Five Nights At Freddy’s, the low-budget survival horror game that’s racked up well over 10,000,000 Let’s Play views on YouTube in the past couple of weeks, lives up to the hype. There are a couple good reasons for its instant, massive success. For starters, the game’s concept, sitting in a dark children’s pizzeria after hours trying to protect yourself from its demonic Chuck E. Cheese-style mascots, is very evocative, and it obviously hit a nerve to the internet. It also lends itself to good gameplay: a lot of survival horror games don’t give you many ways to fight, but this one doesn’t even give you the chance to run.
Five Nights At Freddy’s is simple, but every element of the game is carefully designed to make it aesthetically interesting and challenging. Here’s all it is: you’re a night shift security guard, and from your office, you have to survive for six hours as the bloodthirsty animatronics advance on you. And then do it four more times. All you can do about your situation is watch them on the cameras and operate the lights and security doors on each side of your office. You’re working with a limited amount of power, and actually using any of these functions, especially the life-saving doors, is going to drain it fast. Your job, then, is to be aware of your surroundings and manage your resources well. The game is balanced so that you’ll be fending off creeping animatronics and going right down to the wire every night, so winning the game becomes about learning the habits of your enemy and training yourself to thwart them. While you do that, the game studies your habits and throws you curveballs during the later levels. The first night is pretty simple, but from there, things escalate until the animatronics are moving around at lightning speed and attacking you almost immediately.
For the most part, you’ll be either sitting in your office or watching still images of the advancing mascots on each camera screen, which means that much of what you see has been composed to be as scary as possible. But the game subverts the comfort of seeing the same still images over and over that so that it doesn’t become predictable. Any given mascot standing in any given room usually looks the same, but sometimes it doesn’t, and there are some things you can see on camera that mean a near-instant death unless you act fast. There are only a few rules to remember, but there are too many exceptions to them to ever let you get comfortable. Something pretty brilliant that the game does is force you to make split second decisions, and then anticipates what you’ll do if you panic. If you do anything that implies panic, that’s often the fastest way to die, so over time, you learn ways to keep calm and respond to threats the right way. Overcoming your fear and acting in a level-headed fashion is actually a gameplay mechanic, which is pretty unique and made possible by the game’s intentionally limited controls.
Unfortunately, the Android port can make it hard to tilt your head back and forth, which is a pretty vital mechanic as you fend off enemies from both sides and you can’t keep both doors in your field of vision. The rest of the controls are adapted pretty well, though, so the only other problem with the mobile version is that Five Nights At Freddy’s is a very atmospheric game that gets better with a bigger screen and some headphones.
Anyone who finds the premise of Five Nights At Freddy’s interesting should check it out, it delivers. As a challenging, scary, resource management point-and-click game, actually playing it isn’t going to be for everybody, but it’s still worth watching somebody play or reading up on the game’s world even if the gameplay isn’t your speed. Depending on the type of person you are, it may be enough to just experience Five Nights At Freddy’s by watching it or reading about it without playing the game yourself.!
Is it Hardcore?
Genius design and a good understanding of how to induce fear puts Five Nights At Freddy’s miles ahead of its small-budget horror peers. Clunky camera movement takes the mobile port down a notch from the PC version, though.