NextGen Take - Do Not Open

Immerse yourself in procedurally generated terror



By Paul Hunter

Escape rooms are all the rage these days, so it makes sense that the video game industry is increasingly starting to cash in on this phenomenon. The latest buzzy title is Do Not Open from Spanish developer Nox Noctis and publisher Perp Games, and it's available now on PS5 and PC (Steam). The game is also expected to arrive on PlayStation VR2 next year.

Do Not Open is a first-person horror game that leans hard into the escape room genre, doling out puzzle after puzzle with a terrifying time limit. Should horror fans lock themselves into this disturbing new title? Let's solve this puzzle together, here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: A Light, Creepy Story

While Do Not Open places much more emphasis on puzzle solving and survival, the little story bits we get in the game tell a spine-tingling tale. It begins in the fall of 1994 when folks have been disappearing in the woods near Burkittsville, Maryland. Playing as Mike J. Goreng, a famous zoologist and epidemiologist, you learn that your Aunt Judith has recently passed away, leaving you some of her inheritance. The catch is, you'll need to travel to her posh Victorian mansion in creepy Burkittsville to claim your share.

It becomes obvious from the get-go that Mike has a rather strained relationship with his wife and daughter, though we can only guess the reasons why. Once the initial cutscene ends and the game begins, you'll find yourself waking up in your dear aunt's basement without any recollection of why. Your daughter's voice can be heard, letting you know that she and your wife are trapped in the house and it's up to you to find and rescue them. Oh, and that house you're in? It's patrolled by a deadly paranormal witch that'll happily shred you to pieces if she catches you.

To help shed light on why Mike is in this situation you'll need to search the Victorian mansion looking for collectibles such as newspaper clippings, a paranormal magazine, handwritten notes left by Judith, and old photos and drawings. I won't spoil the story but will say it's deliciously devious if you take the time to scavenge for all the collectibles.

Liked: The Escape Puzzles

Do Not Open is a surprisingly short game to complete, my first run took me about 90 minutes. But in that short time, you'll be solving clever escape room-inspired puzzles across five separate locations within the mansion.

One crucial detail to know before starting Do Not Open is you're given the option to play on one of two difficulty settings: Normal mode and Escape Room mode. Normal mode is the easiest and will likely reduce your stress level quite a bit as it removes the time limit per challenge room, letting you take as long as you need to solve the puzzles. On Escape Room mode you'll have a very short 10-minute time limit, after which the demonic creature will smash its way into the escape room and start patrolling the space. If the witch hears or spots you, it's almost certainly game over and you'll need to redo the entire current escape room you were in. Ouch!

The escape rooms work like this: in each one you'll need to solve two or three puzzles, each giving you part of an escape key. Solving the puzzles, completing the key and escaping before the witch finds you are your goals. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, some of these puzzles can get a little tricky so it's best to bring your pen and paper along, or if you're digital-minded like me, take photos of clues with your smartphone to reference later on. The puzzles are quite fun and varied, ranging from solving a morse code, chopping a variety of food with the correct knives, playing piano notes in the right sequence and completing a classic sliding puzzle. These are just some of the puzzles you'll encounter, all of which will test your brain and in some cases your hand dexterity as well.

Liked: Excellent Visuals

The Victorian mansion you explore in Do Not Open is gorgeously detailed, of course in the spookiest of ways. Weird blood spots on the furniture, ominous messages written on the mirrors (with a warning to look behind you), and the dark, creepy lighting all coalesce to a pretty disturbing vibe overall. The high-quality texture details really bring this otherwise dreary manor to life.

The audio is great as well, with its mixture of eerie wooden floor creaks and heavy breathing noises from the witch as it stalks the hallways. Before the creature arrives in your current escape room it'll bang on a door several times—warning you to go hide under a table or inside a closet—and those loud smashes are extremely terrifying.

Didn't Like: Annoying Witch

One of the most prominent gameplay elements in Do Not Open—the paranormal entity that hunts you—happens to be the worst part of the game. Simply put, the witch is utterly annoying if not downright aggitating.

Ten minutes is not a lot of time to solve the escape room puzzles, so if you're playing on Escape Room difficulty, expect the witch to arrive before you've completed the room. The witch walks around randomly, turning corners or doing a 180 whenever it pleases, making it nearly impossible to accurately guess where the witch will go next. Having to hunt rooms for clues while avoiding the witch is a nuisance at best, and an aggravating pain at worst. I usually prefer playing games on their harder difficulties, but for this title, I suggest Normal mode (which delays the witch's arrival) unless you're a glutton for punishment.

The worst part about the witch is if she catches you, you'll need to redo the entire escape room back from the beginning. And since the rooms are procedurally generated, the clues and items will all be randomly redistributed, essentially forcing you to redo the room from scratch. It would have been way better if the rooms all had a forced time limit before you die, and getting caught by the witch stripped away a chunk of your time. That would still be a very scary setup, while also reducing much of the game's frustrations.

Didn't Like: Character Models

While the environment graphics in Do Not Open are fantastic, the character models are not. They all generally straddle the uncanny valley, often looking unnatural and expressionless. It's hard to really get into the characters when they all look so horrendously mediocre. I suppose thankfully and mercifully, the game is in first-person and cutscenes are few and far between, so you only need to look at these low-res, awkward character models a handful of times.

The Verdict

Do Not Open delivers on its escape room horror promise with cleverly designed puzzles that are fun and challenging to solve. Combined with its spooky story and high-quality environmental visuals, there's enough here to make a solid recommendation to horror fans. One caveat though: depending on your budget, its $24.99 price tag may be a little steep considering the game's length, so you might want to hold out for a sale.

Final Score: 7/10 - Good


Do Not Open details

Platform: PS5, PC
Developer: Nox Noctis
Publisher: Perp Games
Genre: Third-person Horror
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)


A key was provided by the publisher.