by that point, it all feels a little redundant.
As well as a standard mode, Don’t Knock Twice is also compatible with PlayStation VR which actually works very well. Walking sims are almost made for VR and Don’t Knock Twice feels much more immersive when in VR mode. The textures don’t look quite as bad and I noticed more creepy additions that were somehow invisible to me when playing in normal mode. The controls worked well enough although due to the use of a few buttons were a little clunky regardless. I found myself swearing more than once when trying to open a door or move a switch but accidentally dropping my axe, sometimes out of reach.
Don’t Knock Twice is creepy while it lasts but does very little that hasn’t been done before. It is much more suited to VR to truly feel immersed and somehow seems to have more small details that add to the experience. Due to the length being very short, I was able to complete it 3 times in less time than it would have taken to watch the original film, so based on this, I would only recommend picking it up if you are able to play in VR.
Don’t knock twice does nothing new for the genre but has it’s creepy moments. A miss in normal mode but worth a look if you have VR.