There are plenty of games that were clearly designed by corporate committee. Soulless games, ones that cram themselves with the industry’s most profitable mechanics and least offensive aesthetics, generalized to appeal to everyone. Those games don’t have conflict or story, they just have obtuse plot contrivances and enemies that are universally evil, lest the game actually make a statement about something. Don’t Open the Doors! sits and the opposite end of that spectrum.
Don’t Open the Doors! is a game that developer Anton Riot cares about. Every scrap of it, from the handmade Claymation figures to the punchy music. This game is somebody’s baby, and that somebody loves it. Look, I’m no great fan of the clay aesthetic (a look that was perfected by 1993’s ClayFighter,) but everything looks impressive and detailed. Even the light-hearted music drips quality and charisma.
For me, however, the writing steals the show. It is all very sharp witted and funny, even inspiring genuine laughter from me quite a few times. The jokes are often surprising and peppered into every corner of the game world, which can be both a blessing and a curse, at times. While it is certainly funny, I feel like this game relies on the humor a little too much. When all the action is the result of increasingly abstract, absurdist jokes with little explanation then it is hard to invest in the world or its characters. When the guards throw their new recruit (You) to a monster it is pretty funny, when said monster refuses to fight an unarmed you it is amusing, at least, but after you’ve navigated a maze to find a big hammer with which to engage in glorious combat with and the monster tells you it’s his day off so he won’t fight you, it’s just tedious. Naturally, you can give him a whack and quickly learn that he’s way too tough to take on yet, and it’s funny again.
The story is simple. Doors have been opening up everywhere and no one knows why. The doors are filled with monsters and puzzles and the best way for the player to get a big bomb and blow up the main door. So, it’s basically the plot of Oblivion. My biggest grip with the game is that the gameplay is thoroughly bad. The combat is slow and clunky, the movement is imprecise, and most of what you’ll be doing involves hitting stuff and picking up something that someone else will probably want later on. Small improvements come by way of the skill system, but they feel like things that should have been a part of the game from the start, rather than rewards.
If you dig the clay art style or want to laugh some but don’t mind wrestling with bad mechanics, play Don’t Open the Doors! Otherwise, find a Let’s Play and you’ll be fine.