The first thing that you need to understand about Press X Not To Die is that, first and foremost, it is a title that ridicules the interactive genre.
If you’ve ever played games from the TellTale franchise (The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones) or titles like the recently released Until Dawn, and ever wondered how a game that essentially only requires you to mash a few buttons now and again could become so popular, then you’re going to find Press X to Not Die a fun concept.
With the game being entirely live-action, you wake up in a bizarre rendition of the apocalypse in which everyone is violently attacking each other. You’ve got to run across town to find your girlfriend, work out what the hell is going out and skip town – all the while punching a few clowns along the way.
The on-screen instructions prompt you to press buttons for the most ridiculous and trivial things including putting on your coat and locking the door, acted with as much exaggerated difficulty as possible. It’s very self-reflective and self-aware, mocking both the genre and you as the player. One of the neater features is how, even when you’ve failed and died, your death is referenced in future dialogue throughout the rest of your run. The amount of times that you die contributes to your end score that can be shared online with other players, so it’s good to mash those buttons as quickly as possible. Some of the funniest moments in the game come from the on-screen instructions or the literal description of the decisions that you can make. When faced with either helping or abandoning a bystander whilst your character yells “oh no, what do I do?”, the first option that becomes available to you reads “Help me, dumbass…”. These little details provide some brilliant moments – but the comedy style can easily become tiresome.
The integration of live action recordings with button mashing is relatively seamless, though at times the game can jump around a bit, particularly during the conversation segments which can make the production value feel a bit sloppy. Also, the limited nature of the gameplay means that for the most part, you are only pushing the same four buttons, and as a result, your enjoyment of the game relies solely on the story. Unfortunately for Press X To Not Die, the story is just about as ridiculous as some of the ways you can die if you don’t press X, and though it would be easy to forgive given its satirical nature, I found it difficult to get fully immersed in the game. It was all too easy to turn off and not really keep an eye on the screen – which is when you are most at risk of being killed. The characters don’t help in trying to keep you engaged either. Although the badly executed, B-movie style contributes to the overall hilarity of the game, the characters are nothing but vehicles to drive you through this mad world and showcase what crazy, ridiculous, hilarious things will be thrown at you.
Clocking in at around 30 minutes long, it’s a very short experience and I’m not sure just how much replay value there really is. There are a few moments where you’ll likely want to revisit to see a different outcome, but most of the time, making the wrong decision simply ends with your imminent death. In the few times that I played through it, it was ultimately the same experience, but that’s perhaps just another stab at the genre it’s satirising.
Ultimately, Press X to Not Die is a great idea and anyone familiar with the formula of interactive gaming will probably really enjoy their time playing it. Providing a good laugh, it’s something not to be taken seriously, but after a while its charm becomes a little tiresome, and after the first or even second playthrough there’ll be little left to draw you back to it.