Welcome back to The Backlog, where we review games based on a certain genre each month. We’re nearing the end of October, but with that end comes one of the most anticipated video game movies of the year, “Five Nights at Freddy’s.” In honor of such a historic indie series, we’ll dive into the first four games that forever changed the industry.
Five Nights at Freddy’s
Created by Scott Cawthon as a last-ditch effort to save his career as a video game developer, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” truly encompasses the phrase, “You can’t beat the original.” Originally released on IndieDB as a demo and later as a full game on Aug. 8, 2014, on PC, this game became an icon amongst video game players on YouTube. What made “Five Nights at Freddy’s” so different at the time was the fact that players couldn’t escape; instead, they had to use a system of doors, cameras and a dwindling power supply to survive each night. The point-and-click style of games had seemingly died out and lost popularity when competing with the survival horror of “Slender: The Eight Pages” and “Amnesia.” Cawthon utilized the simplistic style to plunge the player into the role of a security guard doing way too much for the meager pay.
Sound design is an essential part of any video game, but Cawthon uses sound to immerse players and eventually make the jumpscares that much more effective. An example is the infamous desk fan that appears in every game. Just the sound of the fan running creates an ambiance that puts the player in the perspective of the security guard, not to mention the use of real human voices for the animatronics. The well-known screams that occur when the player dies are human, and so is Freddy’s iconic laugh when the building runs out of power. Just the fact that players are able to hear the animatronics breathe and move makes the experience that much scarier.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 2
“Five Nights at Freddy’s 2” was a reaction to the first game’s popularity. Fans wanted more, and Cawthon delivered. The second game includes many more enemies for the player to keep track of, with no doors to protect themselves. Cawthon also took the time to improve on areas where the last game lacked, an example being the cameras. They were useful in the first game for keeping track of the enemies, but it wasn’t as necessary since players could also listen to the doors or use the lights to see them instead. In this new edition, players have to use the camera for one specific animatronic: The Puppet. I distinctly remember playing “FNAF 2” on my phone and flipping to the music box every 10 seconds just to avoid having The Puppet jump out at me. While this prequel contains more for gamers to do, the designs of some of the new animatronics never seemed to be as terrifying as the originals. Their shiny, plastic look does portray the image of a brand-new toy, but it doesn’t give the unsettling aliveness that the ones in the first game did.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 3
The third installment of the franchise takes a different approach to the established pattern by having only one animatronic going after the player. Springtrap is the only one capable of killing the player, but the others are considered phantoms that are able to jump out and scare them. This causes the player to hallucinate in the poorly ventilated haunted horror attraction. These phantoms appear on the cameras, and if the player puts the screen down, then they are met with a jumpscare. I thought these to be some of the most effective jump scares of the franchise. When you are constantly flipping screens between cameras and the systems, it becomes very easy to miss the phantom faces that appear. Also, Cawthon found a way to make cameras more useful than the previous game. Now, players have a defense against Springtrap by luring him with voices into certain rooms to keep him away from the office. This actually gives players a reason to flip through multiple cameras, not just staying on the areas closest to them. His design, being much more human than the previous animatronics, is prevalent; he is not a machine searching for criminals or a child trapped in a suit, and he seems alive compared to the others. One thing that really scared me was the fact that it’s possible for Springtrap to stand in front of the window to your office. As he stares, players have to act fast to lure him away.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 4
The last of the original series is unlike any other, and it was originally named “Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Final Chapter.” Instead of acting as a security guard, players are in the perspective of a child trying to ward off nightmarish versions of the animatronics we’ve seen thus far. The camera system is replaced with two doors leading to hallways, a closet and a bed. In the fourth installment, sound and a flashlight are your only defense. While sound design was important in the first game and petered out with the sequels, “FNAF 4” brings it back tenfold. Players must listen to the doors carefully to hear the animatronics, but the sounds they make aren’t obvious like footsteps or mechanical noises. They breathe, and this makes the game even more unsettling. In my opinion, this is one of my favorites of the series just because of how simple it is. Sometimes, players can feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of enemies in “FNAF 2” or having to manage all the systems in “FNAF 3.” This game goes back to basics and reminds players what made the franchise so scary in the first place, not to mention the monstrous forms that the animatronics have adopted. Instead of resembling the animatronics meant to perform for children’s birthday parties, they look like monsters with claws and large teeth. This game, in particular, forces players to slow down, which is a stark contrast to the previous games. Instead of constantly switching, they must take the time to listen to their environment, which makes the jump scares even more effective.