Game: Five Nights at Freddy’s
Developer: Scott Cawthon
Publisher: Scott Cawthon
Release Date: August 18th, 2014
Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, Steam, Windows Phone
Reviewed Platform: PC (Steam)
Five Nights at Freddy’s has become an Internet phenomenon over the last few months, especially among the YouTube community of “Let’s Play” gamers as the game is full of jump scares and it’s fun and amusing to see other peoples’ reactions as they record their playthroughs. The game’s creepy lore has also inspired many game theories on what exactly happened in the restaurant; and these events are hinted at throughout the game (but we’ll get to that later). You might even remember seeing Five Nights at Freddy’s on our Game of the Year pages as we wrapped up 2014. So why is this series sweeping the Internet and gaining so much attention? Let’s take a look at the game and find out.
First of all, when you open up the game you will notice a few things. The game is very atmospheric. There isn’t much in the way of background music, aside from some quiet “noise” and the subtle sounds the animatronics make as they walk around the restaurant. While there are some music files in the game, these are in fact the animatronics playing their songs. The lack of music pairs well with the dark atmosphere of the game.
As a night shift security guard, you are left in the restaurant after hours with most of the lights off, which heightens the player’s sense of dread as the nights continue on. The dark lighting also makes the restaurant itself somewhat spooky, even though it surely looks much more cheerful during the daytime hours, though you never see Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza during the day in game.
Tension is expertly set up throughout the nights. Each night during the normal campaign you receive a phone call from another employee, presumably the head security guard, as he tries to assure you that everything is fine, despite the terrible warnings interspersed throughout his pre-recorded messages. He warns you that the animatronics have some sort of glitch in their system which makes them think you are an animatronic without its suit on; and if they find you, they will forcefully stuff you into a suit, killing you in the process. You also have a steadily decreasing amount of power to protect yourself with and every defensive action uses this power supply. Running out of power generally means certain death for the player, so strategic use of your defenses — which is much harder than it looks — is key to survival.
The phone guy — as he is known by the community — is the player’s sole source of advice, although he seems to be very fearful of the situation that the night guards face each night. He also gives out some key pieces of lore during his phone calls and hints for dealing with the various animatronics. While he seems to know more than he lets on, he is unwilling or unable to fully divulge what exactly is happening at this children’s restaurant.
Beyond the tension set up by the atmosphere, power supply and phone guy, you also have increasingly aggressive animatronics that stalk the halls throughout the night with few options for defense. You can prevent the animatronics from killing you by shutting the steel doors, which are oddly thick for a restaurant, but keeping them shut consumes serious power and sometimes the animatronics don’t leave for some time, especially Bonnie the Bunny.
Each animatronic has its own behavior and patterns and become more active as the nights go on. Bonnie and Chica flank you from the sides and are the most active, but they can be checked with the hall lights to conserve power. Foxy the Pirate and Freddy Fazbear himself, however, only move if the player doesn’t watch them on the cameras and can be the most dangerous of the four if left unchecked because of how quickly they can move in on the player. Ultimately this leads to a delicate balancing act between checking the lights, checking on Freddy and Foxy, and trying not to use up all your power in the process. This can be extremely difficult, especially on later nights when Bonnie and Chica move quickly and can sneak into your office while you look at the cameras.
Not all is hopeless, as perceptive players can use sound cues from the robots to determine when they move and roughly where they are. Whenever Chica and Bonnie move they make some plodding noises that get louder as they get closer. While the sounds are never loud enough to command attention themselves, an experienced player can tell when they are moving and so you have a chance to check the lights in response. Foxy doesn’t have an audio cue, but he is generally the easiest to manage due to his behavior of only moving when you don’t look at his camera for a long period. Freddy combines both aspects, he has a sinister laugh whenever he moves but freezes for some time when you spot him on camera, though spotting him outside the office can make him stay outside your doors even longer than normal. There is one more animatronic, too, but he is a sort of easter egg, and we will get to that.
Besides the fun of surviving the homocidal robots stalking the children’s restaurant, there are also clues to a disturbing mystery occasionally found on the monitors as you scan for danger. For example, there are creepy images that sometimes replace the children’s drawings in the east hall, such as the image below. Occasionally you might see signs or notes that say “It’s me” around the restaurant. You might sometimes get a bunch of creepy images of the animatronics flash on your screen, interspersed with the “It’s me” message. The Freddy poster in the west hall will change to an image of him taking off his head from time to time, or even the dreaded image of “Golden Freddy”; the secret, ghostly animatronic that will kill you and then forcefully crash your game if you encounter him. Finally, there are newspaper clippings of some terrible events that happened at the restaurant regarding missing children that sometimes can be seen on the camera feeds. These newspaper clippings fuel the game theories that flood the Internet about the exact nature of what is going on at night, with most people agreeing that the children are now haunting the restaurant’s normally friendly animatronics.
A cool side note to this game is that it is also available for Android and Apple devices, so you can download a mobile version of the game for your phone if you don’t use Steam or are looking for a creepy, challenging phone game. This version even has a cheat mode (sold separately for about $5) that gives you unlimited power and lets you see the animatronics on a the camera map.
This game is really, really, really hard. If you are one to be easily discouraged from frequent, often cheap deaths, then this is not the game for you. I have mentioned it before, but this game can be brutally difficult on later nights, especially the bonus nights after you have beaten the main game. My best friend and I often take turns trying to see who can survive night 6 the longest, often dying only a minute or two into the level.
If you don’t like “jump scares”, I wouldn’t recommend it as you will be getting them a lot. While I wouldn’t call the game “terrifying”, it can be quite surprising to have a screaming robot in your face all of a sudden when you thought you were in a good groove. After a while, the jumpscare factor wears off and it just becomes frustrating to be constantly dying to the robots over and over again.
The game itself is pretty short, sporting only 5 main levels, a bonus 6th night, and then, if you can beat the VERY difficult 6th night, you get a costume level option that allows you to manually set the AI of the animatronics. Each level is also less than ten minutes long. However, due to the intense difficulty involved with this game, you will be replaying many of the later levels many times before you actually beat it. I do think, however, that a skilled player can probably beat the game for the first time after, say, 6-8 hours of dying over and over again.
Finally, you cannot move in Five Night’s at Freddy’s. There is no exploration beyond your office and what you can see on the cameras. In my opinion this isn’t such a detractor because it adds to the tension of the game and I am not sure I would want to leave my heavily fortified office anyway given the situation.
I am very impressed that the game’s creator, Scott Cawthon, has managed to create the entire series by himself. It’s a really fun game and I was very excited to play it after seeing some Let’s Play videos. Of course, I am a fan of difficult games to begin with because I enjoy the challenge they present. I also like horror as a genre, so between those two factors, I had a great time playing. But beyond that, I like the world that Mr. Cawthon has created and the animatronics are creepy without going over the top. They look like something you might see at a real kid’s restaurant of the same type, like Chuck E. Cheeze’s.
Overall, I have to give Five Nights at Freddy’s a 9. Fantastic game, excellent progression of difficulty as you get through the nights and there are enough easter eggs and little details to keep you playing, even after getting stuffed into a suit a couple (hundred) times. My only real complaint is that Five Nights at Freddy’s is so short, but at the low price you can find it on Steam and the amount of time I have put into it, I can’t really say this is a major detractor.
Check back soon for my review of the sequel, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2! And don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for more updates on news, reviews and even giveaways!