We’ve reached the point in the life-cycle of virtual reality gaming that certain genres are becoming more prevalent than others. Platformers had their time in the spotlight for past eras in the 80s and 90s and now first-person shooters (with a dash of zombies) are more popular than ever in traditional gaming. On the VR scene though we’re seeing a tug-of-war between the everyday wave shooter and, what I’ll now dub, the “walk around a creepy house and get scared a few times” horror game.
A Chair in a Room: Greenwater was one of the first truly roomscale VR horror titles on HTC Vive last year and we’ve seen lots of horror games since, but recently an obsession with short, bite-sized horror experiences focused on chilling audio cues and jump scares has seen a resurgence. We just posted our review of Paranormal Activity: The Lost Soul a few short weeks ago and now, Don’t Knock Twice is another tie-in to a film property that offers an extremely similar experience.
Don’t Knock Twice is a horror game based on the film of the same name. However, what’s unfortunately unique with this title is that you can actually finish this game more quickly than you could the entire movie. My first playthrough of Don’t Knock Twice clocked in at just under an hour and a half and the movie is listed as having a 93 minute run time. I haven’t seen the film due to the mostly negative reviews, but I get the gist of it from having played the game.
The story centers around a demonic witch that appears when you knock on her door twice. It’s a simple mechanism for calling a spectral horror such as the creature in Don’t Knock Twice and seems to be trying to evoke some of the tension of the likes of Candyman, but mostly falls flat. In the defense of the game’s developer, Wales Interactive, this is mostly an issue with the source material and not so much their delivery of the experience as a horror game.
As far as movie tie-ins go it’s actually quite capable. Tip-toeing around the decrepit manor is visually arresting and the subtle use of lights, shadows, and illusions here and there do a great job of selling the foreboding atmosphere. The end result is a game that asks you to explore your surroundings carefully, but requires that you proceed with caution because jump scares are waiting to startle you. Thankfully they don’t feel overused.
Luckily Don’t Knock Twice is a game that already has both full smooth locomotion using the Vive wand trackpad or Oculus Touch control stick, as well as teleportation movement for those sensitive to motion sickness. On the PSVR version of the game you can play with the DualShock 4, one PS Move controller, or two PS Move controllers — more movement options are reportedly coming to PSVR in an impending patch. So much versatility in how you play and on which platform is a great thing that more games should adopt at launch.
The further inclusion of a non-VR mode is a nice gesture, but it’s so inferior to the VR version it comes off more as a waste of time than anything. If you aren’t playing in VR then you should not play this game at all.
Don’t Knock Twice feels very much like it was conceived by making a checklist of features and ideas, doing just enough to include those core essentials, and then stopping short of delivering much in the way of true horror game inspiration. The versatility of playstyles in and out of VR is commendable, but once you settle on a way to experience it the actual game is over far too soon. While you’re there the scares are good and the atmosphere is rich, but it doesn’t do enough to really break new ground.