Five Nights at Freddy’s Review – Nightmares and Death at Chuck E Cheese’s
Watch the security cameras during the night shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. That’s all you’re supposed to do in Scott Cawthon’s Five Nights at Freddy’s, and somehow that simple premise turns it into an incredibly tense, terrifying experience. These animatronic creatures might delight and entertain children during the daytime with their songs and antics, but at night, their sickening curiosity about humanity takes over, and they want to see what makes their night watchman tick. Will you survive your week’s employment at this place, or will they get to you in the dark?
The game has a very simple setup: You have a series of cameras that look over most of the rooms in Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, save for a few blind spots between places. You also have controls that will let you turn on lights in the hallways just outside your security room, as there are no cameras right there, and controls that will let you close the doors to the room to keep you safe. So, your only options are to look at cameras, turn on some small lights, and open or close your doors. It’s super simple to control, which lets the game throw you right into the thick of things.
Well, why not just lock up the doors and wait for morning? The main reason is that you have a limited amount of power to get through each night. Can’t run up that electric bill, can we? The power drain is shown on the lower left, and it falls constantly. The rate at which it falls is indicated by colored bars, and doing things like running your lights or having the doors shut adds more bars and drains your power much faster. Even playing extremely carefully can draw out a lot of your power, so it’s in your best interest to keep the lights off and the doors open if you want to survive. If you don’t, you may find a robotic bear tearing into you once the power blinks off. Then again, if you don’t shut those doors or turn on the lights at the right time, something else just might be crawling down your throat before you know it.
The camera’s visuals don’t make looking at them much easier, either. Most of the locations are only barely lit by a few dim security lights, and the camera feed constantly fills with static, sometimes to the point of being completely unable to see. These moments are terrifying, leaving players switching from camera-to-camera to try and find a missing creature, or staring close into one feed, trying to see if those shadowy feet are just a trick of the camera’s fuzziness. It often had me jumping at nothing or desperately searching, my heart pounding while I fought the urge to lock up both of my doors.
There is no music in the game, but it’s not without sound. Many nights start with a phone call from your shift supervisor, often with recommendations and vague warnings about what might happen to you. They’re all told in a friendly voice, someone who just sounds like a cheery co-worker, but one who isn’t quite willing to come out and say that you’ve made a terrible choice of employment. Other than him, you’ll hear the sounds of the cameras flickering, the lights humming, and then the muffled noises of something scrambling around just out of sight. One of the cameras has no visual feed at all, but only picks up the audio of something moving in the dark. It’s bone-chilling to hear these things ripping through the room, smashing into whatever is in there. The sounds there gave me an idea of how brutal these things were, the crashing and banging giving me an idea what these things would do to me once they caught me.
All of this mingles together to create a brutal tension. On the first night it might not seem that bad, but once you check on that stage and see that one of them is missing, your heart will begin to pound. Next comes the frantic camera switching while you try to find where the missing one has gone. Finding it will bring a temporary relief, but a switch back to the stage will reveal that another one is on the move. As you balance between those two, another may make an appearance in another location, as not all of the creatures start on the stage on each night. Some can just pop in from other areas, meaning you constantly have to check all of your cameras to stay alive. Even when all you want to do is make sure that one guy hasn’t moved, you have to look away and check everywhere else.
They move fast, too. The creatures can easily go two or three rooms down a given passageway, sometimes even turning back and moving away from you to throw you off. Even when they head your way, they can easily bypass two or three rooms and be right at your door before you realize it. Again, once they’re at the door they only wait a few seconds before killing you, resulting in frantically shutting off the cameras to turn on the light in your room. Seeing one of those grinning faces looking in on me was enough to make me jump, costing me precious seconds while I scrambled for the door switch. On the first night, I was only barely able to save myself half a dozen times. It’s an incredibly terrifying experience to try to save yourself from the single jump scare that ends the game, and you will come close to death constantly.
I love this game to death, but it does have one nasty issue in that it takes forever to boot up for the first time. I thought my computer had crashed the first couple of times I tried it, but it really does take quite a while before everything loads and you can play. It ran seamlessly after that even across multiple nights, but that initial load is a real pain. Just boot it up and go to the bathroom before you start. That’ll give you something to do while it starts up, with have the added bonus of lacking the means to pee yourself when it scares you.
For those who manage to fight their way through the five nights of your employment, a sixth night will start up to torture you. Five Nights at Freddy’s wasn’t easy to begin with, but on this night, the game is merciless. Good luck trying to get through it without steel nerves and a perfect ability to watch the cameras. Given the fact that the game is technically a little short (but with frequent deaths making it a lot longer), this adds a little extra for people who want more. Should you manage that, the game opens up a custom level creator where you can set up your own plans for the game’s AIs and screw with yourself that way. That final mode can add a ton of replay value if you feel like the creatures just weren’t cruel enough, or can just be used to scare your pals half to death.
For all the simplicity of the game’s controls and premise, Five Nights at Freddy‘s is frightening. It’s a fantastic example of how cleverness in design and subtlety can be used to make an experience terrifying. Simple still images and proper character design steal the show in this game, and show that Scott Cawthon knows quite a lot about the secret fears people feel when looking at creepy dolls and toys. It’s elegant in how it sows fear, and is a must-own for anyone who likes scary games. If you're a Furry – check our article on the best Furry porn games. Warning that post is strictly for adults only.