Five Nights at Freddy’s Review: Simple But Effective
There’s something just plain creepy about animatronic characters. Five Nights at Freddy’s, the surprise hit indie horror game, takes full advantage of that. It’s a simple game, but it can also be effective.
The premise, if you haven’t heard, is this: You are the midnight watchman at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a children’s pizza party restaurant (think Chuck E. Cheese in the U.S.). Unfortunately for you, animatronic Freddy and his friends come to life at night and stalk you. You don’t run, though; instead, you remain in the safety of the security booth, watching the monsters on cameras and trying to figure out which one is about to get you.
The core strategy is to watch the monsters as they move. Or as they don’t move, really, as they stand still when your eyes are on them. Like the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who, though, your eyes can’t be everywhere at once and it’s the ones you can’t see that will get you. The best strategy is to try and follow the ones you know are active and to close the doors when they get close.
Of course, you can’t just close the doors and be done, and I think this is where the game succeeds or fails: whether the power supply mechanic clicks with you or just annoys you. Power is vital to surviving the night, but it drains incredibly fast, faster than any real system actually would; and for some reason the doors, which are powered, suck up juice the entire time they’re closed instead of closing and locking like normal doors. I don’t know why the Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza security station is hooked up to a car battery and not the municipal power grid; but every time I ran out of electricity I was more annoyed than frightened.
And this simple game lacks anything like power-ups or upgrades; the doors drain electricity drain just as much on Day 4 as they do on Day 1. The challenge comes in the need to use it more, and therefore to take more risks as to when you close them. And since certain characters can mess with your doors anyway, even being able to close them isn’t a guarantee of safety.
Having said that, I will confess that if you play this in the right circumstances — in the dark with headphones — it is a fairly effective jump-scare game. Like watching a good horror movie (not a gorefest like Saw, but a good horror movie) you know the scare is going to come. It’s just a question of when, and that anticipation is what ratchets up the suspense. The iOS port is not as visually nuanced as the PC edition, and I think this adds to its appeal, as the game becomes just a little harder on the smaller screen.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is literally a game of Statues with jump scares, but sometimes that’s all it needs to be. This game won’t appeal to everybody, and for someone like myself the appeal isn’t long-lasting; but it does what it sets out to do and that’s all right.
Our Score: 4 out of 5