Recently Completed: Five Nights At Freddyís
Time Spent: Not entirely sure, somewhere between 8 to 14 hours from start of day 1 to finally completing 4/20 mode.
The Story: You are a Security Guard working the night shift in a pizza place! A fun pizza place called ďFreddyís FazbearsĒ which has singing animatronic animals like a ďChuck ĎE CheeseĒ or ďShowbiz Pizza!Ē What could be more fun? Oh yea, the animatronics are haunted or somethingÖ
+ The presentation is unique. The presentation and interface is first and foremost what sets this game apart from any other survival/horror type game. ďAmnesia the Dark DescentĒ really redefined survival horror games a few years ago by stripping the player of weapons. Amnesia forced the player to use stealth and avoidance instead of guns to survive which raised the tension to an incredible level because the players feeling of vulnerability was so intense. Five Nights At Freddyís (which will hereby be referred to as FNAF because Iím already sick of typing the full title) does Amnesia one better. In addition to having no weapons FNAF also strips away your ability to move. Thatís right, you are in a pizza place with a show stage, dining area, multiple hallwayís, a kitchen, closets, workshops, etc. butÖ you only ever see them from the view of your security camera while your vulnerable couch potato butt sits in your office with your fan and your tablet that you use to monitor the cameras in the building. Meaning that if/when the haunted and homicidal inhabitants of the pizza place come for you, you canít even run away. Good luck.
+ Genre mashups. These donít always work, but in this case the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts. What genres do we have? First and foremost horror. The antagonists may be cute and cuddly childish mascots but donít be fooled. This is a horror game. Itís also a resource management game. You start each night with a power bar to manage. That power needs to last from the start of your shift (midnight) to its end (6AM). The fan in your office canít be shut off, so thatís a slow but constant drain on the power. Every time you pull up your tablet to look at the cameras you draw more power, every time you turn on a light to check the blind spots outside your office doors you draw more power, every time you shut the office doors to protect your immobile and vulnerable butt you draw even more power. (You see where Iím going with this?) When you run out of power? The lights go out, and very soon Freddy will pay you a personal visit that you wonít recover from. One of the most nail biting moments of tension this game can deliver is when you run out of power sometime during the five oíclock hour and you desperately hope that the clock will roll over to 6AM before Freddy finishes you off for good. Itís also a puzzle game. There are only four enemies, but each can kill you and each has their own very specific behavior. For example, three out of the four NEVER move while they are on camera. But two of those can do something to jack with the camera feeds for a few seconds at a time so you canít see them even if you just had the camera watching them. Two of them can jam the doors to your office if you donít react fast enough when they are about to enter. One can literally teleport into the office if you keep both doors closed at the same time for too long. One will attack you if you either watch them too closely or not closely enough. There are specific counters to each of them, itís the timing and execution of each counter that is the key to survival, especially on the later levels.
The Not So Good:
- The super simplistic interface and presentation makes for a game that is lean on story. The developer did what he could to seed a backstory into the game thatís presented through answering machine messages left by a previous employee and clues hidden in the background of the various scenes. Specific details in the scenes can also change (either because the place is haunted or because the protagonist is a delusional loon) which offer more clues. Itís a very subtle way to clue the player in to the lore of the pizza place butÖ itís probably too subtle for most players to even notice right off the bat, especially when they are busy opening/closing doors, turning lights on/off, watching cameras and generally trying not to die.
- The game relies heavily on jump scares, early on this is terrifying and effective. Later, like when youíre trying to complete the custom level on the hardest setting to unlock the third star on your start screen (the infamous 4/20 mode) the shrill death cry of the enemies becomes freaking annoying as hell.
- Ridiculously hard learning curve. I have nothing but the utmost respect for BigBug, the first person to complete 4/20 mode (all four enemies turned up to the highest difficulty, which is 20, on the seventh and final custom night.). All of the subsequent winners use his strategy or variants of it (Markiplier is the second to complete 4/20 and his Letís Play series on FNAF is hilarious, he correctly credits BigBug for his winning strategy.) After being stuck on night six for a while I did some research on strategyís and even with an optimized strategy you still need pinpoint precision, accuracy, timing and a healthy dose of luck to complete it. 4/20 mode is so hard that the creator of the game has never completed it and he initially said it was impossible. It was only after BigBugs win lit up the internet that he added the third star to the loading screen to offer gamers some sort of reward to achieving it. And when I said luck, I mean luck. Success hinges on keeping your power up so that you can either finish with a smidgen of power or run out close enough to 6AM that the final killing sequence doesnít finish before the clock rolls over. And the final killing sequence can either be very long or very short depending on much of a douche Freddy wants to be. So if games with a brutally hard difficulty arenít your thing you may not be into it.
- The game is short. Each night is between five and six minutes long (on the mobile versions, on PC they are between eight and nine minutes) which means you could potentially finish the entire thing in under an hour. The time it took me to finish it includes all the replays it took me to struggle through the last few nights and also beating my head against the brick wall that is 4/20 mode. And I got off easy. BigBug spent over 23 hours refining his winning strategy. Even though he had the winning strategy mapped out for him Markiplier spent over seven hours on repeated 4/20 attempts before finally achieving victory. But itís sort of like Dark Souls, the punishment before completion directly correlates to the feeling of achievement after you finally manage to pull it off.
Better Than: This is a case where itís REALLY hard to compare this game to another because itís fairly unique. I will say I found the feeling of tension and impending doom to be more ominous and persistent than the Amnesia inspired ďOutlastĒ which had boring sections and often predictable jump scares. FNAF manipulates the tension and anticipation so effectively that even jump scares you KNOW are coming are still effective.
Worse Than: Again, itís hard to compare this to other games, especially when you take into consideration that only one guy did the entire thing but I have to give Amnesia the dark descent the upper hand here because I really think without Amnesia redefining what makes games scary FNAF probably wouldnít exist.
Overall: B: As much as I like this game I canít give it a higher score because of the extreme brevity and the extreme niche appeal. But to those who this game will appeal to, I canít recommend it highly enough. I think it says a lot that after having beaten it on iOS I plan to replay it on PC and I already bought the prequel (havenít played the prequel yet.)
EDIT: Since I originally wrote this review I replayed the game on PC. Using my Steam stats I can say that I played the game just short of 8 hours. I flew through the first few nights, I might have died a handful of times between nightís 5 and 6 together which probably accounts for an hour, hour and a half at most What did I do with the rest of that time? 4/20 mode on night 7. Anyone who says that the difficulty is balanced for the mobile version to be equal despite the shorter nights is WRONG. I went into PC 4/20 expecting to fly through it because I knew the strat and Iíd done it before. Instead I had how wrong I was force fed back to me repeatedly where I just wasnít fast enough, made the tiniest errors or just got screwed by random chance. Brutally difficult doesnít even begin to describe this game mode and it boggles my mind that BigBugz ever managed to do this in the first place. There needs to be a statue to him made somewhere to commemorate his blazing the trail to this monumental achievement in gaming.
For those who are interested in playing this game and decide to try tackling 4/20 mode Iíll post a few hints here which may or may not spoiler properly based on whether or not my browser decides to behave. So beware, the rest of this post will be spoilers.
First off, choose your strategy. BigBugz and Markiplier both used the same strategy which involves keeping the camera on Foxyís location in Pirate Cove. The risk in this strategy is that with your camera not watching the east hallway outside your office Freddy will enter your office if you ever pull up the camera without closing the East door first. (I strongly recommend you watch Markiplierís 4/20 completion video before attempting this to get an idea of the kind of speed and precision youíll need to pull this off because itís insane.) This strategy also depends entirely on luck. The ONLY way to win using this strategy is to hope that Freddy does his longest kill wind up after the power runs out (which is 50 seconds) because the almost constant door usage makes it impossible to manage your power to last the entire night even if Foxy doesnít charge you at all. Markilplier also posted a 4/20 fail compilation which showcases some of the misteps he faced on his journey to victory, including a rant against how luck based the final win is. This is not the strategy I chose but I mention it because a few of the fundamentals carry over to the next one. (And because itís epically historic.)
BagelTheBagel posted a video on You Tube where he took a strategy created by someone by the name of MrBuu. In Bagelís video (which you should also check out) he managed to complete the entire night with 2% power left over using this strategy. Bagel did a good job explaining why the strategy works but left out a few details that you either will learn through trial and error, a guide like this or rage quit the game and never play again. This strategy relies on keeping the camera on the east hall office entrance and checking it constantly. Periodically the east door will be closed so you can check Pirate Cove but it will go back to the east hall before opening the door again. This does three things. 1: It reduces the amount of time the door is closed which saves on power in the long run. 2: It holds Freddy to that spot, he wonít move past it if you check the camera often enough. 3: Checking any camera fractionally reduces Foxyís chance of charging at you, so the constant camera checking will slow him down as well.
Here are some specifics that will make this strat less stressful. 1: As soon as you start, check Foxy, then move the camera to the east hallway and flip the camera open and shut constantly, between 12 and 15 times. This is the time period it takes the animatronics to move up to your office close enough to be a threat. Ignore the urge to ignore the camera to try to save power for these first few seconds. Ignoring the camera here is the difference between Foxy charging once or twice throughout the night or not at all. 2: Be careful with your timing when closing the East door to check on Foxy. If you time it badly Bonnie will jam your West door while youíre occupied. I like to check on Foxy immediately after Bonnie tries to get in. Youíll have a few seconds breathing room while he backs off before trying again. 3: Donít go too long between checking Foxy. Rule of thumb that seemed to work for me was checking Pirate Cove at least twice an hour. If Bonnie is being less aggressive for whatever reason you may have to take the risk and ignore guideline 2, I kept my watch propped right up under my monitor where I could glance at it periodically. If it went much past 30 seconds between checking on Foxy I would take the gamble anyway because the alternative is having him show up in your office which is a bad day. 4: Get used to the rhythm of going from east light, camera, west light, camera, east light, camera, etc. The camera checking has to be nearly constant to keep Foxy at bay. 5: When youíre doing your checking make sure to turn the light off again before going to the camera, the lights do turn off automatically after the camera comes up but turning it off first saves a few percent in the long run. Doesnít sound like much but squeezing every last bit of energy you can out of the system is the difference between literally life and death at the end of the night. 6: The camera checks need to be as fast as possible. Short little flicks, just long enough to pull up the image. Youíll get used to picking out whether or not Freddy or Chica is standing there with these mirco views and thatís all the time you need. 7: Of course when you check the hall lights, deal with Bonnie or Chica appropriately by closing the door and not opening it until they leave. Make sure that you donít stop checking the camera while waiting for them to leave, keep the rhythm going. Also by this point, you should be able to recognize whether or not Bonnie is there from his shadow even though he doesnít overtly stand at the window like Chica. (FYI, I had no power left at the end of the night but the time rolled over almost immediately after the power dropped.) Thatís it, be fast, be perfect and good luck to you.