By Bryan Smith on November 16, 2014 at 2:34pm
“Five Nights at Freddy’s,” the first game in the series, was a pleasant surprise for the horror genre. The Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronics always gave off an unsettling feeling, and with Freddy and his “merry” band of friends trying to stuff people into suits, I don’t think I can look at robots the same way again without thinking imminent death looming nearby.
Then the creator of the game, Scott Cawthon, announced a sequel. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza redesigned their four characters into kid-friendlier robots and they, along with the old ones, are still convinced that the security guard needs to be fitted into a robotic suit. Cawthon worked hard and fast enough to release a sequel to a game released just three months prior. Now that is an impressive feat most can’t claim easily, a lot of companies struggle to release a game annually with increasing quality. So does the sequel stand tall next to “Five Nights at Freddy’s?” Just like Foxy as he rushes into the office to say hello, I’d be one of many to quickly say yes.
A Greater Challenge Awaits You
The basic premise of “Five Nights at Freddy's 2” is that you, the player, are working for Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza as the night guard. The only way to stay alive is by warding off the animatronics trying to kill you. They think you are one of the robots without a suit on and they will put you back into one except that will kill any human and you are a fleshy body that doesn’t belong in a Freddy suit. Because the animatronics are put on free roam mode (they aren’t turned off during the night), you have to protect yourself from the attacks.
The only thing is, there isn’t any way to fight back. You have lights with a limited amount of power, a camera, a Freddy head, and a music box. That’s it. Those items can keep the threats away but only if used right. The lights will reveal animatronics hidden in the shadows and will stun them and/or make them go away (though they don’t go away easily). The camera shows where certain animatronics are at the moment you look at a screen. Also on the camera is the music box located at the gift shop screen. You need to wind up the music box enough or a new animatronic comes hunting for you.
Lastly, there’s the Freddy head. Because of the doors, the only thing keeping you alive in the last game are absent, and the Freddy head is your only lifeline. Should the animatronics get into the office, either through the vents or the big open door in front, you have moments to put on the head and fool them into thinking you’re one of them. If it works, they leave. If it doesn’t, you’re trying on a suit by force. These new, though small, changes make the game feel different and unique. You don’t have to worry about running out of power right away and dying. It’s the new threats that are more challenging.
What makes this defense process horrifying isn’t the jump scares themselves, although they certainly make hearts speed up, that’s for sure. Instead, it’s the micro management needed to survive each night. It starts off nice and slow, giving tips as you go, but it ramps up as the animatronics become more relentless. This game is harder than “Five Nights at Freddy's,” and the animatronics aren’t too shy to remind you that. The music box needs winding up, but a new redesign of Bonnie the Bunny is staring you down. Foxy is waiting outside the front door, but you only have a sliver of light left to ward him off and the other animatronics. The new Balloon Boy just came into your office, and he won’t go away, which invites Foxy to feast upon your skull (he jumps at you with an open mouth, which I can only assume that’s what he does). There is a lot more to worry about this time around, and it only builds the tension higher.
However, if I were to add a negative to this, it would be the strange occurrences that the animatronics don’t play by the game’s rules. By the game’s rules, I mean you could do everything right to stay alive and the old Bonnie the Bunny would go “Ha, nope,” and kill you anyway. I just feel the first “Five Nights at Freddy’s” was a bit more lenient with keeping you alive.
Psychological Horror at its Finest
Jump scares aren’t the major strength of psychological horror. Sure, they can get the heart pumping fast, but horror comes from fear. There's a greater feeling of dread lingering around rather than someone jumping out of the shadows and going “Abooga!” As the lone security guard at night, you feel isolated in the office and almost powerless against the monstrosities trying to kill you. You know the threat is coming, but you don’t know exactly when or even if they reach you in time to kill you.Uncertainty is key here.
The ambiance has been increased since the last game with the sounds and audio. As opposed to the rare moans one would hear on later nights, there are several audio clues thrown through out that will give hints of what threat is lurking near you. Animatronics can be heard shuffling through the vents and (some) laughing echoes throughout the facility.
Unsettling and nerve racking is a good way to describe how the game likes to mess with people’s minds. Even with the sounds and seemingly predictable patterns, the animatronics can be unpredictable at times. They can easily fool you and keep you guessing when they want to come and 'visit' the office and when they want to leave. There is never the certainty that survival will be rewarded. The only way to see the light of day at 6 A.M. is to keep a level head and do what is needed to prevent being attacked. With the way the animatronics behave, however, panic can and will cause rash and poorly thought-out actions, leading to death. Psychological horror is putting the player’s mind to the test, and “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2” certainly pushes the mind game.
The Lore Only Gets Better
There have been quite a lot of theories floating around of what actually happened from the past game. We have The Bite of 1987 with one of the animatronics biting off someone’s frontal lobe, the murder of five children caused by a man in a Freddy suit, the mysterious reason why the animatronics are attacking, and more hidden in the lore’s shadows. “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2” builds off the lore and makes the world even more terrifying.
However, as great as the lore is, I can’t discuss too much about it, or as much as the sequel goes with it. Spoilers abound; all I can say is that the dark secrets and surprises will leave people shocked and speechless.
Charm/Scares Thins Itself Thin
I’m always one to admire a game for the amount of charm it has, whether it comes from cute cut scenes, getting a game over, or the sheer amount of craziness thrown at the player. It seems that some of the charm got lost between the first game and here. A lot of the charm came from the "game over" segments. The animatronics shrieks a loud scream at you and promptly stuffs you into a suit. The stuffing of your dead body isn’t shown but leaves your mind guessing how that process went as the game over screen shows a suit with your eyeballs sticking far out and your teeth laying in the suit’s mouth.
For “Five Night at Freddy’s 2,” the shrill shriek turns into a shout that sounds like someone is trying to prank-scare you. This sound is used for all the animatronics, and there aren’t any variants unlike the first game. Even the special character from the first game (I shall not spoil here, it’s a “special” surprise) is less scary and special, because it does nothing really different from the other animatronics. However, these screams could be tied to the lore, so this is a bit of a nit pick than anything.
The scares, however, haven’t improved too much from the previous game. Going back to the screams, they aren’t as terrifying here; they come off as compared to the screams that sound like children. It just sounds more horrifying and implies something terrible digging into that. Some of the animations also look cheaper, as they look like only the head is moving in instead of the whole body approaching. The "game over" screen is changed, as well; the player looks through the Freddy mask with the Old Freddy looking in. That isn’t as clever and entertaining as having one’s eyes sticking out both comically and horrifically.
Because the game is harder, dying happens more frequently. With more deaths, the animatronics lose some of their intimidation. I feel that the more people are exposed to a shock, the more sanitized they become to getting shocked. The scares soon turn into expected irritation, and that can hamper the horror feel a bit. However, as I said before, the psychological horror remains intact due to all the micro management. I’m just more used to the jumping when a robot snatches me.
Gotta Show That Bear Who's Bose
In this day of age, it’s rare to see such a clever series of games to shake and freak people out. With the original setting the ground, “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2” explores more ways to terrify players with putting them on ease. I’m a little disheartened that some of the charm and fear faded a bit, but I feel that there’s still more to this series and Scott Cawthon is only getting started. I hope that wherever he is taking us will be one heck of an adventure fighting of robot bears, foxes, bunnies, and chickens that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.