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Review: Please, Don’t Touch Anything (Classic) – a trip down memory lane

This game reminded me of what it was like to play games in the 90s.

please don't touch anything
Image: Jake Vander Ende / KnowTechie

[letsreview postid=”96520″]

I stumbled across Please, Don’t Touch Anything in my routine trawling of the Nintendo Switch eShop, looking for interesting titles to cover. I’m going to walk you through my experience, because I think following just a scant trail of bread crumbs is the best way to experience this one. Ready?

The eShop description reads:

Covering for a colleague taking a bathroom break, you find yourself in front of a mysterious panel with a green screen monitor above it showing a blurry live image of an unknown city. Also present is an ominous red button with the simple instruction to not touch anything!

I’m in. Sold. Let’s see what this madness is all about.

I start the game up and after the splash screen, these lines of dialogue pop up, one at a time

There’s no menu in Please, Don’t Touch Anything. There are no “start game” prompts or options. You just get dumped into this. You are the character in the game, asked to tend this thing you know nothing about.

And then…

please don't touch anything game

Image: Jake Vander Ende / KnowTechie

A cursor. A giant red button. A red lever. What is that writing in the corner? Why is there a typo? Why are the numbers out of order? What are those equations and scratches? Does that pentagram mean anything?

I sit here dumbfounded. What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to press the red button after all? I mean, this is a game, isn’t it? But what if the game is all about waiting? There was no option for a save file, so is everything I do somehow permanent? Oh god, what if I press the red button and I wasn’t supposed to and–

My in-game companion comes back, thanks me for watching the button, not pressing anything, and says we should get going. Was that it? Was that the game?

The first of the greyed-out circles to the left of the RESTART lever illuminates. Ohhhh, I think I get it…

I wait several minutes to see if anything else happens. It becomes clear that nothing will. At the very least, if something is supposed to happen, I don’t have that kind of patience.

Finally, I press the red button. A switch appears below it. I flip the switch. A light turns on next to it. I have a bad feeling about that light. I try to flip the switch off but it won’t move. It’s too late. The video of the city shows a missile strike and a mushroom cloud. Oh, yeah, it’s definitely too late. Another of the circles illuminates. The button is unresponsive, so I hit X, which flips the reset lever. The video feed resets, the console changes back to its original state, and everything is completely undone…except those two circles are still lit up.

Ah. They’re endings. Each light represents a different ending. Oh…uh…there are a lot of them, huh?

That’s the game. Sort of. That’s as much as I’m going to tell you about it, at least

please, don't touch anything gameplay

Image: Modern Jamming

See, mechanically there isn’t that much going on in Please, Don’t Touch Anything. From a systems standpoint, there are very, very few things happening at a time. But the fascinating thing to me here is that each of them is made with extreme care, intense, meticulous thought. The resulting emotional experience is profound.

I have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes in Please, Don’t Touch Anything. Frankly, I don’t want to. I want to explore the rabbit hole, become fascinated with its depths and twists and turns, analyze all of the interesting bits and pieces as I come across them, but I would rather constantly know that there is more hiding here.

That’s what games used to feel like to me and that’s a feeling I’ve chased, again and again, all my life

I remember one of my first role-playing games was Quest For Glory, back on my IBM compatible. Quest For Glory was mostly a point-and-click adventure game, but it was one where so, so many things could happen. Maybe this time you’d die in a horrible cave. Maybe this time you’d be cursed by Baba Yaga, never to be seen again. Everything felt possible. In a strange twist of irony, the more games got refined, the less infinite they felt because the more expectations you had about how they were supposed to work.

I’m not saying that never happens anymore, to be clear. Breath of the Wild made me feel like a kid again, exploring all of those systems, poking and prodding at the world to see how it reacts. Fez is near and dear to my heart, letting me delve as far into its mysteries as I wanted, and it holds the honor of being one of the only games I’ve ever started a notebook for. Undertale took all of my expectations about RPGs and completely threw them out the window. The Stanley Parable challenged everything I thought I knew about what it meant to play games to begin with. There is still magic to be found in games, don’t get me wrong, I just don’t find it as often as I used to.

So when a game makes me feel like maybe there are no rules, and the boundaries I had in my mind don’t exist here, that’s a feeling I try to savor and hold on to. You can’t buy it on-demand. You can’t conjure it up at will. The older you get, the harder it is to find, so I take it where I can find it.

If anything I said resonates with you, if you’re also looking for a little spark to keep you wondering about the world, to make you challenge your assumptions, maybe you should check this one out, too.

Jake reviewed “Please, Don’t Touch Anything (Classic)” on the Nintendo Switch with his own money.

It is developed by Four Quarters and ForwardXP and published by ForwardXP. The 3D version is available now on Steam (Windows, OSX, and VR), iOS via the App Store, Android via Google Play, and Nintendo Switch via the eShop, while Classic is available now on Nintendo Switch. He strongly advises playing without looking anything up on the internet.

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Jake is a writer and game designer in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He loves action, exploration, building, filling bars, and turning numbers into bigger numbers. Someday he'll release a video game.

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