Happy Easter, or happy Sunday if Easter isn’t applicable. Either way, I hope you’re all having an at least moderately enjoyable weekend. I’m distracting myself with buffalo chicken dip as I write this, so there are no complaints here.
Instead of dancing around today’s topic, let me get to the point: I finally caved and bought the Five Nights At Freddy’s (FNAF for short) trilogy (or, rather, the three games that presently exist in a series that could continue) on Steam. I’ve mentioned, at least on two occasions, that I have a strange fascination with these games and how much of a following they’ve accrued, but I’m also terribly susceptible to jump scares. Not exactly the makings of a good purchase, so I instead lived vicariously through YouTube videos of people playing FNAF. After multiple viewings of Markiplier swear-babbling his way through all three games, as well as seeing The Completionist’s videos on this trilogy, I finally decided to take a chance at being the night shift security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
Watching the videos prepared me, at least somewhat, for the jump scares. I wasn’t prepared, however, for how easy it is to get wrapped up in my own brain, following certain patterns in order to prevent Freddy from entering the office while also fending off Foxy, and I’ve died because of that (Damn it, Bonnie.). Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the first instance of turning on one of the door lights only to reveal one of the animatronics had moved into its respective kill position. (Again: damn it, Bonnie.)
Five Nights At Freddy’s is excellent for what it is: a simple horror game/stress simulator for $4.99 on Steam. With each new night, players are challenged to up their skill level a little bit more. Power seems to drain faster, the animatronics definitely become craftier in their sneaking around the facility, and Freddy himself joins in on the action. Freddy, I’ve found, is most certainly my biggest source of stress with FNAF, as his ability to sneak in the office becomes my biggest concern and often blinds me to the presence of other threats. (For the third time: damn it, Bonnie. Actually, Chica is just as guilty in this instance.) The biggest challenge, overall, with the first five nights is trying to keep stress from dictating poor use of your limited power, and I can confidently say that most players will have at least one near-death run-in with Freddy at 5a.m., with 0% Power, right before the chime tolls and 6a.m. arrives. It yields enough of a sense of accomplishment to keep coming back despite the threat of being forcefully stuffed into a Freddy Fazbear suit.
My biggest complaints feel minor in comparison to the hype these games have surrounding them, as they do stand up well given what they are. Five Nights At Freddy’s (the original) is a strong title, presenting simple controls made complex through the power of an ever-present fear. One false click could indeed spell your doom (or, for instance, suddenly realizing one of the doors can no longer be closed and knowing the only way to possibly win is by NEVER USING THE CAMERAS AGAIN).
FNAF, at the end of the day, is still just another simple jump scare horror game, though. There’s not a whole lot of complexity to it at this point, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My real complaints file in around FNAF2 and 3, however. Five Nights At Freddy’s 2 feels unnecessarily complicated, adding five (or six if you don’t count the off-chance encounters with Golden Freddy in the original game) new animatronics, a host of new mechanics, and removing the doors. While I’m willing to say this is a good look at how things could have been from the start with FNAF, given that 2 is a prequel-sequel (I assume that’s the right term for a sequel that acts as a prequel) and allowed Scott Cawthon more time to think of ways to traumatize people (which, I assume, probably sounded like, “Hm…These things are scary, but I bet they’d be even scarier if they could creep around through the vents. Yes. Excellent.”). That said, it feels convoluted, and much of the stress comes from worrying about how many of those creepy bastards are close enough to move in for the kill. Yes, I’m aware this is the point of the game. I’m nit-picking here. The third installment in FNAF almost feels like a back-to-basics move, dropping down to the one animatronic (Springtrap, you’re one creepy bunny) and a host of possible hallucinations that feel less like another layer to the horror and more like a cheap attempt at drawing nostalgia from a series that creates new installments on an absurdly regular basis. It’s also easy to argue that most YouTubers overreact on purpose, reducing the punch these games have when death-by-animatronic-monstrosity happens. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of genuine horror. I’ve had a few real oh shit moments when getting stuck in a rhythm of checking certain things at certain times, only to miss an animatronic long enough for it to get into the office. Tracking Freddy is typically my cause of death.
Overall, I strongly recommend giving the Five Nights at Freddy’s games a try. They’re not (by any stretch of the imagination) overpriced, the stress of playing is well balanced by the joys of making it to 6a.m. each night or the frustration of OH SHIT WHERE DID YOU COME FROM GOD DAMN IT FREDDY, and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) story elements each game brings to the table. Simple controls and a strong command over a player’s fear of the unknown (Seriously, where the **** is Chica now?) prove to only add to these games’ addictive properties. The extra nights and custom nights add extra difficulty for hardcore fans who want even more of a challenge. Love them or hate them, these games are great for what they are: cheap, easy to learn and hard to master, explorations of everyone’s moderately rational childhood fear of those animatronic horrors at restaurants like Chuck E. Cheese.