Of all the childhood memories I hold near and dear to my heart, none resonate as deep within me as the time my parents took me to an art exhibition, whereupon it was made very clear that I was not to touch a single thing the whole time. I acquiesced, of course, and spent the entire day with my hands in my pockets, itching to reach out and brush my fingers along the oiled textures of each fresco. I’d like to think this self control carried over with me into adulthood, but years later and a few hours of playing Four Quarters’ Please, Don’t Touch Anything has taught me that, given the chance, I will push every button and touch every surface available if I’m explicitly told not to.
That’s Quite A View
Please, Don’t Touch Anything starts players off in front of the only screen they’ll see for the next several hours. While a colleague explains that he has to use the restroom and we must man his station while he’s gone, we’re treated to a digital view of a city, a sparse control panel, and a small set of cryptic instructions. Our buddy leaves to do the deed and we find ourselves faced with a conundrum: Do we touch the button or leave it alone, and what happens if we do either?
But What If I Press It Like This?
While we can all guess what happens if we prime the switch and press the big, red button, Four Quarters has taken our assumptions and thrown in a total of sixteen different endings, all of which are accessed by different combinations of button presses and switch-flicking. Without giving too much away, we’re treated multiple times to the absolutely creative destruction of the city on our screen, and we can’t help but wonder why the hell this desk even exists.
From summoning the devil to calling in an alien airstrike, the guys and gals at Four Quarters spared no expense when dreaming up the various ways to punish us for our twitchy fingers, and you can’t help but try your hardest to get to the next ending. On top of the growing natural curiosity, each time you successfully unleash the apocalypse with a sequence of buttons, your desk receives a new poster, with a few depicting clever Easter eggs from various sources of pop culture.
Expand Your Mind
While you may sit there and wonder how soft in the head I must be for saying this game is difficult, I’m here to tell you that Please, Don’t Touch Anything can quickly devolve into a truly frustrating experience. One button turns into a dozen more, and you must use any hint you can find on screen to unlock the game’s next clever ending. While the instructions on the top of the screen may offer a few clues here and there, a basic core of common knowledge and popular trivia will also come in handy, and it’s even fair to say that some of your discoveries will be based on nothing but dumb luck (or YouTube, if you really want to spoil it for yourself).
Though there may be points at which you feel justified in flinging your keyboard across the room in a violent fit of frustration, keep in mind that the answer will always be available on screen, it’s just a matter of switching up your approach. It also helps to not be afraid of the reset button, as it may even come in handy eventually (*wink*).
The Complexities of Minimalism
Please, Don’t Touch Anything uses simple pixel graphics and a basic soundtrack to its advantage, creating deep meaning and immersive gameplay in the same way Papers, Please did with its single screen layout and 8-Bit design. By focusing more on the puzzles, Four Quarters was able to produce a title capable of conveying a certain gravitas that would feel out of place in any other graphical setting. The amount of information packed away in the game’s single screen is staggering, and the developers let nothing go to waste with what little aesthetic they actually used.
While the game may cause a bit of anxiety with the more challenging puzzles, the rate of play will end up moving right along as you dig down and learn how to parse out clues from the environment. Though it’s not particularly long, Please, Don’t Touch Anything does an excellent job of sating your appetite for rewarding progress and dark humor, and it’s certainly worth it’s weight in brain teasers.
You can check out a few of the endings above [Spoiler Warning] and some extra screenshots below!