Besides writing and studying, I work as a night security guard to pay for my extravagant, luxurious needs (food, water, shelter). And it doesn’t matter the setting or location, working at night can be very unsettling. Alone with your thoughts in a dimly lit anyplace during the witching hour can be the worst thing ever. The clock tick tocks mockingly as time slows to a crawl and the night grows darker with each passing hour. I’m not a spiritual person… but around three or four in the morning, third cup of coffee in hand and heavy-lidded eyes blinking in futility at the spectre of sleep, you start to hear things. Snaps and cracks from the wind. Chittering and chattering from various nocturnal animals. A flash of light across your face as a lonely car makes a very slow U-turn. A bang from something, somewhere. And you start to wonder: are you experiencing auditory hallucinations or did you just hear a baby cry? So you walk outside for some fresh air. And just where the light from a distant street lamp falters to the shadows you see something standing, just barely noticeable. Just waiting for you to shut your eyes.
That paragraph best sums up my experience with Five Nights At Freddy’s. It is a panic attack simulator ingeniously disguised as a game. You’re a recently hired security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a kid friendly pizza party parlor with a sordid, spotted past. For instance, most previous night guards are murdered by haunted animatronic bull****! And you will be too unless you’re hyper diligent. See, not only is Freddy’s palor haunted by the living embodiments of every childhood nightmare you’ve ever suffered, it also has an incredibly tight budget (no doubt crippled financially by dozens of lawsuits). They have only so much energy to expend from twelve at night to dawn; your working hours. You’ll have to manage that as you check video camera feeds, turn on the lights just outside your office, and seal your two office doors.
When your night begins, everything is hunky dory and all the animatronic monstrosities are silent and still as they should always be. But as the night progresses and you check your feed you’ll find some things… off. Wait, wasn’t Freddy on stage a minute ago? Now he’s in the dining area. And huh, where did the ****ing rabbit go?
So you’ll have to be, as I said, diligent. Keep your eyes peeled for the scoundrels as they make their way towards your office. If they get too close (go on, turn the light on just outside the door and have a heart attack), just seal the door. But for every nervous glance at the feed, every light flicked on, and every door slammed shut, your power will drain, eventually leading to an outage. And God help you if that happens. I’m just kidding! There is no God… Only Freddy.
At the end of the night – assuming you survive – you’ll start another, if you dare. This is a simple, terrifying game. It’s clever, fun, and will absolutely cause you to shout or shriek at least once. Hell, I shouted at the main screen, and then again a few seconds after that. It marries the fun and inherit hilariousness of the jump scare with a tense, gripping, paranoia-inducing state: the result of brilliant atmosphere, design, and your own imagination working overtime. And perhaps the best thing about this game is the brilliantly basal story, one told through clues and phone messages. I honestly haven’t seen a community delve so deeply into the meaning and depth of a story since Dark Souls. Five Nights At Freddy’s is a testament to horror, to the power of simplicity, and to dedicated indie development.
Did you just hear something?