Survival horror games pluck the players from the battlefield and pit them against their worst nightmares. They are an art but few games get it right. Video games are an immersive experience, but for horror games it is easier to be thrown out of the experience with the slightest fault. Horror games must have the appropriate mix of design, gameplay and of course, horror.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a point-and-click survival horror game created by indie developer and publisher Scott Cawthon. The game contains unique gameplay, original horror and is a breath of fresh air for the genre.
Players clock in as Mike Schmidt, a new security guard working the graveyard shift at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. The job is simple: Watch security cameras and keep track of the costumed robots as they roam freely at night. Sounds easy right? Well, if the robots spot you they will assume that you are a robot out of costume and stuff you into a spare mechanical Freddy Fazbear costume, killing you in the process.
Players sit at their station armed with security cameras, doors and lights. They have to survive with a limited supply of electricity, which depletes over time and goes even quicker if the player uses the tools at his disposal without careful consideration.
“Freddy’s” excels in creating Catch-22 situations that make the game nerve-wracking to play. For example, those who use too much of their battery are punished with a random jump scare from Freddy Fazbear himself. However, if you choose not to use your electronics at all, you’ll be rushed by a robot which activates when the player isn’t looking at the camera. The game uses various mechanics to distract the player as it prepares to induce shock with a “sucker punch” scare.
The character design and setting add to the atmosphere. Freddy’s is “where kids and parents alike come for entertainment and food as far as the eye can see!” But the animatronic characters are all lazy-eyed, soulless machines with costumes discolored by dried blood. Newspaper clippings are plastered throughout the restaurant revealing its history of missing children. This contrast and character design makes the atmosphere dreadful.
However, the biggest scare factor of all is the apprehension the game creates. Players are forced to teeter on the edge of safety to survive the night. They have to look at the cameras as little as possible to save energy and close their security doors when danger is an inch away. It’s easy for the player to succumb to the game’s randomly generated AI and become paranoid.
But for the quality the game puts out, there is a severe lack of quantity, and the gameplay becomes repetitive. Although the game goes for $4.99 on most distribution sites, there are only five stages of gameplay with no real replay ability. When groundbreaking indie horror games like Edmund McMillen’s “The Binding of Isaac,” are the same price with more content, it’s hard to see why this couldn’t have been free.
But if you have $60 to spend on rehashed first-person shooter garbage, then $5 is pocket change. And, players looking for thrills should visit Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza because “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is the most unique indie horror game on the market right now, and we need more games like it.
Rating: 3 stars