This is uncomfortably extraordinary.
I played a game called The Lady which the maker said was "what
it was like to experience a panic attack". The single best
description was grating – it wasn't fun, but it was ambitious and
(based on some personal experience) metaphorically insightful.
Please Knock On My Door immerses you into what it is like to be
suffering from all those things that get described generally as
depression (anxiety amongst them). There is no grand quest to save the
world, rescue the princess or find the treasure. The "simple"
ambition is to make it through the week, the underlying grander
objective to look after your mental well-being. It’s the easiest
thing, and the most difficult thing (based on some personal experience).
You wake up and know you have to go to work. Leaving or staying are
both fraught. If you leave you need to do so by 7.30 or risk being late.
That has its own consequences. If you stay, there are different
consequences. Neither is correct, and both aren't wrong.
Having lived through the sometimes paralysis that is leaving the
house, this is an impressive encapsulation. So much so that it isn't
fun, but that isn't the point. It's about the choices you make, how you
feel about those choices, why you make them and how they help you or
hinder you move through the week. About an hour or so later you will get
one of three endings, depending on those choices.
My ending was distressing, but it ultimately concluded with some
hope. My sun will rise again.
Mundane tasks (viewed externally) are your stock in trade. Eat, don't
eat, shower or not. Respond to emails, chat on-line, play some games.
Even just look out the window. Some are more elaborate. For instance,
deliver a presentation at work. All of them are equally confronting.
Day passes to night and back to day, visible through the windows. It
rains as well, and different people gather under the large tree outside.
I grew to love that tree.
Two "voices" are your constant companion. They are inner
thoughts, depicting the wrestling that goes on to make any decision.
Encouraging, cajoling, pejorative – you have to listen to them, but
you don’t have to pay attention. At least not to both. One may become
more pervasive, depending on how your week progresses.
The minimalist but effective graphic style overlays an exceptionally
written and constructed game world. We are used to games where choices
affect how the game unfolds. Nothing that I have played does that as
effectively as this. Or quite so bleakly and beautifully.
In my play-through I watched myself get sucked down into a dark
abyss. I went from easily making decisions, to agonising over them, to
choosing between the best of obviously bad ones, flailing as I sank. The
way it was written had much to do with the impact of the emotions.
Describing it doesn't do it justice.
There are three game modes, two involving a scoring system which
affect how the decisions you make play out and the choices that might be
available. Some choices will only be available to you if you have a
particular score (I never did get to talk to my father). Game mode
displays the numbers involved, giving you a capacity to see how
different decisions might play out. Experience mode hides the numbers.
Story mode apparently removes the scoring altogether, meaning all
possible future choices are available. By way of example, I played on
Games mode and got to a point where I couldn’t wash the dishes despite
how much I wanted to. Story mode presumably lets you do that.
Once you start you can't back out of your experience. You have to see
it through, at which time you can play again and change mode. Which,
when you consider the topic, makes sense.
The game uses a top down third person perspective. Reflecting the
black dog within you, you are an inky lego-like being, with brilliant
white eyes. You shuffle around your home, from bedroom to living room,
to the kitchen and the bathroom, and perhaps out the front door. A
suitably melancholic soundtrack follows along. Work involves a choice
each day, and a fidgety visit to your desk. Then it's home, and how to
spend your evening. You play predominantly with the keyboard and it
saves when you exit.
Please Knock On My Door may not be for everyone, and given the
subject matter may not be for some people in particular. It is though a
remarkable piece, and deserves your attention.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-6700 4GHz