Let’s cut to the chase – there are loads of FPS horror titles out there, do we really need another? Whether they’re the revamped Resident Evil games or so-called walking simulators, it feels like the genre is oversaturated. Where Do Not Open positions itself is that it combines the principles of an escape room game with a sort of procedural generation, so playing through a second time is not going to give the same experience. It’s an interesting proposition that suggests a different type of puzzle experience, and one that I’m more than willing to give a go – I’m not convinced there are enough escape room games on the market… at least not in VR. Does this manage to find itself a small nook to hide in and give something new, or should you run screaming for the hills instead of opening it up?
At first glance, Do Not Open does indeed bring something slightly different to the table – it starts with some backstory building, a bit of dialogue and some establishing cutscenes, and it’s a tad reminiscent of Silent Hill. Will this be an action horror title, or something more psychological? Without much preamble you awake in a dark room – a basement to be exact – and have to examine the environment, piecing together clues that reveal a way to unlock the door and make it out. Just before you can make a bid for freedom, something starts hammering on the cellar door and you’re forced to hide. The atmosphere starts to build, the tension is palpable… and then it blacks out and you come back to an empty room and have to simply open the door and walk up some stairs. This sort of sums up Do Not Open in the first few minutes: good ideas that miss the mark and lose the immersion through the execution.
What Do Not Open forgot to tell me (and I believe it’s been patched since) is that there’s a monster on the loose in the house you’re trapped in and you have ten minutes to solve the puzzle of the room you’re in before it breaks through the door and comes hunting for you. Each puzzle is based on two unique parts that serve up halves of a key needed to unlock the exit, and solving them successfully lets you get out. Well, I wish it did… what it actually does is lets the monster in and forces you to play cat and mouse so you don’t get smushed. Take too long and the monster will appear; guess incorrectly and your timer gets reduced and the monster will appear; get everything right and make no mistakes and the monster will appear. It’s like the developers wanted to just make a game where you had to creep around a house hiding under tables and in wardrobes so that a demon can’t pull your arms off. The escape room puzzles just seem to be a mild distraction from slowly creeping around a darkened room listening for an inevitable roar to come from behind you, before reawakening to do it all again.
When you do get chance to actually do the puzzles they’re really quite good, and I actually wish they had more stages – except the tilting ball maze one, that can go f&%$ itself. Using combinations of info in the environment and some basic Googling (like for the Morse code alphabet) makes for a good feeling when you solve an enigma. It’s a shame that there are only 5 rooms to work through, as even though the solutions to the rooms change each time, once you know the technique you can fly through. The only pieces that slow the pace down are the physical movement of your character who would lose a race with a snail, and having to hide from the beast roaming the hallways. You’ll see that *thing* a lot by the way, ten minutes solution time sounds like a lot, but it’s not when you’re crawling along, and a single error can shave valuable seconds off the clock. Once I was used to the clatter of its invasion I actually found it was better to get spotted and restart the puzzle rather than trying to creep around and solve it, which takes a fair amount of the tension out of the gameplay.
It’s not that Do Not Open doesn’t have atmosphere and chills – it does, and it builds them quite well through each of the levels – it’s just that it feels like you’re constantly being punished for being too slow, too stupid or too clever. There’s something in Nox Noctis’ game that suggests they’re on to a winner with the escape room format, I would have liked the stalking element to have been reduced or ditched as it just doesn’t have the intended consequence after the first couple of encounters. Maybe it’s because it so clearly has been built for VR that it just doesn’t quite translate to a flat 2D experience, but those who like to have their minds challenged once in a while may want to check it out for the puzzles alone.
A PS5 review copy of Do Not Open was provided by Nox Noctis PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation and PC for around £25.
Latest posts by Matt (see all)
- Best Games of 2022 – Codec Moments’ Verdict – December 30, 2022
- Merry Christmas Everyone! – December 23, 2022
- Jurassic World Evolution 2 – Late Cretaceous Pack – September 21, 2022