What is the easiest way to scare somebody? Is it to play on primal fears, slowly building tension until the audience can’t take it anymore and then ratchet up that tension a little more? Nah, it’s really just yelling “BOO!” at them several times and calling it a day. This is the state the mainstream horror genre is in both film and games. There are many more “haunted house simulators” For every Outlast or Silent Hill. Furthermore, they’re designed to shuffle players from one hollow scare to another. Designed with a dark and foreboding atmosphere, Don’t Knock Twice is slightly above the shovel ware on Steam which are basically longer versions of “Screamer” YouTube videos.
But the question remains, is it any good? Furthermore does Don’t Knock Twice elevate itself into the pantheon of classic horror games? Or is it destined to be just another game in the mass grave of forgotten horror? Let’s put our Adult Pants on and find out.
Story: Baba Yaga? Is this a John Wick Prequel?
In the lore, Baba Yaga is a demonic entity which gives someone their heart’s desire in exchange for sacrificing people. If the person reneges on the deal, then Baba Yaga comes for the debtor’s firstborn child unless the person either tricks someone into doing something truly evil or kills them self. Also something about a goat headed creature or maybe not? At least that’s the story told through diary entries.
Diary entries and audio logs can be used to great effect to allow a world to feel more fleshed out for players who desire that (e.g. Bioshock) deepening the lore past what is needed to tell a story. Don’t Knock Twice takes the Destiny route and locks almost all of the story behind these easily missable notes and diary entries. In addition, this unfortunately keeps the player from ever developing an emotional connection to the story which is important for true horror. The audience needs a reason to care about the character’s life or death to feel scared for their safety. This never happens in Don’t Knock Twice – leading to a thinly veiled point a to b with doors randomly closing and locking or thunder.
Gameplay: More Walking Simulator than Horror
Don’t Knock Twice is a first person horror game. There is no combat, the closest the player gets is using an axe to break down doors or wooden walls. In non-combat horror games, the tension usually comes from the cat and mouse hide and seek gameplay. There is none of that here. There are a few very rudimentary puzzles which after the first one, just becomes a game of “where did I see that?”
The game can be beat in anywhere from 1-2 hours depending how long it takes you to intuit what the game is wants you to do. Most of the time is spent entering a room, picking up objects or pulling on doors until the right thing is activated, there is some sort of scary-type horror sound so the player knows it’s time to fumble around for the next set-piece. There is no challenge, no danger for the player – I’m pretty sure it is impossible to die.
Opening doors/picking up objects will cause you to drop your axe or candle taped to a hairspray can (flamethrower?) if the player hasn’t aimed just right at the object. This leads to the player dropping the axe (which is what will be used most often) and then fumbling for it later only to drop it again when the player tries to open a door. This system may have been designed with VR and motion controllers in mind.
VR Speculation: Don’t Knock Twice 3-D
Full disclosure: I played this on a PlayStation 4 with no VR.
A lot of my gripes are based on not playing this in VR. Some of the gameplay things I talked about were probably designed for two handed motion control like the PlayStation Move or HTC Vive, because controlling things with both hands feels more natural. Immersion in the world and the jump scares are probably easier with a VR headset than the conventional TV and Dual Shock scheme.
Graphics/Atmosphere: It was a Dark and Stormy Night
Don’t Knock Twice is a game with some great atmosphere. The house is sufficiently old and dilapidated. Portions of it look like nobody has entered this area in decades. The power is out, so the player has to rely on candle light to illuminate just slightly ahead conveying a sense of isolation and a demonic influence waiting just around the corner. The basement and sealed off areas have seen better years. Other parts of the house convey an opulence expected by a house of this size with plenty of fire places, a state of the art kitchen, and sizable bedrooms. This juxtapositions help to give the player a sense that something just isn’t right.
This is all conveyed with competent graphics. The lighting effects are all top notch and the rooms are designed to be dissimilar enough that the player never feels lost.
Don’t Knock Twice is a perfect example showing that great atmosphere alone doesn’t make a great game. Imagine if Silent Hill 2 didn’t have the great puzzles or the psychological horror. It would not be the classic it is today. Don’t Knock Twice has great atmosphere, but boring puzzles (if you want to call them puzzles) and non-existent gameplay. This leaves the game just a shell that’s easy to look at, but nothing else (but frustration).
Performance: The Most Horrific Part
Ok. Story time! I did not beat this game, I watched the ending on YouTube. I know for some people this may be a cardinal sin that destroys any credibility I may have. To my credit, I got to the end where the game stopped letting me turn. The last action that the player is tasked with after being trapped in a cage is to turn around and grab an axe to bash your way out. Unfortunately, this axe is behind the player which I was unable to turn around. “Just reload the save!” I hear some of you saying. Don’t Knock Twice has no save system, expecting players to play the whole thing over.
There were a few other bugs that I caught while playing mostly some graphical glitches, but one involving an item getting stuck in a window, luckily this didn’t hinder any progress.
The frame rate stayed stable the whole time, no slowdown in sight. I was thankful for that since adding slowdown to the game may have been a straw that broke the camel’s back long before the game decided to stop my progress.
Sound: That’s Kinda…*silence*
Sound effects are very strangely implemented in Don’t Knock Twice. There’s a weird tendency to just stop playing. Several times during my play through, one of the horror-type sound effects (doors closing, footsteps, etc.) would just stop in the middle of playing. One time there was some music playing which stopped abruptly leaving silence in its wake that was obviously supposed to still have sound. It’s like the soundtrack just gives up.
When the sound does work, it’s used effectively in some places, the thunder being used sparingly is a good example. I jumped a little most of the time when it happened. There is also a squishy sound that plays occasionally that unsettled me. Other sound effects are overused and become expected, like knocking that just plays and plays until the right trigger is found (knocking more than twice is ok?). It’s just a mixed bag that leaves players rolling their eyes more often than not.
Value: The Gods Must be Crazy
For the budget minded gamer, Don’t Knock Twice doesn’t pose a very good value for the content it offers. There is 60-90 minutes of gameplay here with little to no replay value. There are collectibles and pretty easy trophies to get, but most players are unlikely to find them interesting.
At least it’s priced reasonably, right?
Wait, wait. $39.99? Maybe there’s a misplaced decimal point.
*Checks Bing and Yahoo*
Nope. It’s $39.99 everywhere. This isn’t even a deluxe edition (there is none). This game with one game mode and 60-90 minutes of gameplay is forty bucks? This may have not been such a bad price if there were a few more modes of gameplay and maybe the movie it’s based on as an unlockable for getting all the collectibles or something. It may be a good price for gamers who are going to make all of their friends play this in VR, but I’m not going to recommend buying it until it’s on sale at a deep discount. If you need your Don’t Knock Twice fix now, the movie is probably pretty cheap now.
An Interactive Blumhouse Film
Don’t Knock Twice is a frustrating mess. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen before. If you want a first-person non-combat horror game go for the Amnesia series. For VR users wanting to get their scary fix, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a better use of time. The graphics and atmosphere are fine; there are a few scares to be found also. For horror fans with $39.99 burning a hole in their pockets can find many better uses of their time. A good representation of Don’t Knock Twice is a cheap chocolate shell that screams “BOO!” when it’s cracked.
What do you think? Have you played Don’t Knock Twice? (If not, snag it Here!)What did you think? Let us know in the comments or Facebook! We want to hear from you!
- THE GOOD
- Graphics are Decent
- Great atmosphere
- Hard to get lost
- THE BAD
- 60-90 minutes of gameplay
- Boring puzzles
- No hint of what the player’s goals are
- Buggy mess
- Sounds are annoying more than scary
- $39.99 is an exhorbitant price
Don’t Knock Twice is a frustrating mess. There’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen before. If you want a first-person non-combat horror game go for the Amnesia series. For VR users wanting to get their scary fix, Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a better use of time. The graphics and atmosphere are fine; there are a few scares to be found also. For horror fans with $39.99 burning a hole in their pockets can find many better uses of their time.