The opening dialogue is brief; a person tells you they’re going on a bathroom break, and asks you not to touch anything. This is extent of the story in Please, Don’t Touch Anything, and there’s little further exposition in the game.
In front of you is a broad panel with a big red button on it. You can also see a green, grainy screen displaying the ominous outline of a city. The mystery and temptation of the button is too great; you’re going to touch stuff, lots of stuff, and in lots of different ways.
Please, Don’t Touch Anything is a bizarre puzzler with a graphical style similar to Papers, Please, and retro music that adds to its atmosphere. But this merely window dressing. The puzzle-heavy gameplay is its core, and in this respect, the game is rather comparable a crossword. Instead of letters, you have interactive objects such as various buttons, a switch, a hammer, and a screwdriver. All of these pop up from the panel depending on what you press, and you’ll need to use them in different ways in order to get all of the game’s sixteen endings.
As an example, the first ending all players are likely to get will go as follows: press the red button, a switch pops up; press the switch, the light on it goes on; press the red button again, and then the city on the screen blows up. Playing around with the panel blindly like this can lead to many of the game’s endings, but deftness and ingenuity are needed to uncover the main body of them.
Building further upon the crossword analogy, the hints for you to use are hidden in the environment. The bulk of Please, Don’t Touch Anything is spent finding, and subsequently working out, what these hints mean, and then using them in conjunction with the panel. It’s a difficult task, and it doesn’t take long until you’re grasping at straws.
Among my own puzzle-solving attempts, I spent much too long trying to work out the algebraic problem, before realizing (via Google) that the sum was unsolvable. But even in moments such as this, frustration didn’t creep up on me too often. When you do find a hidden combination, there’s a great feeling of satisfaction, and you know you’ve worked hard for it. Please, Don’t Touch Anything hands you nothing.
However, this freedom may end up leaving you lost. So, when you have given up hope, and are left drooling on your laptop clicking ‘8008132’ into the number pad that pops up in the game, you may need to look at the solutions online. Of course, that feeling of defeat will fall heavily on your shoulders. But I know I could’ve spent a week looking at the screen before I solved many of the puzzles (some of which occasionally seem almost unfairly difficult).
There’s not much reward for your efforts either. As I mentioned earlier, completing a puzzle will give you some sort of ending. These are usually triggered on the screen, and while some are bizarre and hilarious, many involve overly similar events; usually the city being destroyed. It’s also a fact that this can be a very short game. In a way, the crossword analogy works here, as well. If you figure out the hints, you can potentially have the game finished in under an hour (although I doubt this is in any way easy to do). Also, if you can’t solve the puzzles, it can be easy to lose motivation, and it’s quite tempting to put down the game quickly. On top of this you’ve got the common problem of puzzlers in that there’s a lack of replayability. Once you have the problems worked out, the game does little to change this up on subsequent playthroughs.
Nevertheless, Please, Don’t Touch Anything rewards those who persevere with a great feeling of accomplishment. It bravely puts you in front of a board and gives you the task of finding the game. The title is also somewhat reminiscent of the likes of P.T. in that its graphics and music complement this experience, and together they give this short indie title a potency not far off many old-school adventure games.
... And you'll definitely wind up touching everything.