You know, it must be amazing to be Scott Cawthon right now.
Currently, the Internet is full of such negative things, like the hostile Gamergate debate, Kim Kardashian’s photoshopped head on a photoshopped naked body, and that frightening Too Many Cooks video. It’s a shame when it’s reverted to the fact that the only thing on the Internet to make people happy is porn.
But in comes Scott Cawthon, an independent game designer whose previous works mostly went unnoticed and ignored. Then in August of 2014, he released his next project, called Five Nights at Freddy’s. A point-and-click horror game, where the objective is to survive the onslaught of animatronic robots. It caught the attention of many, and it became huge among gamers. It was even featured on so many Let’s Play channels, who loved the simple design of the game, and the eerie setting and the jump scares which was easy entertainment fodder. It was the perfect fuel for big names like PewdiePie and Markiplier.
I even praised the game in my last article when I called it better than the Konami demo P.T.. I still stand by that article, even with all the nay sayers that replied to me. And I’ll say it again, I am not a huge fan of horror games, and I really hate jump scares when it’s the primary way to scare audiences. But Five Nights at Freddy’s had a terrifying setting with wonderful use of sound and lighting, and the game mechanics were meant to keep you on your feet as you try to close doors quickly and use the cameras to keep the monsters at bay. It was the perfect game to come out at the right time as Hallowe’en approached and gamers needed something that was more than just running and shooting.
So when it was announced that the sequel was coming out early 2015, fans were chomping at the bit in anticipation. The patience was just as nerve rattling as waiting for Foxy to peer out of his pirate cove sanctuary. The demo was released early November, and Let’s Play channels jumped on it as fast as possible. The hype was so huge that the full game came out almost immediately after, much earlier than announced and unceremoniously.
So will this game be the next well received and launch into superstar levels like Gangham Style for the Internet, or will it be tired quickly and leave you months later wondering why you participated in the hype, like Harlem Shake? Let’s find out.
First, I have to say this, the game came out to a price tag of $8. This is slightly higher than the $5 I spent on the first game, but still well within reasonable pricing. I think Scott knew he was going to sell so many copies that hot cakes would be jealous, and I have to give credit to him not jacking up the price to something higher and less reasonable. And $8 on steam is well within reasonable limits for a game of this quality.
So as you load in, you notice something that makes this game a whole lot more different. There’s a cut scene. You see the dark room through the eyes of a Freddy Fazbear head, and you are able to look left and right to see the old gang, Chica the chicken and Bonnie the Bunny. Sounds of children laughing and static get louder as the screen clears and you get the opening title with a roll call of their new and improved animatronics. So we have a new Bonnie, who looks darling in her bright blue shell with nice rosy cheeks and a cute smile, there’s Chica who looks a lot more feminine and more like a chicken than a duck, and a new Freddy, who looks shiny and polished. So now you can experience death by cuteness. You know, I predict that’s exactly how I’ll die when it’s my time.
Night one arrives and you are astounded to hear the same voice as the first game calling you to introduce you to the game and give exposition and pointers on how to survive. This of course will floor you, because you swear he died in the first game on night four. But anyway, it’s good to hear the friendly voice again. (That would be Scott Cawthon’s voice, by the way. Scott, if you’re reading this, can you record something for my cell phone’s voice mail? Something about not coming to the phone because a robot bear is trying to kill me? Thanks. That would totally be awesome.)
This is where you come to realize that this game isn’t more than just a cut-and-paste sequel, there’s some new mechanics to focus on. Firstly, there’s no more doors. You have a left vent and a right vent, and a wide open doorway that extends all the way down the hall that branches off into the party rooms. This is where most of the action will take place down the road. The two light buttons on the sides are still there, but now you have a flashlight that you can control by pressing the Control button on your keypad. I love this, as now you can use the right hand to control the mouse and the action, and your left hand for your flashlight. It helps the engagement when you have 2 hands to work with instead of 1.
You’ll also notice that there’s no power gauge, but you do have a flashlight gauge. So you can now freely look at the cameras without consequence. In my opinion, I liked the percentile reading to know how much I have left, because it gives you a more accurate representation of how much you have, but the battery bar is still informative. I kind of wish there was an options menu where you can choose which you prefer, and also a choice to bind that flashlight key, but that’s more aesthetic than problematic. As you search with the cameras, you notice that you can use the Control key to light up the room or hallway to see any potential danger. And because the light is your only weapon, as robots are stunned for several seconds after light is shone on them, it lets you have a more proactive strategy instead of just a reactive one. You can now use the cameras to stop them in their tracks long enough to concentrate on other areas.
Also, replacing Foxy’s pirate cove is another new mechanic that just adds dread the moment you realize what it is. Now there’s a music box that needs to be cranked every so often. If the music ends, a new Mannequin monster comes and kills you without any way to stop it. So you must crank it every chance you get. It’s an almost top priority. I love and hate this at the same time. It adds so much to the plate on what must be done, and at the same time, if you’re stuck and can’t get to it, you’ll curse its existence. So planning ahead is a newer skill you need to complete this game, as well as the lightning reflexes with the mouse cursor.
In case you’re wondering how you can defend yourself with the robots now that there are no doors, the game provides you with your own fake Freddy stuffed head that you can activate the same way you command the camera. It does offer protection against most of the monsters. However, if any of the robots get in there while your attention is elsewhere, like say winding up that freaking music box, you must react insanely fast to get the mask on to fool them. If you don’t, you’re dead. This takes a long time to get used to and practice it, because sometimes they come when you aren’t prepared, then there’s the sense of dread underneath the mask, and also a sense of pessimism and doubt that you lost because you weren’t fast enough.
Oh, and the mask doesn’t work with the old Foxy. Yup, that’s right, not only do you have to deal with the new robots coming to eat your intestines like the baby back ribs on the adult menu of this fine eating establishment, but the older robots are there too. And since they are mostly used as spare parts, they look twice as terrifying as before. Old Chica is missing some arms, and looks like she has more teeth, and Bonnie is missing her entire face! And when she’s close, it’s so menacing, it’s almost a nightmare inducing experience. Foxy looks relatively similar, and his newer counterpart is all mangled and scarier.
So if you’ve been paying attention, that’s 9 robots you have to watch. There’s the old 4 robots, there’s the upgraded models of the same robots, and the mannequin that’s soothed with that demonic music box. Well, guess what? There’s another robot! And this time, it’s in the shape of a kid that gives out balloons. And if he gets in, he can sabotage your lighting and you can’t turn them on anymore. This of course leaves you incredibly vulnerable to death. I hate that kid. Oh, and golden Freddy is also there to eat your soul. That’s 11 robots coming to get you. Have fun!
The difficulty is much higher than its predecessor. You have 11 robots altogether to watch out for. Fortunately, each day changes the number of monsters coming your way. First night is mostly just new Bonnie and new Chica, second night introduces the Foxy twins, third and fourth night, new robots take a breather for the veterans to take a shot, finally fifth and sixth, night, it’s a full battalion coming after your gizzards. There’s so much more to pay attention, not to mention that god forsaken music box, that failure is imminent for new players. My strategy is using the cameras for several seconds only, lowering to flash the hallway, and if I hear the vents rattling, I use the camera and flashlight to stall them while I go and rewind that infernal music box. That said, when you see that 6am graphic, the jubilation you experience from completing something is very hard to match.
And every random death, there’s also an Atari-style mini game to play. It looks like it’s meant to show more back story of what happened in this world, while a digitized voice spells out a haunting message of distress. It’s a quick break from all that failing to get to the end, and makes the experience all the more haunting.
The graphics in the game didn’t get much of an upgrade, and looking left and right still feels like you’re in the middle of a cylinder, but honestly, it’s nothing that hinders the experience. But the sound got a big improvement. Now the sound effects and ominous music that warns you of incoming potential terror is more distinctive and obvious than before, so you can hear the danger before it happens. The music now helps you win by letting you know to shine light in the front area for any threats, and sound effects of something entering and exiting the vents let you react more accurately, instead of spazzing the light for something that isn’t there.
The jump scare mechanic is back in full force again, and it’s used in the same way as more punishment for losing. I never had an issue with this, as it’s a motivator to try harder and win. The only real difference is the scream they use. Instead of the high pitched one from the first game where it sounds like digitized screeching, this is more of a low toned growl. You know the song Remedy by Seether, and the part where he yells before the guitar solo? Sounds like that. I can understand the debate between which is better. I do like the way they varied it, but I’m a fan of the original screeching. Just don’t text me in the middle of the night, or else I’ll awaken to the sound of Chica killing me. It won’t be pretty. I have no idea why I chose that sound for my phone either.
The controls are still about the same. Clicking the mouse button activates the side lights, Control key shines the light, and moving the mouse to the bottom left or bottom right activates the Freddy head and the cameras respectively. This takes a while to get used to, especially when you need to get into the mask immediately after the camera, because sometimes, Old Bonnie is right there to kill you, and if you’re a second off, you’re robot chow. It leads to my only complaint of the game really. If the mask drop was a different keystroke, like space bar or something, I’d be less inclined to feel that my death was preventable. Maybe that’s something for an update later on, an options menu, where you can bind keys to your choice. I think it would be a great challenge to see if you can beat the game with the keyboard instead of the mouse.
The biggest change to come into this game is the fact that there’s a story now. It’s still pretty abstract, with some of the key points up for interpretation, but you’re starting to piece together what happened to this franchise and how it fell from being family friendly to just plain hostile. The number of theories that has come from both games has just been interesting to read. There’s more cryptic readings on the wall, and the phone guy’s narration doesn’t tell you a whole lot, but tells you enough to realize what’s going on, even though your theory differs from mine.
I have to admit, I was very afraid of this game coming out months earlier, because it could easily have been a rushed-out sequel to cash in on the hype, and released for the expressed purpose of fan service. Well, I can assure you that those worries are put to rest on a nice comfortable office chair, with a set of cameras and a flashlight to protect itself. This game is awesome, and I think it’s much better than the first one. The tension it creates is still there, the difficulty is higher, and more thrilling when you beat it, the sound is extra terrifying, and overall, it’s just a shining example of how one man’s creativity can make the Internet a breeding ground for amazing things. It’s reminiscent of the indie horror titles where so few resources can still make terrifying experiences for the audience. My only complaints are the minor control annoyances and the need for more keyboard support, but I still must recommend it for anyone looking for a great challenge.
There’s just one thing that I have to ask. I swear I thought I heard a music box earlier and … OH CRAP! I forgot to wind that thi–AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!