For a game that’s called Do Not Open, the title betrays what players will spend a significant amount of their time doing: Opening things. As a type of procedurally generated, escape room horror game, Do Not Open tasks players with opening boxes, cabinets, and everything else you can find to collect various items and solve puzzles in order to escape a very obviously haunted mansion. With a strict time limit and a horrifying creature after you, is Do Not Open worth opening at all? Let’s find out.
Do Not Open starts off by giving the player loads of things on which to question and ruminate. The player character, Michael, is informed about some inheritance from his aunt who recently passed away from suicide. The scene then cuts to his wife informing Michael that it’s his birthday, so he should be spending time with his daughter. It then smash cuts to Michael waking up in some basement, being warned by a ghostly visage of his daughter that, “She’s coming.” Each time you clear a section of the mansion, you’ll be given further scenes that will give you a glimpse into why Michael is being hunted throughout the mansion. The story itself actually isn’t bad at all and should be simple enough for most players to understand by the time you reach the end.
The gameplay of Do Not Open is first person puzzle solving, so you’ll largely move from room to room of the mansion and interact with objects until you figure out what to do with each puzzle. In each section of the mansion, you’re largely tasked with solving two puzzles, finding a key, and then escaping through a door that glows red. There are two difficulty modes in Do Not Open, as well, and while their differences seem minor, they fundamentally change how you’ll interact with this title.
In Escape Room mode, you’re on a time limit to solve your puzzles and collect the key before a creature that looks like it crawled out of the well in The Ring busts into the area in which you’re trapped. It’s at this point you can hide in closets or trunks for a moment and sneak around the specter, then escape through the glowing red door. This makes Escape Room mode pretty stressful, as you can be required to solve puzzles while a monster you can’t run from is constantly wandering around your current floor of the mansion (in a later update, they reduced the monster’s speed, but when the game first launched running was almost not an option).
It’s like Alien Isolation meets Resident Evil’s puzzles in this regard, so if that sounds more frustrating than fun for you, Normal mode is the option you should play (at least until you have a relative idea of how to solve most puzzles). Normal mode on Do Not Open lets you take your time figuring out the puzzle solutions, as the creature doesn’t seem to bust into your section of the mansion until you complete the puzzle that yields the key you need to escape. You still may need to hide, but it’s nowhere near as exasperating as trying to sneak around and solve puzzles when adult Sadako is lurking around every corner.
There were also a few issues where there were items you needed to collect from drawers, but they couldn’t be properly interacted with in order to retrieve them. This bug seems to have been addressed in an update, which is great, but thankfully that issue only cropped up a single time across a few attempts at the game. Of course, there’s a pretty decent variety of puzzles in Do Not Open, some involve finding and rearranging knives, while another of the puzzles involves using Morse Code to decode dots and dashes from television static (which is pretty esoteric). There are even number puzzles that are pretty simple to figure out on first attempts, too.
The primary method by which Do Not Open attempts to scare the player is with jump scares- which some people may be fine with while others may loathe. Some may even call jump scares the Dane Cook of horror and intellectually lazy, as a result. However, should you enjoy that kind of horror, there’s plenty of creepy things to make you jump that pop out of nowhere. There’s also a few frights that are a bit more subtle, too, as you may be wandering through the mansion picking up knives, or something, when you see a frightening nude person glaring at you from a barely opened door…
Basically, the core gameplay loop is solve some puzzles, create a key, then sneak away from the creature to reach a specific door which allows you to escape to another part of the mansion. You’ll do this a few times, with the puzzles and mansion layout changing each run of the game, until an additional room opens in the foyer of the mansion that leads to the final story developments. Normal mode is pretty difficult to fail, and Escape Room mode will likely take a few attempts as you figure out each puzzle. However, once you understand how to find the solutions, even Escape Room mode becomes almost impossible to fail as most of the puzzles only take a couple minutes.
This means the game length will vary wildly- multiple attempts on Escape Room difficulty may take several hours to clear as taking too long and getting caught by the creature is an instant fail state, but your first try on Normal mode may have you seeing the final scene of Do Not Open in around an hour. Also worth consideration is that many of the puzzles seem to be the exact same from one run to the next, and it’s the solutions to the aforementioned puzzles that differ. This has the unfortunate circumstance of also meaning that once you’ve figured out how to solve a puzzle, you’ll know precisely how to interact with the piano, for example, and will be out of that section of the mansion within a couple minutes at best.
What Do Not Open does well is create a variety of mansion rooms for the player to explore and solve puzzles. Once you understand how to solve the various puzzles lying about the mansion, there’s very little that’s left to challenge you as it seems even the developers intended for this to be a “one and done” kind of experience. There are plenty of jump scares to be had throughout, but because it’s so brief in length and primarily only worth being played once makes it seem as if it should be purchased on sale, rather than for the full $25.
However, Do Not Open does offer a relatively unique experience in applying time pressure to players, so if you’re wanting the full, stressful experience, then this can likely keep you entertained for 1-3 hours if you play on Escape Room mode difficulty. For those who don’t like being stressed out and would likely choose Normal mode, it could be argued that Do Not Open is simply not worth it at the full price as it is no longer than some arcade games, and it lacks their replayability.
Developers: Nox Noctis
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 5, Steam