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‘Please Don’t Touch Anything’ Review: Never Press The Red Button

by Joe Durbin • May 27th, 2016
Platform: Samsung Gear VR (Reviewed) and Oculus Rift
Positives

-Great VR translation of a PC game
-Brilliantly designed
-Memorable endings
-Addictive atmosphere

Negatives

-Obscure puzzle solutions
-Somewhat tedious gameplay loop

There’s nothing more tempting for a child than when an adult tells them not to do something. I particularly remember being lured in by the seductively glowing heat coil on our electric stove. I knew touching it would be painful but some part of my lizard brain just had to try it. What I learned from playing Please Don’t Touch Anything is that even though I’m now an adult myself, that part of my mind is still very much alive.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.58.12 AM

PDTA might be the best example of a virtual reality port currently on the market. Initially developed for PC by indie studio, Escalation Studios in partnership with Four Quarters, the new version on the Samsung Gear VR turns a somewhat interesting 2D puzzler into an atmospheric and affective immersive experience.

The entire adventure takes place in one small room and your only moment of outside interactions come from your never fully seen “coworker.” The most you’ll see of this man is his arm as he waves to you from the door, but your entire job during the game is to fill in for him at his workstation. But his workstation has the power to annihilate and enslave the human race.

PDTA give you no real instructions once your co worker leaves for a “bathroom break.” The monolithic grey console you’re seated before starts off with just a single red button, a “reset” lever, and a screen that appears to be depicting some sort of pixel art version of a major city’s skyline.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.57.16 AM

Is there anything more tempting than a giant red button? You’d push it without a thought but the last thing your coworker said to you before leaving the room was – you guessed it – “don’t touch anything.”

This admonition held me back for all of 15 seconds. That’s as long as I could resist before I mashed the button with all of my might. Boy did it feel good, but all that happened was that a secret panel opened up revealing a switch.

I was delayed briefly once again by my coworker’s warning but that didn’t stop me from flipping that switch with a smile on my face. Suddenly the world turned red, an alarm sounded and I was faced with a choice – press the button again or flip the reset switch. I pressed the button.

What happened next explained immediately why my coworker – who was apparently very occupied in that bathroom – wanted me not too touch anything. Things began to flash red as I watched the results of my curiosity play out on the screen (which I won’t be spoiling here). The gravity of my situation, and the power of this console, were immediately impressed upon me.

Things got real

Things got real

Horrified by my actions I flipped the reset switch and was rewarded with a crude certificate reminding me of the devastation I had wrought. I placed it on a designated spot along the wall…and noticed that there were spaces for over a dozen more certificates. Clearly I still had more work to do.

This is the basic progression of PDTA: experiment, succeed, scream, laugh, reset. The results of your tinkering vary immensely. Some are hilarious pop culture references, and some are truly disturbing or frightening.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.58.02 AM

Finding each of the endings can be sometimes simple, sometimes challenging, and sometimes mind bendingly obscure. This might be mild spoilers for those that don’t want a single hint (skip ahead if that’s you) but the best advice I can give you is to pay attention to numbers and press that red button as many times in a row as you can.

The satisfaction you feel when you finally crack the next puzzle is intoxicating, but the gameplay loop can get a bit stale after awhile and the fun only lasts as long as the different endings remain fresh and interesting to you.

A full play through of the game can take anywhere from one hour, to…never. If you beat it in an hour quit your day job and go work for the government – your country needs you. But it’s all possible to miss several of the finales as the game literally won’t give you a single hint.

Some of those finales can get...intense

Some of those finales can get…intense

Like I said up top, PDTA‘s use of VR is made all the more impressive by the fact that, in its original form, this game is a 2D point and click adventure. Four Corners’ ability to turn that experience into this carefully designed and brilliantly structured bunker deserves some significant respect.

The game has both a great sense of humor, and a real ability to make you feel uneasy. It raises some interesting psychological questions a la The Stanley Parable and its core gameplay loop is satisfying, if a bit redundant.

 

Final Score: 8/10 – Great

In the end, even though Please Don’t Touch Anything is on the Oculus Rift as well, it’s the type of game that truly allows the Gear VR to shine like the little champion it is. While it can get stale at times, and the puzzle solutions can feel obscure to the point of frustration, the end result is a great VR gaming experience that feels at home proving mobile platforms can provide experiences that are just as good as their PC-powered older brothers.

Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.

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