For a good virtual reality (VR) horror title to really get you it needs atmosphere, tons of fear inducing atmosphere. Now this isn’t in regards to your standard horror shooter, where you’re armed to the teeth with all sorts of monsters running at you aka Killing Floor: Incursion style. No, for a true horror experience you have to be almost defenceless, surviving in the darkness with that glimmer of hope you’ll escape, listening to every creak and whistle of the wind wondering what’s around the corner. If that sounds like your type of VR videogame then Wales Interactive’s Don’t Knock Twice might be just what you want, possibly.
Out for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (reviewed), Don’t Knock Twice is loosely tied into the movie of the same name, which saw a release earlier this year. They both revolve around an urban legend about a demon that uses a human servant to capture children, only being summoned when they knock twice on the witch’s door. You take on the role of a mother who seeks to save her daughter, Chloe, from whom she has been estranged for many years.
Wales Interactive doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to building the blood curdling atmosphere straight from the off, with a menacing looking door that needs knocking. From here you’re straight into a foreboding looking study, the only real light coming from a crackling fireplace. Whether you scare easily or not, the studio has cooked up some heart pounding tension for Don’t Knock Twice that’ll keep most on edge the entire time – and create a few YouTube videos of people screaming and falling to the floor.
Exploring the creepy mansion light plays an important role in creating the ambiance. With no electricity you’re entirely beholden to several fireplaces and a few candle sticks. The dark corridors can be illuminated with some wall mounted candles which help to alleviate that sense of dread – until they all get blown out (spirits tend to do that sort of thing it seems).
Scattered around the rooms are photos, newspaper cuttings and other items which unravel the story, not only of the main characters but also the demonic presence you now face. Wales Interactive has ensured that if you do read everything available there’s a rich background to discover.
But there is a problem however, movement is horribly annoying. Teleporting anywhere other than wide open areas or down a hallway requires a trial and error approach as the marked oval the studio has created won’t always allow it. This becomes even more immersion breaking if you’ve not quite got yourself close enough to a door handle or an object on a desk. If the roomscale area will allow it then fine, just reach over and grab. On the other hand should you require a really short teleport then there’s no chance, you’ll have to teleport further away and then line-up for another try.
So head into the options menu and thankfully there’s a locomotion mode to turn off teleport and move around with the trackpad. If you can handle full movement controls then this is highly advised. This setting does require getting used to as the touchpad doesn’t need to be depressed, simply move your thumb in the appropriate direction – for example up to move forward in the direction you’re facing. It will even allow you to strafe, but it’s the fact that you can freely wander around – up close to items – that makes it essential.
Another weird design decision comes in the form of your virtual hands. For some reason grabbing an object makes your translucent hand disappear so there’s just a floating candlestick or axe. It’s not as immersion breaking like the teleport can be, but with so many VR titles having permanent hands that interact with the virtual world suddenly not having hands can feel disconnecting from whatever’s being held.
Don’t Knock Twice really is a mixed bag. On the one side it provides one of the scariest, heart thumping VR experiences out there, with a beautifully designed mansion to explore – especially when you get to free-roam. On the flip side there are points where it feels like a battle, trying to achieve something relatively simple but isn’t. If you love horror videogames and can handle proper locomotion controls then Don’t Knock Twice is worth a look, otherwise steer clear.