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Five Nights at Freddy’s Review

Five Nights at Freddy's Review

Five Nights at Freddy’s Review

Five Nights at Freddy’s is scary. Startling, creepy, cry-out-in-the-night scary. But is it horror? Bailey James reviews Five Nights at Freddy’s.


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Five Nights at Freddy’s is scary. Startling, creepy, cry-out-in-the-night scary. But is it horror? That’s far less certain. Developed by Scott Cawthon, the game is a fleeting adrenaline rush with a great premise and gameplay that starts strong but fades fast.

The Story

Freddy’s major selling points are its plot and premise, which break new horror ground rather than relying on tired haunted hospital or crumbling mansion-type settings. Instead, the game goes for a different kind of decay: you’re Mike Schmidt, a nighttime security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a Chuck-E-Cheese knockoff that has fallen into disrepair. The animatronic animal crew, consisting of a bear, rabbit, chicken, and fox have wandered far too deep into the uncanny valley to make anyone comfortable, are faulty after years of neglect, and have taken to wandering the restaurant after hours and attacking anyone they encounter. If you’re unlucky enough to be caught, they’ll stuff you into one of the Freddy Fazbear suits, where your body will be mutilated by the mechanics, electronics and wiring within. Getting nervous yet?

Most of the backstory is delivered through a series of voicemails helpfully recorded by the previous night watchman whose own fate is made clearer as you progress through the game. This is a helpful and understated way of conveying gameplay information and fleshing out the world in a game that takes place in a fixed location and forbids direct exploration. The developer’s choice to inject discomfort and scares into something that seems innocuous but still manages to be creepy on its own is clever and fresh. My only plot complaint, in fact, is that I wish he’d done more with the atmosphere he took such pains to build. Besides the voicemails, some news articles that are viewable through the security cameras, and what can be gleaned by examining the suits of the animals just before they maul you, there’s not much to deduce, and the game definitely could have supported more.


The game’s objective is simple: survive five nights from 12AM-6AM without being attacked and killed by the animatronic characters who wander the restaurant. The trouble is, you’re frozen in place and have only a computer monitor, a couple of flickering hallway lights, and a set of security doors at your disposal. You can toggle between a series of security cameras to monitor the locations of the characters and slam the doors of your security office shut if one of the animatronics is getting too close for your liking, but if you’re not careful you’ll run out of electricity before 6AM and be left entirely unprotected. The key is to use the cameras and doors sparingly, but each night the creatures get more aggressive and the available electricity less plentiful, so an adaptive strategy is necessary if you want to pick up your paycheck at the end of the week.

While the controls and mechanics are simple, they aren’t entirely successful. It’s easy to figure out how to play, but once you’ve learned each animatronic character’s pattern, there isn’t much new to expect in the later levels besides more sparing use of the monitoring devices. Gameplay is alternately tedious and stressful, which is perhaps an accurate simulation of being a security guard but doesn’t fully translate to being an enjoyable gaming experience. It’s true that the game is largely successful at being startling through its use of anticipation and jump scares, but this feeling can get old fast. I rarely wanted to play more than a couple of levels in one sitting.


I’d be lying if I said Five Nights at Freddy’s isn’t scary. I got startled plenty of times, even when I knew a threat was closely approaching, but the thrills were cheap and lacking in variety. The game creates suspense and anticipation, but unevenly, and for such a great setting and concept I wanted to see more done with this creepy pizza parlor. Ultimately, this isn’t a horror title. It fails to create the kind of paranoia and lingering unease a true horror title inspires long after the player has quit the game.

This title is best suited for gamers who enjoy jump scares, or large groups of friends who want to see each other get frightened by bug-eyed bears. If you’re in the right mood, Five Nights at Freddy’s is quick, cheap, and worth checking out just for the atmosphere. But like any burst of adrenaline, it’ll fade from the bloodstream fast.


Final Grade: B
Great setting and premise
Plenty of startling jump scares 
Genuinely creepy characters
– Gameplay can get tedious in slow moments
– No option to pause and accidentally hitting the escape key quits the game instantly
– Lack of variety in scares


Bailey James

Bailey James

Bailey’s lifelong love of adventure games began with the Nancy Drew game Message in a Haunted Mansion, when she learned that you can drop chandeliers on bad people without getting in trouble, and has since expanded to include a panoply of other favorites like the Myst games, the Monkey Island series, any game involving Sherlock Holmes, the Tomb Raider franchise, and the all-time best adventure game ever created, Grim Fandango. She's added more recent releases like Firewatch and Life is Strange to her list but nonetheless loves diving into the old classics. She still spends large amounts of time searching for secret passages in the hope of finding an unsolved mystery lurking out of sight. Bailey graduated from Oberlin College and lived in New York City for three years before returning to her hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a business development representative for a trucking software company. In addition to hoarding adventure games, her other interests include film, cooking, running, writing fiction, and eating copiously.

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