One part survival horror, one part escape room, Do Not Open by Nox Noctis has an exciting premise that caught my attention from the get-go. Unfortunately, when I first booted it up, I found myself unable to leave the very first room. I had solved the puzzle and triggered the in-game dialogue, but the door I was supposed to open just wouldn’t cooperate, no matter how many times I restarted and reinstalled the game.
I almost gave up entirely, but I decided to wait for the delayed day one patch to drop before passing judgement, and thankfully, it fixed all the problems I had been having. I even noticed a few extra cosmetic details, accessibility options, and the ability to skip cutscenes had all been added in.
Do Not Open follows the story of Michael Goreng, a zoologist who, after finding out his Aunt Judith has committed suicide, finds himself trapped inside a horrific rendition of her home. He awakens in a grimy basement, separated from his wife and daughter. Stalked by a malevolent being, and slowly losing his grip on reality, he seeks to reunite with his loved ones and escape.
It’s a simple enough story to follow – one that doesn’t shy away from dark themes – but it does feel a little fragmented at times. Aside from an opening cutscene that briefly establishes the setting and characters, most of the story is told through small snippets of flashbacks whenever you escape a section of the house. Whilst I appreciate this method of storytelling, I found that too much was left to the imagination as we jump from plot point to plot point without too much substance connecting them.
Graphics & Music
To me, the graphics were a bit of a mixed bag. The in-game graphics were solid, for the most part. The manor itself was fairly detailed, leaning heavily onto the stereotypical haunted house aesthetic with all the dirt, dust and ominous messages on the wall, but the character models and cutscene graphics looked more like they belonged to a PS2-era game rather than one launching straight on the PS5.
I enjoyed the music and sound effects though. They do a stellar job at creating tension as you make your way through Judith’s manor, especially the thumping that takes place whenever our demonic monster gets closer. There were certainly a few times when it had my heart racing.
As I’ve already mentioned, Do Not Open is a survival horror with escape room mechanics where the aim of the game is to escape Judith’s manor. After escaping the first room, which acts as a mini-tutorial, the player will find themselves in the entranceway of the manor with a number of doors to go through.
Behind each door is a different section of the manor, and once you step inside a room, you can’t leave until you complete it or die and have to start again from the entranceway.
To clear a room, you need to solve two puzzles to get your hands on the two halves of the key required to unlock the door and escape. With the inclusion of mathematics and morse code, some of the puzzles were surprisingly challenging and gave me a real sense of accomplishment when I solved them.
Whether you choose to play through in the game’s standard mode or the escape room mode, which includes a timer, at some point in each room, that malevolent being I mentioned earlier will barge in and start hunting you down, and this was my least favourite part of the game. I appreciated the added tension from a high-stake chase, but it was incredibly frustrating to complete the puzzles and have escape in sight, only to be caught at the last second, especially when the solutions to the puzzles change each time you die.
My issue was with the monster’s AI. It seemed a little sluggish, and since it mostly tended to stay in the same area – usually the area you need to go through to reach the exit – it was often hard to sneak around it. There are a few hiding places scattered around, but I found that these were rarely in a place that benefitted me, especially when it is so fast that once it sees you, it’s essentially game over since there’s no time to hide. This can be pretty annoying when some of the puzzles require you to take notes in order to solve them.
With interesting escape room mechanics and a degree of replayability, Do Not Open had the potential to be a great game, even with its buggy launch, but I was left feeling a little disappointed. I enjoyed the puzzles. There was a nice variety of simple and complex puzzles, and I enjoyed the added challenge of the solutions changing each time you die, but the relentlessness of the demonic entity was frustrating at times. It’s hard to solve puzzles when you’ve got this monster prowling about, after all. Perhaps Do Not Open tries too hard to fit into the categories of both escape room game and survival horror when it should have focused on and perfected one. That said, there is a lot of fun to be had if you have the patience to see the game through to its end, and the PS4 version of the game, which is due to release early in 2023, is planned to be fully compatible with PSVR, which will certainly make for an interesting experience.
Developer: Nox Noctis
Publisher: Perp Games
Platforms: PS4/5, PC
Release Date: 30th November 2022