If the Milgram experiment has taught us anything, it’s that giving power to a man standing over a button is a dangerous, dangerous thing.
A game which advertises itself by saying you must not interact with it might not sound like the most captivating experience in the world, but Please, Don’t Touch Anything is actually a very clever little puzzle game – the sort that will have you tearing your hair out trying to think of a solution for hours only to have that single glorious “eureka” moment. Four Quarters has produced a game that is the perfect example of a simple concept, brilliantly executed.
Please, Don’t Touch Anything places you in front of a box with a big red button on it which you absolutely must not push under any circumstances while your co-worker is busy in the toilet. That button, which appears at first to be the sole feature of a grey box wired up to a monitor, soon reveals itself to be the gateway to all manner of conundrums, with the sole aim of the game being to find every one of the game’s endings. All of this is wrapped up in some simple pixel art and a wonderful chiptune soundtrack.
I did push the button of course; getting anywhere in the game demands that you do so. Doing so reveals another button, so I flicked that. Nothing seemed to happen. I wonder what will happen if I push the first button again?, I wondered, already being pretty certain of the answer.
You can probably guess for yourself what happened.
After starting again, and a while of poking around and experimenting without getting anywhere, I noticed the little pixellated noticeboard on the wall next to the monitor. The scrawls on that noticeboard are the key to everything, as it turns out – but deciphering what it all means is something that will give even the smartest Smart Alec a run for their money. Once I started looking at that noticeboard, my brain gradually started to piece things together.
Please, Don’t Touch Anything is one of those games that’s incredibly difficult to describe in any detail without spoiling the experience. The pleasure of playing it lies in the sense of discovery, so revealing too much about it would spoil the experience. As I mentioned earlier, the ultimate goal of the game is simply to discover every ending. There are 16 in total, and reaching each one requires leaps of deduction that would make Sherlock Holmes proud. It’s infuriatingly easy to find yourself stuck and staring at the screen, but that only makes the resultant revelation all the more sweet when you finally figure out the answer to the next step.
Reach an ending and you’ll get a new poster adorning the wall next to the screen, and a light on the bottom of the box will light up to mark the occasion. And then it’s right back to the start to try and figure out the next ending. You never leave the desk, and you can’t even look around the room. The screen you see in the shots on this page is the only one you’ll ever see, but it never harms the enjoyment.
After a few hours (or sooner, if you give in to the temptation to cheat and look up the solution) you’ll have exhausted everything that Please, Don’t Touch Anything has to offer. But while slight in content and sparse in presentation, Four Quarters’ game will easily end up occupying your every thought as you try to unpick its mysteries. There’s some great puzzle design to be found here, though a couple of the solutions require real-world knowledge that many players won’t possess.
Please, Don’t Touch Anything is a very different game to Fez, but it channels something of the same spirit as Polytron’s masterpiece, coupled with the minimalist design of Papers, Please. It may stick you behind a virtual desk and keeps you there for the entirety of the game, but by the end you still feel like you’ve gone on a journey. Please, Don’t Touch Anything opens up a mental rabbit hole and asks that you wilfully fall through it.
With such a low asking price, if you have some spare change then definitely give Please, Don’t Touch Anything a go. You’ll never look at a button in quite the same way again.