You’ve just accepted a minimum wage night watch job at a local Pizzeria — Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a play on Chuck E. Cheese’s — where all you have to do is watch the establishment from midnight to 6 AM. By all rights this should have been the easiest few bucks of your entire life, but then you suddenly got a recorded call from the previous security guard warning you about the restaurant’s animatronics moving around at night. Apparently they’re going to stuff you inside an empty animatronics costume if they find you, killing you in the process, and your only means of protection are two powered doors — and some cameras — all of which are running on limited juice due to recent budget cuts.
Thus begins the harrowing premise to Five Nights at Freddy’s (out now $2.99), the recently released super popular tale of PC survival horror that is now available to iOS users everywhere. Whereas many other games have long claimed to be about horror — such as the Resident Evil series — a common complaint has been that these are really just action titles, wherein the hero is expected to overcome an onslaught of abyssal hordes. Five Nights at Freddy’s — however — is perhaps the very definition of the phrase “Survival Horror” personified, wherein you take control of a disempowered teenager desperately praying that the sun will rise before an animatronic horror manages to slip into his office.
To start with — unlike those many other games of so-called horror — you won’t ever need to worry about dealing with finicky movement controls during your tenure, which is good since your cramped little office is the only remotely safe place in the entire restaurant. What you can do — however — is freely look at either of the two doors leading into your personal office/coffin, which is accomplished via tapping the iDevice’s left and right ends respectively, yet you will never be able to watch both of these doors simultaneously. Located next to each of these doorways are two buttons, one of which turns on the lights immediately outside your room — which is very useful for checking if an Animatronic is directly next to you, where the cameras can’t see — and the other slams the door shut tight.
Finally you can access the security cameras by hitting a button at the bottom of your screen, after which you may look at live feeds from the various sections of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza. Most of the animatronics — such as Freddy, Bonnie, and Chica — have this curious quirk where they won’t do anything at all whenever they’re actively being watched, either by way of camera or the hallway lights just outside your two doors. Unfortunately the ones you aren’t watching are completely free to move around as much as they see fit, leading to you hearing their foot steps as they stomp around about the Pizzeria at night. While the obvious answer to this would be to lock yourself in — and wait for morning to arrive — you sadly don’t have enough juice to last that long, all thanks to various lawsuits levied upon the restaurant shortly after a child was horribly injured.
With doors that consume power — cameras that devour energy — and lights that burn up juice, one might begin thinking that the best way to survive is to do nothing but tap the lights to see which door you should shut whenever the mechanical footsteps draw near. However, if you do that then you just might have the pleasure/misfortune of meeting up with Foxy the Fox — the most often beloved Animatronic of the game’s sizable fan-community — whom doesn’t really play by the same rules as the pizzeria’s other mascots. Normally relegated to Pirate’s Cove — which adorns an “Out of Order” sign — Foxy would rather hide than be watched by you, but once he escapes — which happens if he realizes that you’re ignoring him — no amount of eye contact will stop his mad dash to reach you.
If this game of observation and resource management doesn’t sound horrifying yet, then let me assure you right now that Five Nights at Freddy’s is a far more harrowing experience than you think. The realization that an angry mascot could burst in at any moment will leave you wanting to check the cameras endlessly — lock the doors needlessly — and constantly turn on the lights, all of which will rapidly drain your power. This knowledge that you must move to save your life — and yet that wasted actions will merely hasten your demise — can quickly leave you a jittery mess, all primed for that moment when you discover that one of them broke in while you were checking on Foxy.
That said, all of this is merely the early half of your week long service period at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza — a time ruled largely by Bonnie, Foxy, and Chica — your odds of survival become even slimmer when the titular bear himself begins actively seeking your blood.
It is worth noting — however — that this does position Five Nights at Freddy’s as a rather odd title for the iOS market, especially since the people here are normally looking for apps to relax with either during daytime pockets of free time or just before going to bed. While the iOS has never been a stranger to super hard games — and keeping Freddy and crew out of your office is certainly no cakewalk — they usually weren’t designed to leave you a nervous wreck afterwards either, a thought worth considering for the uninitiated. Therefore one does not play this game in order relax — or even feel empowered — but rather to live the adrenaline rush of a supernatural stalker film’s next potential victim, and to this end Freddy’s Animatronic Friends provide a thrilling experience unlike any other.
Delivering this bone-chilling presentation is a visual motif that has far more in common with most early era CD games — such as MYST, The 7th Guest, or Phantasmagoria — rather than what people are used to seeing these days. From the office the player sits in — to the camera feeds they can watch — Five Nights at Freddy’s is almost entirely comprised of static pre-rendered images, with only the actual mascot attacks being fully animated. This simple presentation — which has been lifted intact from the PC original, save for the office’s now missing rotational effect — does little to diminish Freddy’s fear inducing potential, for these evil machines are positively unnerving even when they’re not moving.
After all, who needs visuals in order to be scared when unsettling ideas — and an imagination set loose to run wild — can be far more effective agents towards driving someone completely bonkers? Although impractical to read while trying to remain actually safe, the game’s fan community has discovered the existence of barely visible newspaper clippings that change as you progress throughout your week long assignment. When pieced together they begin alluding towards possible reasons as to why the restaurant’s animatronics might be so hell bent upon violently stuffing you into an empty Freddy Fazbear costume.
There was apparently an incident where a man — dressed up in a Freddy Fazbear costume — led five different children into the restaurant’s security room late one night, all of whom were never seen again. Even though a potential suspect — a former security guard — was eventually arrested, and even found guilty, the five missing children’s corpses still remained forever at large. Afterwards a series of lawsuits — such as when the health inspector was called in due to claims that the mascots smelled of rotting meat, as well as the biting incident of ’87 — all began to take a heavy financial toll upon the establishment.
None of which answers the community’s most burning question: Who is Golden Freddy?
Anyways — in conclusion — if you’re looking for a paranoia inducing experience of bone-chilling horror, where less sometimes truly is more, then perhaps you too should try earn your very own pathetically-small minimum-wage paycheck from Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
What’s the worst that could possibly happen?
iFanzine Verdict: Five Nights at Freddy’s is a game that takes the concept of survival horror in a far more literal direction, with players being asked to survive five nights at a haunted pizzeria where the animatronic mascots come to life at night. Rather than being equipped to stop these possessed automatons, players’ only real tools for fighting these mascots are electric doors that – due to budget cuts – run on very limited juice. The end result – when coupled with an unsettling back story about why the mascots are haunted – leads to endless bouts of fun-filled white-knuckled paranoia, all of which usually ends with the player jumping out of their chair when a mascot attacks them. The largest concern with playing this game on a mobile device is that Five Nights at Freddy’s is extremely good at turning players into nervous train wrecks, which is heavily counter productive to the normal mobile gaming intent of relaxing oneself.