In Five Nights At Freddy’s you take the role of the new overnight security guard for the underperforming Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a fictional Chuck E. Cheese’s/Showbiz Pizza Place type restaurant. All you have to do is keep an eye on the monitors and make sure you don’t run out of power and repeat this for 5 nights. You see, there was an accident quite a few years ago that cost the company most of their money and the business will be closed at the end of the year. Due to these cutbacks, power runs out quite quickly and you won’t be able to do required parts of your job like watch the monitors and shut the doors before murderous animatronic robots pop in and stuff you inside an unused robotic suit. The animatronics on the stage are allowed to wander the building all night long “to prevent their servos from locking” (As your semi-helpful “Phone Guy” tells you) So Bonnie, Chica and Freddy wander the closed restaurant, and if they happen to see you, they supposedly think you are a robot without the costume which is a big no-no, so the make sure to rectify this forcefully.
The game itself is very simple in its design. You can’t walk around, you sit in your security office, occasionally tapping the bottom to bring up the security monitor which of course obscures your vision, navigating the cameras, and then checking the two doors that lead into your office for robotic intruders. You don’t exactly see the robots move (except for maybe one if you are (un)lucky ), the scenes are mostly pre-rendered backgrounds, sometimes with a panning camera. This actually enhances the experience of constant tension and terror since you don’t see movement, and sometimes have to squint to see if that shadow was a shadow or the outline of Bonnie the bunny.
While the game’s introductory disclaimer says it has many jump scares, the truth is there is only one per game and that is when you fail to make it through a night. If the power runs out or you ignore one of your two doors by losing track of the wandering animatronics, you are treated to a briefly animated robot in your face, screaming incredibly loudly. The first few times you will jump out of your seat or throw your device in shock, but then you know it is coming….so you steel your resolve and ensure that you check every corridor, every camera, and every corner until the chimes alert your night is over. As the nights progress the robots become more active and aggressive, yet the gameplay remains the same. There are times that you may get a bit comfortable and ignore the cameras, preferring to just use the lights to see if there is a robot sneaking up on you. Of course the game has a fifth robot for just these occasions. Foxy the Pirate. Foxy isn’t always active, but if you ignore the cameras, or if you look at his “out of order” Pirate’s cove too often through the monitors, he might make an appearance, especially in the later nights. Suffice to say, you learn to fear Foxy.
The backstory itself is hidden throughout the game: in Phone Guy’s messages every night, newspaper clippings which appear on the walls from time to time and within your imagination. That’s what makes Five Nights At Freddy’s so unique. So much is left to your imagination that it really has captured the minds of many fans online, just do a google search and you will find thousands of pieces of fan fiction, theories, art, and even songs dedicated to the characters and the game itself.
Five Nights translates perfectly to the iPad from the PC. For me it actually works even better than the PC version since it feels very natural to be looking through security monitors, tapping to get a view from different vantage points, only to see Bonnie looking right at the camera near your office.
On the iPhone, the game works very well, but isn’t as immersive. You have to tap the sides of the screen to pan back and forth in your office, which is not needed on the iPad or PC versions. This isn’t a deal-breaker or anything for me, but it certainly took me out of the experience a bit more than I expected it to. But having it on my phone so my 6-year old son (who is far better than me at the game) can play it on the iPad without him stealing my phone is totally worth it.
This brings me to the next bit, the game is currently the #1 paid app on the app store, and for $3 it is an excellent experience, but is one that should be enjoyed by adults before letting their kids play. There aren’t any extremely graphic scenes, there’s no blood or gore beyond what could be eyeballs hanging out of a suit at the “game over” screen, and all violence is implied by the jump scares and the backstory told by Phone Guy. It isn’t designed exactly for kids, but from the internet it is clear that kids have fallen in love with this game and it has sparked a creativity that not many games do these days. I can’t exactly recommend it for children but I know my son absolutely loves the game. He loves getting scared by the different robots popping up on the screen, and even wants to have a Freddy Fazbear’s themed birthday party. I am sure some kids would have horrible nightmares requiring lights on and probably therapy sessions, so as usual, your mileage may vary.
Definitely check this game out no matter what device you have. It is worth the price of admission and you may find yourself obsessing over backstory like I did for quite a while. Be warned if you are a parent, and you let your kid play this you just might end up like me, stuck forever pretending I’m Foxy the Pirate at the doorway, then charging into the room to “scare” them as they giggle uncontrollably.