I’m not going to lie, when I first saw that Don’t Knock Twice was coming to the Nintendo Switch, I had to do a double take. I wasn’t quite sure why there was a game based on a largely forgettable film that probably very few people went to see. On top of that, we all know the track record that games based on movies have so I was intrigued to see what indie developer Wales Interactive delivered.
If you haven’t seen the film before, even though it’s a bit naff, I would still implore you to watch it before going into this game if you want to get the most out of the story. That is because when Don’t Knock Twice first starts off, you are given absolutely no backstory, no cinematic and no idea who you are playing as. It’s a strange choice made by the developer and I think that rather than expecting or wanting people to have seen the movie beforehand, they would have made a better choice had they have summed up the events of the film or at the very least, just given some indication as to what’s happening.
To sum the story up as briefly as I can, a guilt-ridden mother must uncover the truth behind an urban tale of a demonic witch, the Baba Yaga. You play the role of Jess who is a recovering drug addict who in the past gave up her daughter for drugs. The game never tells you this going in, you just have to work it out for yourself.
Don’t Knock Twice is a first-person exploration game that is set in an eerie old mansion (always my favourite horror setting). You are given a mobile phone, a candle and nothing else. It is up to you to explore the mansion and pick up the random clues dotted around, whether that would be a page from a diary, a photograph or newspaper cuttings, examining them will help you piece together the story, which is half decent once you find it.
You are given a limited amount of movement and that lends itself to the type of game this sets out to be. You walk slowly and you’re meant to take your time in looking around your environment. In your left hand, you either have your phone, which you will receive texts on that act mainly as your next objective, or a candle which, well, gives off light. This leaves you with the right hand to inspect objects and eventually, use an axe and a blowtorch.
The game is at its best when you have absolutely no idea what it is you should be afraid of. During the first 30 or so minutes, the anticipation of not knowing if something is going to jump out at you or start chasing you is genuinely quite unnerving. Once the first run in with Baba Yaga happens, it, unfortunately, dawned on me that I had nothing to dread. It is a sad realisation that you are never in any danger and for a horror game, it needs to make you either fearful or at least feel at risk. This game does neither.
Don’t Knock Twice runs along quite a linear path at times, with it opening up slightly more around halfway through. Some of the puzzles can be a little tricky, but never in a way that feels unfair. There was one puzzle in particular that I found to be pretty genius in fact, but of course, I’m not going to spoil anything. There are some hidden secrets to be found too which are nice for the collectors out there, even if they don’t really serve any purpose.
There was one particular glitch I kept encountering that was rather annoying. When picking up objects, you can either drop them or throw them, there were a few times when I put items down and they just vanished through the floor. One of them happened to be an axe so I had to then go and find another one from another room.
Don’t Knock Twice looks decent and nothing more than that. It does its job in creating a believable world with realistic looking lighting effects. However, there are a few visual judders in there too that can take you away from the experience. The audio is, in particular, a standout and certainly helps build up tension like all horror games and movies should. Squeaky doors, sudden crashes, and creaky floorboard help the atmosphere build up, it just never leads anywhere. I do think that the game absolutely needed a bit of voice acting. I know there is obviously not going to be tons of money thrown into this game but certain sections, particularly in the latter half, just sound odd without any dialogue whatsoever.
Ultimately, Don’t Knock Twice is the type of game that the Switch does not currently have a lot of, and for that alone, some might be inclined to try it out. It’s cheap to buy and it takes less than two hours to complete, so for those that enjoyed the movie then this can be a decent companion. For everybody else, I feel there is far too little to fully enjoy the experience. There is little to no replay value, once you’ve finished the game, there is no reason to go back. If you need a horror game to play in time for Halloween, unfortunately for Switch owners, this is currently one of only a few options.