Alek Wasilewski Interview (Tsioque)

Tsioque
Standard

Princesses have been around in video games for almost as long as the medium has existed, but unfortunately they (and sadly many other female game characters) are still to this day often relegated to the tired old damsel in distress role. It’s refreshing then to get to play as a princess who actually gets to do the adventuring for a change.

Tsioque (pronounced /tsIɒk/) is the upcoming point and click adventure game from OhNoo Studio & animator Alek Wasilewski; the game places you into the small triangular brown shoes of the eponymous princess as she navigates her way through an imp-infested castle to thwart the plans of an evil wizard (who incidentally rocks a fantastic combusting coiffure I might add) who has usurped her mother’s throne. It’s already successfully been accepted onto the Steam Greenlight program, and the team are currently midway through an ongoing Kickstarter campaign to get the project crowdfunded, so if you want to help a virtual princess out, then you know where to go.

Having particularly loved OhNoo’s previous work, Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, I was only too keen to check out their new project and see what it’s all about. I got the chance to talk with Alek, the game’s writer, director and animator, about his career in animation and filmmaking, what his early video game influences were and how collaborating with OhNoo has allowed him to make the ultimate game that he’s always wanted to make. So, just what exactly makes Tsioque tick…or should that be tick Tsioque? Let’s find out.

What made you want to be an animator, and what were your early inspirations as a filmmaker?

Oh man, a big question to start with. I guess it started very early. Like every kid out there, I was left in front of cartoons by parents who wanted a moment of peace. Disney, Hanna-Barbera, obscure Polish cartoons, whatever was currently on. I guess what made the difference in my case was that as I grew up I didn’t dismiss ‘cartoons’ as an inferior art form to, say, film or literature, which then helped me to seriously consider the dream of becoming an animation filmmaker.

I consider myself a storyteller – I’ve been making stuff up and drawing comics since I was four – and I still feel the same joy that comes from telling stories in my adult life. I chose animation because I thought that of all mediums film works the strongest and most directly, and while I didn’t have professional film equipment and trucks full of actors and crew, I had a computer and could draw more or less.

You’ve worked as an animator for twelve years – what made you want to make Tsioque as a game rather than a film? What was important about making the project an interactive experience?

In addition to all mediums I’ve already mentioned – film, animation, books, comics – another one which ranked very high on my inspiration list was games. Next to animation, it’s another previously dismissed art that only now seems to be getting more credit, mostly thanks to people who grew up playing them and recognized their true potential as a means of expression and an art form.

I spent a fair amount of my childhood playing videogames, and by no means I’d call that time wasted – I had a great time, and some experiences were truly unforgettable. It was only natural I wanted to try to make a game myself someday, so as a kid I messed around with modding tools and made a couple of maps for Quake and Half-Life. Then, as time passed and various life choices were made, I didn’t think I’d have much of a chance to make my own game anymore. Until now.

Having already worked on Tsioque for two years previously to launching the Kickstarter, how did you come across OhNoo Studio, and what made you want to collaborate with them?

OhNoo Studio contacted me with some minor Flash-related issue, as both of us frequently work in Flash. They seemed like okay guys, both professional and with the right mindset, I offhandedly suggested making a game together and they said “Okay”. It was only then that I got to work on Tsioque. I had a story in mind that I thought could work for a game, but I would never have started to really work on it if I hadn’t talked with OhNoo first. I already wear too many hats in filmmaking and to put on yet another and try to program the whole game myself would be suicide! They’ve made games, I haven’t, so I trusted their experience. The two years following this talk I spent working on the game mostly solo, occasionally dragging OhNoo away from Tormentum, the project they were doing at the same time.

What prompted the shift to go from independent solo project to a crowdfunding collaboration?

The idea to crowdfund the game came hesitantly, as we initially tried to finish Tsioque on our own. It was only after I kept animating day and night with hardly any sleep, even with help from part-time assistant animators later on, and work still wasn’t going fast enough, that we decided we would need help if we wanted to finish the game anytime this decade.

Your Kickstarter places great emphasis on the fact that the hand-drawn animation required for the game is a huge part of the project, and that this is the area where the majority of the funding will go. Can you go into what sort of creative challenges animating a project on this scale actually entails?

It’s a pure matter of workload. 2D, frame-by-frame animation is a tedious, time-consuming task; it’s well justified why gaming doesn’t take this direction anymore. There are new, cheaper and more streamlined processes that don’t require so many skilful hands to do the job. Still, the effect just isn’t the same, and there is simply nothing like watching hand-drawn characters move – they have real soul.

The creative challenge will be to keep the scale within its realistic limits – high enough to deliver the aforementioned soulful feel of quality animation, and low enough for it to still be within budget. I find it a more managerial task if you ask me, the line is blurry. A lot of it will most likely require me still doing most of the animation work myself.

Caught

The cute art style of Tsioque is a big aesthetic departure from OhNoo’s previous game, Tormentum. Can you talk about how Tsioque‘s look came about, and was it a challenge to find an artistic middle ground between OhNoo’s style, Michał Urbański’s and your own?

OhNoo’s Piotr Ruszkowski was responsible for all art in Tormentum, whereas in Tsioque it’s me who looks after the art and general integrity of the vision. I find it quite funny that the art style in Tsioque is regarded as ‘cute’. My work has usually been called the exact opposite – dark, disturbing maybe, but not cute. Perhaps it’s the juxtaposition next to the hyperdark metal Beksinski-esque art of Tormentum that makes Tsioque’s art look sweet and well-behaved, but I don’t mind. I actually find it a relief because I did have some concerns if Tsioque’s art style still isn’t a bit dark after all… totally unjustified, great!

Making artistic sense out of unifying many talents in not easy, but my experience from filmmaking makes me think I have it under control. I’m not sure if it’s about finding a middle ground, I find it more about projecting your vision to other people so they can get as close to it as possible… which later they don’t really do, but very often it leads to explorations so interesting they actually enhance the vision rather than diminish it.

In describing the game’s art direction, you point out that you’re not going for a ‘pseudo-retro pixel art’ look.

Games of old went out of their way to overcome the technological limitations of the era they were made in – often in great, innovative ways. It was a challenge to tackle. Resolution and color palette no longer limit us – but many developers still choose to make pixel-styled games. It’s an artistic choice, a reference, pining back to the good old days. Sometimes the results are great and you get awesome stuff like Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP and Shovel Knight. Other times, however, it just seems like a cheap shot at nostalgia. While, admittedly, we also take a lot from nostalgia, our artistic choice was not to purposely limit ourselves with false barriers. We’re making our game like the old games were made – using available resources and technology the best way we can.

Day of the Tentacle, Heart of Darkness and King’s Quest are listed as some of the key game design influences behind Tsioque – what is it about those classic adventure games that influenced you as both a player and a designer?

The influences of those games were mostly unconscious for me as I grew up playing them! I’ll never forget the thrill of watching the awesome animations that I’d get in reward for solving complex puzzles in Day of the Tentacle, the glistening disc of my first ever CD-ROM game King’s Quest V… I never got very far in the latter but it wasn’t important. It was magic. It wasn’t so much about recreating that same magic feeling, but more about using what I learnt from playing these games to tell my own story, and to be able to evoke in other people the similar emotions I felt when playing these classic adventure games as a kid.

From a game design perspective, what felt important to achieve was that extra care in animation rewarding you for your progress, smooth, well-paced gameplay, and the possibility of death. There was a reason why point and clicks stopped including fail states in games, and it was the same reason why I never got very far in King’s Quest V. It was frustrating having to restart all the way to your last save point just for just trying something, where trying anything to work with anything is (unfortunately) pretty much the epitome of the whole genre.

Still, years passed, the games started to be thoroughly tested, both the players and developers learned a lot. I thought it was possible to re-introduce the death/failure mechanism in a way that doesn’t punish you that much and allows for more immersion – you’re a prisoner in a monster-infested castle; if you’re careless something can happen to you! In fact, a good failure animation can be rewarding as well – I dream of making Tsioque complex enough to have people try to do wrong things on purpose just to see the mess it causes. This requires a certain stretch goal to be achieved, however, and for the moment chances of reaching that goal seem distant. Having said all that, all of the above would of course mean nothing without a proper story.

Castle

You suggest that Tsioque’s gameplay will occasionally feature moments that will “break the classic point and click mould”. What exactly do you mean by that rather intriguing statement, and what sorts of changes from the point and click norms should gamers expect to encounter?

If I was to put it down to one thing, it would be removing that reassuring feeling of always being safe. Still, this sentence is a bit of a tease since the ‘mould-breaking’ aspects in our game – the action elements, minigames, the possibility of death – are widely present in classic point-and-clicks. Take a game like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis for example, where you can fist-fight, run from guards and failure at every other puzzle results in your death. These sort of elements are just forgotten, and not regarded as part of the classic point-and-click formula anymore. Well, with Tsioque we’re bringing it back, but in a lighter, more forgiving manner, better adapted to the modern player.

Elle Kharitou and Edward Harrison are both on soundtrack duty for Tsioque. What is it about their musical stylings that made them the right fit for the game’s audio direction?

I knew Ed from our previous collaborations on animated shorts. He did a fantastic soundtrack for my short film Lucky Day Forever, as well as for a Splinter Cell short I did for Ubisoft. He’s a frighteningly talented musician with a growing track record of game and film soundtracks, and at the same time simply a nice guy to work with. He was my first choice for Tsioque’s soundtrack and I’m delighted he said yes. Elle came to the project through Ed’s personal recommendation. I didn’t know her work before, but I have total confidence in her talents and everything I heard from her so far seems to prove I was right to invite her to the project.

The music – as heard in the demo and the reveal trailer – works just the way I wanted it to, and beyond. The dynamic music system we’ve developed for Tsioque brings the experience to the whole new level that could never be achieved in a non-interactive medium, and I’m thrilled to watch it work. It really lets you sink deep into the narrative, where every little action you can possibly do has its own tightly fitting soundtrack. It not just compliments the rich in-game animation, it’s one of the key elements that make this special feeling of being inside an animated film truly work.

You’ve revealed that the game has an unexpected twist of sorts – are you not worried that announcing said twist beforehand might encourage players to approach the game with a mindset to concentrate on working out what the twist is, rather than just enjoying the game?

Good question. As a creator, I’d find it much more comfortable if I just shut up about it and have people experience and discover everything for themselves, without a clue what’s going to happen. As a self-marketer however, I have to at least suggest something is going to happen, because it’s one of the things that makes our game different, and we have to talk about what makes our product special or else nobody is going buy it. I hate this, as much as I hate soliciting my own work and having to convince people that what I do is really great. I’d rather they just find out themselves… but it’d need a finished game first. And I can’t finish it if I don’t convince everyone it’s going to be great. It’s a vicious circle.

I appreciate the fact that you want to tell a full, complete story, and not break it down into separate piecemeal parts to sell through a season pass. Do you think the episodic model of releasing games is starting to feel a bit tired by this point?

Long, episodic narratives for games are not a bad idea on their own; I couldn’t wait for the new season of The Walking Dead Game as much as I couldn’t wait for the new season of the TV series. That being said, it requires a lot of discipline, commitment and respect for the players on the part of the developer to not abuse this model, to not drag a story out forever and keep milking it with no end in sight. With Tsioque, we chose to be completely transparent and offer a clear deal – one complete game from start to finish, no more, no less. An experience you don’t have to wait 2 years from first pressing start and paying $60 to find out what happens in the end.

Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’d like to thank everyone who lasted long enough to read to this point! Whether Tsioque gets made or not is now up to you.

Tower

The Tsioque demo is available to play now on PC and Mac and can be downloaded via the team’s Kickstarter page. At the time of writing the Kickstarter campaign is entering it’s final few days, so if like me you also really want to see the game get finished, then consider dropping by to back it and maybe even pick yourself up an imp plushie (or five). I for one definitely want to see and play more of Tsioque, so here’s to hoping the game makes its funding goals. Now what to do with all these plushies…

Piotr Ruszkowski (OhNoo Studio) Interview

Wall Demon Art
Standard

I recently played through an awesome 2D point and click horror adventure game called Tormentum: Dark Sorrow and, to cut a long story short, I really enjoyed it. Successfully funded through Indiegogo in August 2014 and launched on Steam in March 2015, OhNoo Studio’s game is a dark and surreal journey through a nightmarish land, complete with disturbing demons, forlorn figures and bioorganic backgrounds. Curious as to what exactly inspired all this grotesque horror and melancholy, I reached out to Piotr Ruszkowski, Tormentum‘s artist and co-designer, to ask him a few questions about his career, the creation of OhNoo and Tormentum, and what monstrous muses lay behind his haunting but beautiful creations.

How did you first get started in the games industry, and what were your early inspirations?

Well, all of OhNoo’s crew previously met at an educational company and our job was to create educational software including games. The games were rather simplistic and aimed only for local distribution, but they were the means for us to learn to work together as a team. This helped us a lot later on when we tried to do our own little project for tablets. This wasn’t a game in the true sense of the word, but rather just an app, but it was a small step to larger ideas for the next projects like Tormentum. So I like to say that we have come a long way in our evolution. During that process, we have been inspired by many successful independent developers out there like Amanita Design and their Machniarium and Botanicula games. They proved to us that it’s possible to make something beautiful using limited resources. We knew at that time that we wanted to make an adventure game because we weren’t able to do anything else gameplay wise, so we focused on making story driven games.

Tormentum Team

How did you meet Łukasz and Grzegorz, and how did OhNoo come together as a development studio? Also, where did the name come from?

I’ve known Łukasz for many years, we’ve been friends since highschool. We went to different universities but we met again in the same job in the educational company. Grzegorz joined the office to work as a programmer later on, and we all worked in the same room for five years. When the company started a reduction process and fired many workers, we decided to stay together and make our own projects. The name ‘OhNoo’ was the result of a joke we shared during an annual event integration of the past company. We liked the simplicity of that name and decided for it to be the official name of our team.

Door Creature

What was the initial inspiration behind Tormentum, and what made you decide to make a 2D point & click adventure game specifically?

I was creating the Tormentum world almost two years before the actual development of the game took place. Back then, I wanted to make a dark collection of works for my personal portfolio (I had only 15 works at the time) but then I realized that it would be much cooler to have a whole game in such a style. So it was a starting point for us to clarify more details about what genre it should be or how to build an interface etc. The point and click genre was perfect for images to be exposed. Of course I had to prepare them for the parallax effect which needed foregrounds to be cut out from backgrounds etc. but the motion effect was totally worth the effort. The end result was 75 game backgrounds and hundreds of zoom-in screens.

Desert Statues

You’ve listed the painters H.R. Geiger and Zdzisław Beksiński as main influences on the game’s visual style. What is it about their surrealistic art that appeals to you as a creator and artist, and why do you think it still resonates strongly with people today?

In my opinion Beksiński and Geiger were focused on showing fear, death and suffering in their paintings. That is what I wanted to share with the audience as well in Tormentum, so I was strongly inspired by these artists. The aspect of metaphysic is somehow present in Beksiński’s works which also strongly resonates with me. I think that people appreciate their art for similar qualities.

Embracing Skeletons

The game’s world draws from an eclectic visual mix of sci-fi, high fantasy, steampunk and body horror – genres that traditionally don’t always fit well together, yet somehow you’ve successfully managed it with Tormentum; the game has this unique feel and identity to it as a result. How did you go about incorporating all these various styles and blending them together so cohesively

First of all the world of Tormentum is very dreamlike, so I could go crazy and put whatever I wanted in there. Of course I had to stick to a decayed sense of style, in order to kept it coherent. I was guided by my personal rule that the player must be entertained and not be bored, so I was thinking about how to surprise the gamer to keep her/him motivated and rewarded once she/he finds new locations. So I focused on creating stuff that was both cool and interesting for myself, but also hoping that it would also be interesting for the players as well.

Mine Creature

In the process of designing the levels and backdrops, did you have to make any compromises from your original artistic vision? For example, did you have to simplify any areas to make levels easier for a player to navigate, or make areas more complicated to better serve a tricky puzzle design?

Of course! It’s a natural part of the designing process. Sometimes we would have a puzzle ready first and then I’d have to create a background for it, other times it would vice versa. Sometimes I had to add something to support a riddle, but I must say that we didn’t do any drastic changes or throw away any of prepared graphics simply because we cannot afford to. I remember some stages that needed tweaking a lot to serve as a cool puzzle chamber such as the weight puzzle with the guard in the background or the mine level with wagons. There were a ton of changes.

Castle Chamber

Did the game’s dark story come about as a result of the art style, or did it evolve separately to the visuals?

The world and the whole setup came first and the story was thought out later on. When we were designing the game we had some core ideas for the story, but the finer details had to be hammered out later on. I was loosely inspired by movies like What Dreams May Come and others – especially those about underworlds. At one point we had a dedicated writer who was responsible for the script but he was just not reliable and didn’t deliver his work on time so Łukasz and I had to take care of the story and dialogue ourselves. It was a tough task because we aren’t trained writers.

Grey IcariTormentum reminded me of Silent Hill 2 in the sense that the various creatures and characters you encounter are all visibly suffering and pitiful in their own way. What challenges did you face in designing the creatures and characters in such a way as to get the player to sympathise with them rather than feel revolted?

I didn’t particularly wonder about how the players would receive the characters in the game when I was creating them – it was too early for that. Rather I was focused more on making something interesting, and that was the most important factor for me at that point. Later on, I sat down with Łukasz and thought about how to shape an interesting character with their dialogue. Sometimes it cast a whole new light on them. I think we did a good job with some characters – like the Rat for example. He was the most developed personality from the entire cast of our characters in my opinion, because he was quite an important NPC in the story.

Tower Beast

Having read that you’re a fan of From Software’s Demon’s Souls, I was quite nervous when first playing Tormentum as to whether clicking on the various creatures would cause a death or fail state. While I’m glad the game doesn’t punish the player’s curiosity in this way, was there ever any talk of including a similar cruel but fair trial and death mechanic in the game?

No. The From Software inspiration in Tormentum comes only from a visual aspect of their games. We thought about raising the difficulty of the puzzles during the development process, but in the end we didn’t want to frustrate the players; I wanted to make more of a streamlined and smooth adventure game with awesome 2D graphics. The punishing methods in Dark Souls are great, but in adventure games it could be a pain in the ass! We were looking more at modern adventure games in the Telltale Games’ style for gameplay inspirations.

Eye Socket Puzzle

Personally, I thought you struck a great balance between accessibility and difficulty with the design of Tormentum‘s puzzles. Was this a challenging thing to achieve or did it just come about naturally as part of the design process?

Early in the development stage we had several harder puzzles in the game, but we discovered that they were just frustrating and weren’t fun. We didn’t want to create stupidly hard ones that needed external assistance. We always questioned ourselves – is it fun? Is it enjoyable? If we found a puzzle to be too difficult then we put some helpful hints in, because we wanted players to be able to finish the game without having to break off to check YouTube walkthroughs etc. As for the item puzzles, we always kept in mind the idea to stay as logical as possible. We tried to avoid the usual adventure game tropes of MacGyver-like item mixing and strange illogical item usage. I hope we did it quite well. The main goal in creating this game was to make a sweet and short game that everyone could finish and enjoy.

Cage Puzzle Notebook

I thought the game’s user interface was very considerate to the player in a way that a lot of puzzle games just aren’t. Did the idea to include a virtual notebook for the player come about from your own experiences of playing adventure games?

User Interfaces should be as easy and minimalistic as possible. Notice our game’s inventory placement and its functionality. We have seen many modern adventure games with huge inventories just pop up in the centre of the screen when you click on them. In my opinion, it’s just a terrible design choice because when it happens, I don’t have any room to see where I can match my items on the backgrounds. That is why we chose to move the player’s inventory to the right and make all the items you are holding visible without interrupting the game backgrounds. As for the notebook, we discovered that some of the puzzles might need a pen and paper to solve, so we didn’t want to force people to physically make diagrams on paper in front their computers.

Statue Close-up

The music in Tormentum complimented the melancholic atmosphere and dark visuals incredibly well. I know you’ve already released the game’s artbook, but do you have any intention of releasing the soundtrack?

Unfortunately no, because all the tracks are licensed. Łukasz did a fantastic job of selecting all the tracks to match the atmosphere of each of the locations, and it wasn’t an easy task to do! So yeah I’m afraid we don’t have rights to release a soundtrack.

Your IndieGoGo campaign for Tormentum was a big success – were you pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the game right off the bat?

Yes we didn’t expect anything frankly speaking. It was just a test for us in such crowdfunding methods. The response was positive and very motivational, but I have to mention that the biggest feedback we got was after we released the demo of the game because not everyone treated us too seriously based on just a few images and GIFs.

Is the crowdfunding process something that you’d want to try again with future projects?

Of course! I can hint that very soon we will be back with another project but this time on Kickstarter. It will be a drastic change from Tormentum, so stay tuned. For us, the crowdfunding approach is a great opportunity from a marketing standpoint to let people know about our projects before their release. It is a very important thing in today’s world where it’s hard to be noticed.

TsioqueFinally, what’s next for OhNoo? Can you talk a bit about Tsioque, Snot & Muff and Sky Islands?

Tsioque is a point and click game with cartoony graphics so it’s quite a drastic departure from Tormentum. The main feature of this game is the handmade animation. If you appreciate such craft you will enjoy this game. We were inspired by old classic games like Dragon’s Lair or Heart of Darkness in aspects of their animation and design. We hope it will be an enjoyable point and click game! As for Snot & Muff I can only say it’s cooking away right now. It’s not so much a game but rather a simple storybook as Amelia and Terror of the Night was. It’s just a side project for us. The rest of the projects are secret for now until we’re ready to announce them.

Tormentum: Dark Sorrow – Review

Title
Standard

Eldritch Excellence

Well, it’s safe to say that Polish developers OhNoo Studio certainly know how to subtitle their games. When I first laid eyes upon Tormentum: Dark Sorrow, it was pretty clear that the game was going to be dark and disturbing, but quite frankly, I wasn’t at all prepared for the range of emotions it would make me feel. Revulsion, disgust and grotesquery of the highest order yes, but sadness? Regret? Despair? Surely not.

Thankfully though, OhNoo Studio completely blindsided me with their melancholic masterpiece. Upon reaching the end credits, I felt depressed, drained, but also deeply moved in ways I just completely wasn’t expecting. Tormentum is easily one of the finest point ‘n’ click adventure games that I’ve played, and one that I just can’t stop thinking about long after the credits rolled. Though it’s a fairly traditional take on the genre, the game is nonetheless a wonderfully crafted sombre and poignant gothic tale, woven together with incredible care and attention to detail throughout. Its puzzles won’t perplex you for long and the majority of its morality mechanics are predictable and formulaic, but Tormentum delivers with such confidence, style and finesse that it manages to feel both surprisingly refreshing and hauntingly original.

Zeppelin

Take a look at that picture and tell me that’s not a fantastic opening scene. Bravo OhNoo!

Starting with quite possibly one of the most instantly intriguing main menu screens I’ve ever seen, Tormentum immediately beckons you into its strange and twisted world by enveloping you in the tattered, musty robes of its mysterious hooded protagonist. Awakening from an amnestic dream, you find yourself suspended in a cage from the skeletal underbelly of a rather disturbing flesh-covered zeppelin alongside a fellow prisoner (a rather peculiar rat/weasel hybrid fellow to be precise), with no memories whatsoever of your past, or how quite how exactly you managed to end up in this rather worrying scenario. Yes, that tired old storytelling chestnut I hear you sigh, but trust me and stick with it, as from this well-worn opening cliché, Tormentum crafts a gloomy and intriguing story.

Knight

The friendly knight is only too happy to help you settle in.

Initially imprisoned, our cloaked character feels compelled to escape the gloomy castle he finds himself trapped in after receiving threats of torture-induced penitence, (completely understandable under the circumstances) and embark upon a perilous pilgrimage to a mysterious stone statue out in the wastes. However, nothing is ever quite as it seems in this strange and perilous land…

Tormentum is a concise nightmarish journey through a dark and distorted landscape, but not one without depth and heart. For a start, the game’s art direction is absolutely stunning. Heavily inspired by the works of H.R. Geiger and Zdzisław Beksiński, the game has a beautiful yet horrific painterly style, incorporating all sorts of hideous body horror elements, hellish landscapes and cruel creatures into its palette.

Desert Statues

From start to finish you’re surrounded by suffering; torture, misery, death and pain permeate each and every screen, and the effect is like journeying through a gruesome gauntlet of Bosch paintings, each one more disturbing and demented than the last. Sepulchral towers of flesh and bone wrench their gnarled towers and screaming buttresses toward the dark stormy skies as if writhing in eternal agony. Grotesque beasts and withered beings cloister in dark recesses, some acting as direct demonic deterrents, others as ominous omniscient observers. Hell, even the relatively humanoid characters you encounter aren’t reassuring in the slightest; often hissing, snarling and sneering at you, or just coldly indifferent to your presence.

Everything feels hostile, desolate and utterly alien, and there’s that familiar sickly combination of loneliness and fevered paranoia in the air that you get when playing games like Dark Souls or Silent Hill 2. At times it can feel like you’re playing an interactive Bergman film; your hooded character roams through dark catacombs, barren wastelands and decrepit mausoleums on an existential Kantian quest for answers in a hopeless, rotting world. In other words, it’s not exactly a laugh-a-minute comedy.

Wall Demon

Strangely though, despite the game’s oppressive atmosphere and visuals, Tormentum surprisingly never slips over into gratuitousness or farce. I found that the heavy mood actually instilled in me a mood of quietly morbid fascination rather than shocked disgust or unpalatable revulsion. The game’s world feels vast, oppressive and completely devoid of warmth, yet somehow it remains fascinating and dangerously exciting to explore. In fact, the closest parallel I can draw to Tormentum in terms of mood and atmosphere is possibly something like the excellent Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem; not in terms of outright horror or psychological frights per se, but that it evoked a similar cocktail of deeply uncomfortable foreboding, tinged with the morbid thrill of discovery.

Mirror Angel

Speaking of morbidity, like a lot of the best horror experiences, Tormentum has that exhilaratingly tense juxtaposition of temerity and trepidation clashing together at all times to drive you deeper into its mysterious world. Interestingly, I found that a lot of this tension came not just from the creepy art direction, but also directly from the puzzles themselves. In particular, the game does a fantastic job of forcing you into making some absolutely gut-wrenching moral choices with the various characters you encounter on your journey. Although a great deal of these choices are largely the sort of typical well-telegraphed binary good/bad nature you find in countless games (i.e. do you kill a certain character or decide to spare their life), their presentation in the context of the game’s heavy atmosphere makes them feel gripping and compelling rather than hackneyed. As the whole world is twisted and strange, it’s never quite clear whether what you’re doing is right or wrong, good or evil, caring or cruel.

Tree

As Tormentum progresses however, there’s a handful of more nuanced interactions which aren’t so transparently labelled as a clear-cut right or wrong, good or evil choices, but rather lie in much more juicy and ethically ambiguous territory – several of which left me extensively agonising over which was the right decision to make for quite some time, let me tell you. It’s here where the game excels, requiring you to make decisions that, at times, felt comparable to Telltale Games’ usual modus operandi. What’s important though is the fact that regardless of how you decide to act in the strange world of Tormentum, the fact that you can sympathise with each and every one of these wretched creatures and sorry souls you encounter, no matter how repugnantly vile, is testament to the game’s minimal yet powerful narrative.

The minimalist ambient soundtrack is also a key part of the experience, subtly contributing a great deal to the game’s atmosphere and mood. Eerie drones, dissonant horns, ominous synths and booming timpani swirl around with rustic guitars, weeping theremins, ghostly vocals and sombre strings to create a warped yet delicately melodic score. It interweaves incredibly well with the visuals, and it’s also cleverly used as a sneaky red herring in a couple of scenarios to completely deceive the player. I won’t spoil how exactly, but the audio design demonstrates an astute and admirably devious intelligence lurking below the soft harmonic surface.

Skeletons Embracing

Tormentum’s rich visual tapestries subtly use clever and deep symbolism throughout. Clever and creepy.

Whilst the game may look like a Dante-esque nightmare you can’t escape, it actually plays more like a lovely dream you enjoy spending time in. At first, on my first playthrough of the game, I often never knew whether I was safe like in prototypical point ‘n’ clicks, or one wrong click away from a grisly death at any time. Luckily for me then, OhNoo Studio wisely focussed on immersive storytelling over implementing punishing trial and error mechanics and the result is a game that relishes and rewards both your company and your curiosity. You’re never punished for exploring; rather, Tormentum encourages the player’s interest, and rewards those who take the time to really poke around in the gorgeously disturbing environments. The level of detail in each disturbingly picturesque scene is incredible, and more often than not you’ll be startled by some small thing you might have missed on your initial observations, or find a helpful detail which might shed some much needed light on your current predicament.

Cube

ITV’s gothic reboot of The Cube certainly had Phillip Schofield a little anxious.

The game’s puzzles aren’t particularly taxing, but neither are they insufficiently challenging, striking a nice equilibrium between intrigue and potential frustration. With the exception of a rather devious musical notation conundrum towards the end, you’ll rarely be held up for long, and you can comfortably complete the game in one sitting. While I can appreciate that this might well be a negative for players who really like to wrestle with a challenging set of fiendish puzzles, I personally I think that OhNoo have managed to get a nice middle ground here that makes sense for the type of game they wanted to make. The emphasis is clearly first and foremost on immersing the player in this strange world and the mysterious characters that inhabit it. Obviously, puzzle difficulty and player immersion aren’t mutually exclusive, but as the game world itself already feels hostile and uninviting, I could see that including some seriously hardcore riddles could easily put players off the game for good. Either that, or I’m probably just an idiot.

If you do happen to get stuck on a troublesome puzzle however, the game does a great job of helping you out without crossing the line into patronising hand-holding. An often overlooked part of any game is the user interface – fortunately, Tormentum has a brilliant one; it’s simple, clear and most importantly, a joy to use – the best part of which is the protagonist’s notebook. Upon discovering any important puzzle clues, your character will jot down the relevant information in its yellowed pages, which can then be later referred to at any time during puzzles etc. This saves you having to tediously traipse back and forth between a puzzle and it’s corresponding solution whilst trying to desperately remember absolutely minute visual detail, or having to write down notes yourself. While I do love that old school DIY aspect of having to keep a pen and paper handy (or perhaps ink, quill and suspiciously-fleshy parchment if you feel inclined to roleplay) when playing a good adventure game, it’s undeniably helpful to have the game provide you with persistent digital equivalents.

Cave Painting

Unfortunately, Tormentum does suffer some pacing issues in the third act, and ultimately the conclusion felt a bit heavy-handed in contrast to the wonderfully ambiguous nature of the rest of the experience. Compared to the nebulous opening, the ending feels more like a contrived deus ex machina; admittedly, although this does sit well with some crucial themes of the game, personally it just felt really at odds with the delightfully indefinite nature of the majority of the experience.

Regardless, it’s the journey not the destination that matters, and upon completing your pilgrimage across the wastes, you’ll have experienced quite the (disturbing) adventure you won’t be forgetting anytime soon. This a big month in the gaming calendar for Poland and the Polish dev scene – thanks to a little game called Witcher III: Wild Hunt – but if you’re more of a point ‘n’ clicker than a hack ‘n’ slasher, then I highly recommend Tormentum. Just remember, as Tolkien wrote:

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost.”

Statue

Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 – Review

Old Freddy Attack
Standard

(Reviewed on iPad)

BOO!

“Hello, hello hello! Erm…well, if you’re hearing this, then chances are you’ve made a very poor career choice…”

These are the Phone Guy’s first words in the trailer for Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, and he’s certainly not wrong. The sequel to the original Five Nights at Freddy’s, takes everything that you loved/dreaded about the original game and somehow manages to make things even more stressful, tense and overwhelming than ever before. It’s faster, far, FAR more difficult, and there’s even more abhorrent animatronics desperate to thunder down corridors at you than before. In other words, it’s absolutely time to get the brown trousers out.

Whilst the game is quite possibly one of the most stressful heart in mouth experiences I’ve played in a game recently (well up there with Alien: Isolation and Outlast), the ultra fast state of blind panic that the game works you up into actually manages to significantly take away from the things that made the original game such a frighteningly good game in the first place.

At times, it can feel like a brutal rollercoaster of non-stop jumpscares, each one whipping by faster and faster than the last, a macabre merry-go-round of mecha-misery. Overall, there’s just a lot less of the drawn out tension and stomach-churning dread that made the original game so enjoyable.

Title Screen

However, although at first the emphasis on frequent faster furry scares may not appeal, if you’re a fan in any shape or form of the first game, then Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 is absolutely worth venturing back into that dark, fascinatingly and creepy restaurant that is developer Scott Cawthon’s mind once again for.

Although it’s perhaps a logical and straightforward evolution of the franchise – more scares, more gameplay mechanics more animatronics etc. – there’s enough brand new creative and twisted changes in the sequel that show there’s a whole new level of fiendishness in its design in comparison to the original formula.

Put simply, if you’re a fan of Five Nights at Freddy’s in any shape or form, then I highly recommend you give the sequel a try. Providing you’ve got the patience of a saint and the gluttony for punishment of a basement-dwelling gimp, then it’s a game that’s absolutely essential to experience if you’re a horror game fan.

So, fancy a second greasy slice of Fazbear pizza?

Not So Bunny This Time Eh?

Help Wanted

Well, whaddayaknow? There’s a brand new Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza that’s opened up in town, and once again you play as another hapless (read: stupid) chump who’s unlucky enough to have snagged a summer job as the restaurant’s night watchman. Over the years, the original animatronic mascot models of the original establishment – Freddy Fazbear, Bonnie the rabbit, Chica the chicken, and Foxy the pirate fox (naturally) – have fallen into a state of disrepair, and a new set of cuter ‘child friendly’ (read: completely unsuitable for children) animatronics have taken their place. These new ‘toy’ models are cuter and more colourful interpretations of the old gang, but they are still just as creepy in their own special/murderous way; looking like brittle porcelain dolls, there’s a classic horror film vibe about them that screams that something’s absolutely not right – no matter how rosy and cute their metallic cheeks might be.

Functionally, the game plays almost identically to the original Five Nights at Freddy’s. Once again, the set up is very simple; as the night-time security guard, you have to monitor the cameras at this new Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza restaurant, surviving your 12:00-6:00am shift and trying to not get stuffed into spare metal-filled animatronic costumes along the way. Scott Cawthon once again provides the voice of the Phone Guy – presumably another recently expired security guard – who leaves you voicemails at the start of each shift in a similar fashion to the first game, dropping new titbits of information vital to your survival as the game progresses. Scott speaks in a manner that both amuses and makes you very anxious in equal measure.

Like the first game, you can’t move, run, or hide; your stoical character remains seated at their desk at all times; the camera feeds are your only way of tracking the animatronics as they stalk you throughout the restaurant. On paper, it’s the same deal as last time; all you’ve got to do is survive the agonisingly long graveyard shift by not letting any of the freaky furries get you. However, on the subject of home office defence, this is where you’ll notice the first cruel deviation from the original game’s drawing board – there’s no doors. Yup, that’s right; those big heavy doors, those beautiful blockers of brutal beasties are stripped away from you this time, leaving you completely exposed and vulnerable.

If that wasn’t bad enough, don’t worry, it gets much worse; there’s now three separate points of entry to your office this time. Directly across from your desk is a long corridor that stretches out into the dark dingy catacombs of the restaurant, and in place of the dearly departed doors there’s now two air conditioning vents to the left and right of you.

So the question you’ll be immediately asking yourself after seeing your new office environs is just how the fuck do I defend myself from animatronics without a god-damned pair of doors? huh? Well? Answer me!

Hide and Shriek

Freddy Head

Well, the good news is that you’re not totally screwed…no scratch that, you are pretty much screwed without those beloved doors of the original, but to paraphrase 28 Days Later, the end isn’t quite so extremely fucking nigh yet either – you do have an alternative final line of defence in your arsenal against the malicious machines. Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 introduces the Freddy head – a spare Freddy Fazbear costume head – that you can put on in order to fool the animatronics who do get into your office into thinking that you’re one of them, and hopefully leaving you alone.

Putting the head on, as you might imagine, really doesn’t give you anywhere near the same level of temporary comfort or that fleeting sense of sanctuary you got from shutting the doors in the first game. Your view is restricted to the head’s small eyeholes, and its a lot harder to hear the ambient audio clues in the environment which tell you whether an animatronic you can hear is bumbling about in the background or ready to pounce on your prone protagonist. Plus, the amplified breathing sounds of your character when in the mask really don’t help matters at all; the muffled, wheezing breaths adding another layer of paranoia to proceedings.

Okay, cool – no doors, but the Fazbear head keeps the robo-ruffians away right? Well, not quite. The bad news is that it doesn’t fool all the animatronics – there’s always one eh? You see, unfortunately, another unpleasant twist to add to the growing tangle of twisted things that is Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 is that your old decaying friends from the first game are back. That’s right – the original Freddy, Bonnie, Chica and Foxy are back, and absolutely with a vengeance.

Old Freddy Office

If you thought Freddy, Bonnie, Chica and Foxy were frightening looking before, they look hideously ghoulish now. Bonnie (again, always the animatronic from the first game that freaked me out the most) in particular looks terrifying; the top half of his head has been sheared off, leaving just a row of broken teeth on what remains of his lower jaw, and a devilish pair of glowing red eyes where his face used to be.

These old models have been relegated to the storeroom, and are just kept around and used for their spare parts to keep the newer models up and running. However, you learn pretty early on that these familiar furry furies are unfortunately prone to getting up and having a wander about the restaurant to reacquaint themselves with you once again – with just as much screaming and the same unrelenting determination to force you into a Fazbear costume as before.

Naturally then, in a similar fashion to the first game, the one animatronic from the original bunch which once again throws a giant spanner in the works for you is your ol’ pal Foxy. Sailor of the seven robo-seas and swashbuckling scaremonger extraordinaire, Foxy is wise to your costume-donning antics (he can probably tell you’re human from the pool of urine and tears puddling around your legs) so like in the original game, a different tactic is required to keep him at bay.

Torching Wood

Toy Chica Corridor

The different tactic you need in this case is the flashlight/lights – any animatronic can be temporarily stunned by shining a beam of light from your flashlight on them, and in the case of Foxy, it’s your only form of defence against him and his razor sharp teeth taking a chunk out of your cerebrum.

Touching in the specific box indicated onscreen illuminates a portion of the scene you’re looking at – either putting a feeble light on the darkened corridor stretching out before you, or offering a glimpse at whatever horrors might be lurking in the dark realms of the restaurant.

The flashlight mechanic is essentially a tweaked version of the original game’s Pirate Cove, a mechanic intended to keep you from just monitoring the camera feeds and hiding (and whimpering) in the Freddy head.

Toy Chica Vent

 

Well, to get a bit nitpicky for a second, your (presumably) handheld flashlight and the camera lights all run off the same single battery, but hey – videogames right? Your generous employers have also neglected to provide you with any spare batteries for your nightly cringe-fests, so you have to make your flashlight/camera lights last as long as possible.

Despite only having a limited amount of juice for the lights, it’s still a way better situation than the original game, where everything ran off the ridiculously small petrol generator that provided the original building’s power. As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining…and the lining to this ominously dark storm cloud rolling in overhead is the fact that unlike the last pizza premises, this Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza does run on mains power. Whilst your flashlight/camera lights are limited, the cameras and air vent lights can be used indefinitely without them draining your battery power.

This means that you can monitor the cameras for as long as you need to, and you can turn on the vent lights to temporarily freeze anything crawling through them. Hmm…come to think of it, who puts lights in an air vent anyway? I’ve no idea, but obviously someone who’s used to being regularly attacked from them anyway.

Freddy Party Room 3

This change to the way the power system works is a really smart design move on Scott’s part. There’s now a much greater incentive to track the robots as they make their way towards you. To jump back to the way the original game worked, arguably the scariest parts of Five Nights at Freddy’s weren’t particularly the jumpscares per se – it’s all over at that point of course – but rather those moments where you’d be nervously searching through the camera feeds to find where the animatronics were lurking. Peering intently into the grainy static snowstorm of the feeds to try and make out shapes in darkness were incredibly effective moments of the original game; moments which you were technically penalised for with the limited power supply, and moments you’d experience less and less as you got to the later levels, where success tended to come from keeping your camera glances to a bare minimum and holding back your energy for the door and light controls.

Five Night’s at Freddy’s 2 fully embraces those terrifying moments of the original by making the camera feeds more of a help to the player rather than a slight hindrance. As a result, you’re more likely to spend time flicking between the various feeds, desperately trying to find out where all your nocturnal nemeses are and getting all flustered and really worked up in the process, as they slowly and inevitably make their way towards you, George Romero zombie style.

Nocturnal Plate Spinning

The Puppet Prize Corner

So, to recap – no doors, but you’ve got a Freddy head; limited lights but continuous camera feeds and vent lights. If all these additional complications to the original game’s base formula we’ve been through didn’t sound stressful enough already, just wait, it gets even worse. There’s several new animatronics and animatronic mechanics introduced in the sequel which serve to make things in the pizzeria even more stressful and panicky than before. I won’t yak on about these new night-time terrors too much as part of the fun/terror is encountering them for yourself when you’re totally unprepared, but one in particular deserves a more detailed mention.

One of the major proverbial plates that you’ve got to keep spinning during your night shift is to keep checking on the ‘Prize Corner’ area. Instead of having to check on Pirate Cove to keep Foxy in place in the original, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 introduces the Prize Corner’s fiendish music box mechanic. You have to keep winding up this box (somehow performed over the camera feed – videogames again) in order to ‘soothe’ one of the brand new animatronics, The Puppet.

The Puppet Attack

This horrific thing resembles a cross between Marcel Marceau and the Billy the Puppet toy from the SAW films. The Puppet essentially acts as a secondary Foxy – style figure which isn’t affected by your flashlight either. In fact, from my understanding, once The Puppet is out of his box, he isn’t affected by anything; if you go too long without winding the music box, you’re totally screwed. Once this jack is well and truly out of his box, there’s nothing you can do except brace for impact as it hurtles towards you, jangling out the tune of Pop Goes the Weasel like some demented shuttlecock of doom. Basically, The Puppet is terrifying.

On a gameplay mechanics level, the music box works really well in conjunction with the Freddy head. It means that you can’t just rely on pulling on the disguise and desperately hoping to cower away behind your desk until the morning light, or decide to only focus on those threats directly coming for you from the vents or down the corridor.

If the overarching design theme to Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 is basically to take everything you loved about the original game, and make it even more frightening and fucked up than before, then it excels with flying colours. Unlike the first game, it’s almost impossible to keep tabs on all the threats out to get you at once. You’ve got to be checking the cameras, stunning animatronics with your lights, jumping into the Freddy head when things are getting hairy and last but by no means at all least, remembering to wind up that god-damned music box.

Brain Drain

Old Chica Attack

Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 does a lot of things right. More animatronics, less office defences and more finely detailed mechanics all add up to create an experience that is bigger and at times, even more frightening than the original game. However, with all these new systems introduced in the sequel, it can get very complicated very quickly. Too complicated in my opinion.

It can be confusing at first just working out what you’re supposed to be doing, even for someone like me who has spent an awful lot of time playing the first game and who’s very familiar with its systems. This is obviously par for the course with horror games – the best ones tend to be those which are challenging and difficult as part of their nature, pushing you onto greater feats – but at times Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 manages to lose sight of what made the original game so effective.

For me, what I personally loved about the first game was its beautiful simplicity. At its very core, Five Nights at Freddy’s could be distilled down to three simple rules:

  • Run out of power – Freddy will get you.
  • Fail to check Pirate Cove frequently enough – Foxy will get you.
  • Don’t check the corridor blindspots – Bonnie/Chica will get you.

In my opinion, it was just the right balance of tension, jumpscares, uncertainty and luck. Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 is considerably more complex than its predecessor, which is great as an escalation and expansion on that fantastically simple set of formulae, but also mildly irritating at times. There isn’t quite such a clear-cut set of rules to learn, which is great as it means that events are much more spontaneous and unpredictable, but it can also make it hard to learn from your mistakes. You’ll find yourself quickly getting frustrated and getting stuck in what feels like an impossible luck-based rut far sooner than in comparison to the original game.

Whereas the rhythm of Five Nights at Freddy’s was built on an increasingly tense slow build-up of dread, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 is a much faster-paced game that’s all about getting you into a hysterical blind panic. It manages to do this to a truly exceptional degree. Unfortunately as a result though, the creepiness and horror of the original are rapidly lost – the sequel almost goes so fast that you pretty much don’t have time to be frightened once everything is kicking off. Yes, the animatronics are freakish and frightening to look at, but after you see them lurch up into your face time and time again, you quickly get desensitised to their gnashing jaws, glowing red eyes and outstretched metallic paws.

To play devil’s advocate here though, I would have been disappointed if this sequel was simply pretty much the first game again, only in a new restaurant, with no new mechanics or characters etc. It’s the age old paradox with sequels in general, and specifically sequels within the gaming industry – how do you repeat or recapture the experience of the original whilst at the same time making a brand new experience for fans to enjoy? How do you deliver something at once familiar, but at the same time bigger, better, and brand new?

Bearing this in mind, the changes and twists that the sequel makes to the first game’s rules are really well thought out and interesting, giving the old ideas of the first game some refreshing, different and downright devious twists that manage to mess with your head to a successful degree. But they do make things a bit more awkward and harder to get into at first, even for a player like me who’s sunk a lot of time into playing the original game.

Old Bonnie Party Room 1

One of the major stumbles the game makes is that it doesn’t really do a satisfactory job of communicating to the player how and why you’re (repeatedly) failing. Whereas the Five Nights at Freddy’s Phone Guy dispensed tips on a need to know basis, the Phone Guy’s dialogue in the sequel is a bit more explanatory and narrative based. This is great on the one hand as you get to learn more about the horrible history of the restaurant and the cruel fates of the animatronics as you go, but this seems to come at the cost of receiving survival information that’s more relevant to your current predicament. For example, the game only really reiterates how to use the flashlight properly when you’ve reached the second night. As surviving the first night is no mean feat, it feels like a piece of information that needs to be told to the player far sooner into the game.

BB Office

For another example, a major hurdle that happened to me when playing came when I first encountered (slight new animatronic spoiler) Balloon Boy, or BB as he’s known for short. A small human boy animatronic, BB is rather unique in the cast as he’s the only one that won’t directly attack you once he gets inside your office. Instead, his modus operandi is to just giggle incessantly and block the entrance to your office. Whilst blocking up the entrance to your office might actually sound like a useful thing, it’s really not. It means that you can’t shine your flashlight down the corridor at whatever might be lurking there – usually Foxy, who’ll more often than not take the opportunity of BB blocking the corridor to take a running leap at you and perform yet another aerial lobotomy on you. In other words, if BB gets in your office for good, you’re finished, and what’s more, there’s absolutely no way of getting him out.

Foxy Attack

The game never really explains anywhere what BB does at all or how or why you should be worried about him. Until I went online looking for help, I couldn’t understand how I was failing whenever he would show up, or why I couldn’t forcibly remove him from my office. In hindsight, it’s all rather straightforward, and it’s a cool mechanic to keep me extra diligent (and extra panicky) as a player. Obviously, you wouldn’t want the game to handhold you through everything in the way of it’s secretive new animatronics otherwise there would be no challenge or suspense, but some more specific clues from the Phone Guy would have been massively helpful and way less frustrating, particularly on the early levels.

Old Bonnie & Foxy Corridor

In fact, there’s just generally much less discernable correlation between your actions and the environment in Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, both visually and aurally. On the subject of information that the game doesn’t manage to visually communicate effectively to the player, a significant area of murky uncertainty is the dark corridor to the security office. It’s confusing and really difficult to judge when you’re in danger from something lurking down it, or whether you can afford to temporarily divert your attentions elsewhere. An animatronic’s position in the corridor often does little to tell you just how prominent the threat is. It’s often really unclear as to whether you’re safe when an animatronic is right down at the far end, or still alright for the time being. It makes things very unpredictable, which is great at first, but when you realise there seems to be no reason or pattern to their positioning, it just becomes frustratingly vague after yet another flying fox attack from the dark.

BB Vent

While playing the original game with a decent pair of headphones was the preferable way to play, it’s absolutely essential to use them in Five Nights at Freddy’s 2. Whereas the ambient background bangs, clatterings and evil chuckling animatronic noises were mainly there to keep you on edge in the first game, having an acute audial awareness of your surroundings is crucial to surviving into the later nights in the sequel. In a similar manner to Alien: Isolation (a review of which is hurtling towards this blog as you read this), being able to hear when an animatronic attacker is clambering around noisily in the vents, or moving down the corridor could be the key between life and a grisly costume-based death.

However, having said that, the audio quickly becomes indecipherable after only a few minutes into a stage. A strange whining klaxon will start to incessantly play about halfway into each night, which has absolutely no apparent meaning. As a player, I’ve struggled to attribute even a shred of meaning to its prominence in the audio mix. It’s really confusing for the player, as it sounds like it should signal something crucial, but from my personal experience with the game, it’s all rather meaningless. Perhaps there’s something really obvious that I’ve missed, but I can’t for the life of me work out just what this hooting wail means.

Additionally on the topic of audio issues, there’s some admittedly minor but still very annoying grievances I have with some of the sound effect choices in the game. For example, the exact same buzzing audio cue used to denote that you’d taken too long to close a door in the original is confusingly used as a basic error sound when trying to activate your torch in this game. If you heard that buzzing noise in the original when trying to hit one of the door controls, then you knew you’d fucked things up, and you were about to be suit-stuffed momentarily. However, in this game, the sound appears to be used as a general error noise when trying to activate your torch when an animatronic is entering/leaving the corridor.

It’s really confusing and off-putting how the sound effect is used here, as it doesn’t appear to mean that you’ve entered a fail state anymore, rather it’s that you just can’t use the torch just then. It’s a really hard thing to unlearn, and having to fight my mental muscle memory from the first game, I personally found that it made learning the new systems oblique and unnecessarily convoluted at times. Not knowing why your torch is not working one second but then working again the next is scary, but also very frustrating after a while, as there’s no clear reason or discernable meaning behind it.

Night Trapped

Old Bonnie Attack

Overall, I found that Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 just felt too impossibly hard for me to enjoy to the same degree as the original. There’s just so many different variables to keep track of at once that in order to succeed, you’re going to need huge amounts of patience, determination, and above all else, a whole fucktonne of luck. As a result, I found my determination to get past the later nights quickly waned after yet another whirlwind round of lights, music boxes, Freddy heads and flying mechanical foxes tore my resolve to play on to pieces. Whereas in the first game, things felt incredibly stressful but just about manageable, beyond the first few nights of the sequel things feel even more luck-based and just ridiculously cruel.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s darkly hilarious and enjoyable to play, but only the most masochistic and patient players will have the endurance to reach the later levels. Like the pacing of a good horror film, you need moments of uneasy respite and eerie quiet to balance out the adrenaline-fuelled rollercoaster ride of scares; skimp on the tension and the slow builds and you’ll find that the frights and shocks lose their effectiveness faster than an eight-foot animatronic bear can crush you into a metal-filled suit. However, if you’re a fan of the original game, you owe it to yourself to sit down, pour yourself a cuppa, crack open a packet of Hobnobs, and get comfortable in that familiar security guard’s chair for another 12:00-6:00am shift. What could possibly go wrong?

Game Over

Five Nights at Freddy’s – Review

FNAF - Title Screen
Standard

(Reviewed on iPad)

 Bear Thrills

Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of the most frightening and intense games that I’ve had the joy/horror of playing in recent years, yet it’s also one of the most hilarious. It’s an impressive indie horror game, made solely by the talented Scott Cawthon, that’s packed full of dichotomies; it’s horrifyingly tense, yet incredibly simplistic, ridiculously fun to watch, but utterly terrifying to play yourself. Though it’s short, small and simple, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a memorable and very effective horror experience that is to be savoured.

The game is basic; it’s essentially just an extended barrage of brutal jump scares that you must endure, but unlike a lot of horror games built upon similar premises, you are utterly helpless in some rather unique and interesting ways. You can’t run, hide, shoot or even move in Five Nights at Freddy’s – your character is sat at a desk and totally vulnerable at all times – and you’ve only got a few feeble ways of protecting yourself from what’s after you each night – a nightmarish gang of terrifying anthropomorphic animatronic mascots.

It sounds like a cheap and gimmicky one trick pony by all means; something that would get old in five minutes, let alone five nights. Yet somehow, the game’s cunning design and presentation, backed up with a cast of delightfully horrific and surprisingly charming robotic antagonists give the game a vividly gut-wrenchingly tense atmosphere that is both delightful and terrifying to jump into again and again and again and again…

The Bear Necessities

FNAF - Help Wanted

Five Nights at Freddy’s is a ridiculously enjoyable combination of brutal jumpscares mixed with an asphyxiating and overpowering sense of dread and tension. With darkly-humorous writing and bizarre charm weaving throughout every aspect of the game’s design, it is both terrifying and hilarious in equal measure.

The game’s design and set-up is very simple and, in my opinion, absolutely brilliant. You play as a night-time security guard, who has accepted a new job as the night watchman of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a family pizzeria in the style of real life 1980’s American chain diners such Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre and Showbiz Pizza Place. These establishments were well known, for those who don’t know, for having other entertainments alongside their standard restaurant sections, such as bowling alleys and video game arcades for the families and their children to play on when they’d finished scoffing their pizzas.

Most fantastically of all, however, was the fact that the main hook of these restaurants was that they featured a big performance stage where a ‘live’ band of anthropomorphic animatronic animal mascots (check out video of The Rock-afire Explosion below if you don’t believe me), would mime and pretend to sing along to songs as a pseudo party band whilst hungry families wolfed down their margaritas. It sounds absolutely ridiculous I know, but it’s true; as a Brit growing up in the ’90s, the best entertainment our local Pizza Hut offered in my youth was an outdoor plastic slide in the shape of a dragon – I thought it was awesome, but I see now that I’ve clearly been missing out.

Like these robotically-enhanced American diners that Five Nights at Freddy’s is based on, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza is host to it’s own animatronic mascot, the eponymous Freddy Fazbear of the game’s title. An all singing, all dancing giant grinning animatronic bear, Freddy is there to entertain the children and families at the pizzeria, along with his motley crew of friendly robot chums; Bonnie the rabbit, Chica the chicken and last, but certainly not least, Foxy the pirate fox (naturally).

FNAF - Starting PositionDuring the day, as the trailer suggests, the restaurant is a place of joy – the animatronics smile, sing songs and entertain the families and children with gleeful abandon. However, when you’re turning up at 12:00am for the graveyard shift, it’s a very different story.

The previous security guard (known online in fan circles as the Phone Guy, and who is brilliantly voiced by Scott Cawthon himself) has kindly left you a series of answerphone messages to settle you into your new job and to detail your night-time duties. Whatever happened to him you might well ask, and why exactly did he stop being the old security guard? Well, you soon start to get a pretty good impression of his whereabouts as the game progresses…in a nutshell, it’s not good.

The Phone Guy nonchalantly explains that due to problems with the animatronics’ joints locking up as a result of them having to remain in stationary positions during the restaurant’s opening hours, the robotic mascots are allowed to go into a free-roam wandering mode at night. If that nugget of info makes you have some serious second thoughts about that new job you’ve just accepted, wait until you get a load of this next bit. According to their operational protocols, if the animatronics encounter anybody in the restaurant after dark, they will not see them as a customer, but as an animatronic that’s flouting procedure by not wearing their costume over their metal endoskeleton – a very strict no-no during restaurant hours.

The correct course of action for such an egregious offence is to force said offending naked endoskeleton (read: terrified and screaming human being) into a spare animatronic costume post-haste. That might not sound too bad a corrective action at first, but trust me, it is – these are costumes filled with metal rebars, wires and all sorts of other painful sharp and pointy components, the Phone Guy rather unsympathetically drawls by way of explanation. In other words, it’s a pretty painful death.

Bearing all this rather worrying information in mind, quite why your character decides to stay on for the full week’s shift is beyond me, but nonetheless, he does, and it’s your job to survive the Monday to Friday night grind. Sheesh…and you thought your job was bad…

Goldilocks and The Four Scares

FNAF - Office Left Light

What’s fantastic about Five Nights at Freddy’s is that you are utterly, utterly helpless. Well… actually, that’s not quite true – I’ll explain. All you’ve got to do in each night/level is to survive until 6:00am when your shift is over. Easy. Only…it’s really not.

The game plays as a point and click interactive strategy horror title. As the night-time security guard, you’re sat in the pizzeria’s security office with a tablet device in your lap to watch the restaurant’s security camera feeds on, and independent door and light controls to the left and right sides of you. These are the only tools at your disposal to stop Freddy Fazbear and his troupe of terrors from grabbing you – the camera feeds, the doors and the corridor lights. Nothing else. You can’t move, hide, get up and run, or even cower in the corner of the room and pitifully wet yourself like Otacon in Metal Gear Solid (though you’re still free to do that in real life should the need take you of course). You’re rooted to the spot, and totally exposed to an unsolicited robotic greeting.

I know what you’re thinking – sounds simple right? Just close both doors, breathe a sigh of relief and wait things out until the morning light. No problemo. Well, unfortunately, there’s a catch (isn’t there always huh?). For whatever backwards reason, the Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza restaurant you’re working in isn’t hooked up to the mains – everything runs on a single power generator that has a very limited amount of juice left in the tank. Just barely a single night’s worth in fact. Every device you need to use requires power (visually displayed by the onscreen usage indicator) and having several devices and controls running simultaneously will put an even greater strain on the rapidly dwindling power supply.

Closing both doors and hoping to sit things out till morning is certainly the first thing I (along with countless others no doubt) tried to do when first playing, but it’s practically akin to signing your own death warrant in gloopy leftover pizza mozzarella. Having both doors closed is particularly power costly, and you’ll soon be left in darkness hours before the end of your graveyard shift with no way of defending yourself. To put it bluntly, you’re absolutely fucked beyond belief.

FNAF - Bonnie Black Eyes

Five Nights At Freddy’s is all about jumpscares. While these, as a horror device, are perhaps the easiest and cheapest tools in the developer’s arsenal to get a player freaked out and on edge, the way they are implemented in Five Nights At Freddy’s feels particularly inspired.

Normally, once you’ve spooked a player with an unexpected and particularly nasty shock in a game, they’ll be more resistant to being scared in similar fashion again as they’ll now be expecting to be surprised. Keep overdoing the scares this way and you’ll soon have the player second-guessing when they’re going to be shocked or attacked, often anticipating further attempts to scare them quite successfully – therefore greatly reducing the effectiveness of the jumpscares rather rapidly.

What Five Nights at Freddy’s manages to do really well is to not downplay the jumpscare side of things; it instead embraces them as an integral part of the experience rather than just a cheap gag, much like, say, a giant animatronic bear squeezing the life out of a terrified security guard. They aren’t just thrown around willy-nilly for a quick shock every once in a while, rather, the jumpscares are instead built up very stressfully for maximum impact.

As we’ve already established, as the security guard, you’re rooted to the spot, and completely vulnerable to a fatal over-enthusiastic robo-grasp at all times in the office. You’re unable to do anything except painfully wait and watch the robots get nearer and nearer, with nothing to defend yourself with except quick wits, fast fingers and hopefully a great deal of luck. Although you can close the doors to temporarily ward off the intrepid intruders, it’s only ever really delaying the inevitable; the doors, cameras and lights are by no means a feasible solution to your problem. In fact, now that I think of it, the game has a sort of George Romero ‘slow zombie’ (the only type of zombie if you ask me) style feeling of overwhelming dread and inevitability that permeates throughout the whole experience; you know that chances are one of the animatronics out there is going to get you eventually, but you don’t know when and which one. You can’t shake that screaming paranoia in your mind that you’re stuck, afraid and open to attack all the time. This sensation of complete paralytic horror is incredibly effective, and it’s what sustains the terror and tension when playing. When a game can really make you feel truly vulnerable, it’s both a terrifying and electrifying experience.

If an animatronic gets it’s heavy furry paws across the threshold of your office, then you’re dead. Done. Finito. The last thing you see before you’re grabbed is one of the robot’s insane faces suddenly lunging forward and screaming in your face – the ear-splitting shriek the animatronics emit when they grab you is extremely loud and jolting, and very effective at startling you even after you’ve been grabbed and forced into spare Fazbear gang costumes countless times already.

FNAF - Chica TablesHowever, the really clever aspect to Five Nights at Freddy’s is that in order to make it past even the first night on the job, you have to learn to fight your natural instinct to keep the doors shut. In order to have sufficient power to make it through each night, you’re going to have to keep the doors to the security office open as much as possible, only closing them when absolutely necessary – when one of the Fazbear posse is right outside, leering in at you with bulging cartoony eyes and wicked toothy grin bared wide. The entire game is an exercise in extreme self-restraint; one which will quickly shred your nerves to pieces – like an animatronic robot devouring a pizza, or a lone security guard for example…

By stripping away a great deal of the agency a player normally takes for granted in other horror games, (even other non-combat focused ones such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent or Slender: The Eight Pages) Five Nights at Freddy’s manages to ratchet the tension to such unBEARable (sorry, I had to) levels very quickly and keep the player on edge at all times when playing, with no let up whatsoever. The atmosphere preceding each scare is deliciously agonising, so that when you are inevitably next grabbed by an animatronic, you’re still shocked and still really dreading it each and every time. Playing the game is (alert – bad analogy incoming) like being blindfolded and bracing yourself for a punch to the stomach; you know the blow is coming and it’s going to hurt, but not knowing exactly when is the really agonising part. The threat of pain is a greater fear than the actual pain sensation itself…or something cool sounding like that anyway, you get the drift.

However, unlike actually being punched in the stomach whilst blindfolded, the constant pressure and fear of that next animatronic pounce from the darkness unknown keeps Five Nights at Freddy’s extremely entertaining.

So yes, the game can be essentially boiled down to being just an endless string of jumpscares, coming at you over and over again. But that’s kind of missing the point. The jumpscares on their own aren’t really the interesting bit, rather, it’s the way the that game makes you feel practically helpless to stop them in those awful pressure-cooker moments of stress before they happen – that’s what personally keeps me playing. Whether you can make your very limited resources stretch out through another night shift is a deliciously uncomfortable panicked blur of resource management and wide-eyed frantic screen-tapping. It’s some stressful but pretty special stuff.

Also – it’s a small point, but an important one, so I’m going to indulge myself here – in amongst all the rapid-fire scares, there’s some clever little easter eggs to be found at various points, which add more background detail to just what the hell is going on and why these robots might be playing up and stuffing people into objects they shouldn’t be stuffed into. Although they are quite easy to miss (and actively looking for them isn’t advised if you want to survive), they hint at something much more sinister and unpleasant behind all the ongoing jumpscares and night time hijinks, which when discovered will make you feel even more on edge whilst you’re fighting to stay alive in that cramped security office. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no Silent Hill 2 style story revelation by any means; there’s no uncomfortable slow-burning atmosphere eeriness, plot twists or crazy eleventh-hour reveals, but there are some clever in-game clues about the lore hidden about in Five Nights at Freddy’s that suggest a more nefarious level of detail to events than what is initially presented. All of which really doesn’t help your on-going dread and paranoia when playing.

The Scare Bear Bunch

FNAF - Bonnie Staring

Without a doubt, it’s the four animatronics that have already made the game such a cult indie horror classic. Freddy, Bonnie, Chica and Foxy are the life and soul of this indie horror gem, and their freaky ‘n’ furry grins will be forever burnt onto your irises after playing. Scott Cawthon has somehow managed to create some of the most terrifying, memorable and fascinatingly daft antagonists you’re likely to be screamed at by in a horror game. In the relatively short space of time since the game’s original August 2014 PC release date, Five Nights at Freddy’s has deservedly become a massive talking point in the horror game/let’s play community on YouTube, almost certainly down to the universally freaky blend of hilarity and horror that the four fiendish mascots bring to the game.

There’s just something so uncomfortably freaky about the animatronics; their glassy staring eyes, their fixed contorted grins and the way that they seemingly take great pleasure in toying with and messing with your mind. The fact that each animatronics’ individual personality comes across with no dialogue, save their loud shrieking, eerie moaning and, of course, Freddy’s ominous chuckling, is impressive.

FNAF - Chica StaringTo recap then, let’s go over the creepy cast again. Along with the titular Freddy Fazbear, you’ve got the delights of Bonnie the bunny (the one I found the most frightening in my opinion), Chica the chicken and Foxy the pirate fox to keep you company on your solitary graveyard shift. Each animatronic has their own particular tendencies and characteristics that you’ll need to learn and prepare for if you ever want to see the morning light again. Or, to put it another way, if you don’t want to see said morning light from the blood-splattered insides of a metallic bear costume, then you need to know just what you’re tango-ing with here.

FNAF - Bonnie Door

Bonnie and Chica will tend to be the most active of the robots; each will frequently move up and down the corridors to your office throughout the night. Each animatronic is just as deadly as each other, and if any of them get into your office, then it’s game over, but having said that, Bonnie and Chica are both a bit more predictable to deal with and slightly easier to defend against than Freddy and Foxy.

FNAF - ChicaThis robo-rabbit and cyber-chicken duo will more often than not just go back and forth between the various rooms and corridors in a loose beeline to your office, just standing there below the cameras and taunting you by staring straight down the lens. They will try and get in from time to time, but providing that you’re diligently checking those cameras, and using the lights to check the blindspots just outside your doors when you think they’re close, you’re usually alright.

FNAF - FreddyFreddy is a bit sneakier than Bonnie and Chica, and to say ol’ Fazbear is the leader of the gang as it were, he’s rather a shy fellow, preferring to skulk around in the background. So shy in fact, that it was an absolute nightmare of its own trying to grab decent screenshots of him for this review piece!

Freddy will often hang back and let the other animatronics do the bulk of the pestering. He prefers to hide in full darkness, making him hard to spot on the cameras save for his faintly glowing eyes. He’ll usually come to get you once all the power is out to deliver a final coup de grace, but on occasion he will saunter up to your door and grab you, so you can’t discount him as a viable threat at any point.

While you might not see him until it’s too late, you will certainly hear him. Freddy’s got this hideous gleeful and deep Frank Bruno chuckle that you’ll frequently hear reverberating down the corridor many times, signifying that he’s on the move. The first time you hear it, it’s an instantly blood-chilling moment – it sounds frightening in a ghostly otherworldly way. You won’t forget anytime soon, trust me.

FNAF - Foxy Staring

Last but not certainly not least is Foxy, who’s arguably one of the most frightening animatronics out to get you. Foxy’s kept in a separate location from the other three robots (who all start off stood together in the main dining room stage) so you won’t know he’s even there at first, the curtained off Pirate Cove area is his home. Unlike the other three animatronics, Foxy has been decommissioned; he’s rumoured to have been taken out of service after the dreaded ‘bite of ’87’.

Foxy adds another set of rules and variables to worry about along with dodging the other three robots – he’s designed to catch out those who try to skimp on monitoring the cameras by just checking the areas immediately outside the doors with the corridor lights from time to time.

Foxy’s cunning mechanic is that he’s aware of how often you’re looking at Pirate Cove on the monitors to check up on him. As you play, you’ll encounter him gradually at first, before he becomes an ever more persistent menace. The Phone Guy will casually inform you on the second night of Foxy’s modus operandi, whereupon you’ll catch a glimpse of a twisted figure with a rictus wolfish snarl grinning maniacally back at you from behind the parted purple curtains. I still find his Jack-Nicholson in the Shining-style grin to be mesmerizingly frightening even now, having played the game countless times.

Your only way of fending him off is to make sure that you’re diligently checking Pirate Cove frequently enough to hopefully keep him behind those curtains for as long as possible. Forget to check on him, or get too distracted with another of the robots and he’ll start to move when you’re not looking, sneaking ever so slightly further and further out his enclosure each time.

FNAF - Foxy Corridor

After a while, if you’ve not been keeping your electronic gaze on him as much as he’d like, Foxy will bolt straight down the corridor to your office with a hideous shit-eating grin twisted across his face, bursting into your office and loudly screeching in your face faster than you can say “Bob’s your FUCKING HELL THERE’S A GIANT PIRATE FOX IN THE ROOM TRYING TO TEAR MY FUCKING FACE OFF!” Yes – that fast.

FNAF - FoxyIf you’re lucky, you might catch a quick glimpse of him in the camera feed and be able to quickly punch the door control just in the nick of time if your reactions are sharp. But normally, once you can hear him clattering down the corridor towards you or catch a frightening glimpse of him darting past the camera, it’s usually far too late. Even if you do manage to get the door closed, he’ll bang on it with his hideous pirate hook a couple of times, which for whatever reason drains a significant amount of your precious generator power (not to mention your sanity) On top of that, he’ll then reset back to his original Pirate Cove position, meaning that if you’re lucky enough to have survived his swashbuckling advances, you’ve got to keep checking up on him all over again.

Bear-riers to Entry

FNAF - Chica Attack

With all this horror and hilarity going on each night, what’s not to like you might ask? Well, the main problem that I found with the game was that sometimes, no matter how diligent, careful and patiently observant you try to be, the game can get extremely unfair and hard in the later nights. What makes the game feel so cruelly difficult is that there seems to be a great deal of luck as to what actually happens in each round. On the early nights, providing you’re checking everything on the cameras regularly and learning when it’s okay to leave the doors open and when it’s not, things feel highly stressful but just about manageable.

Get to the later nights, and it’s a different story. It can feel nigh-on impossible to win by the time you get to night four or five, when the whole gang is out in force, strolling nonchalantly about and being more persistent than ever. The cameras start to malfunction and cut out really frequently, leaving you with very limited visibility other than what you can see directly outside of your office doors, and the passage of time on the in-game clock seems to crawl by at such an agonisingly slow pace that you’ll question whether each night was six minutes or six actual real life hours. Okay, maybe not, but you get the point.

Each night’s events feel totally out of your hands, which really adds to your sense of helplessness and despair. You only need Foxy to come out a few times and bang on your door to whittle down your power levels to absolutely nothing and you’re absolutely screwed, or get stuck with Bonnie or Chica repeatedly hanging around for ages outside one of the doors and Five Nights at Freddy’s starts to feel less like a game and more like a kind of chancy slot machine, only with creepy animatronics trying to yank you out of your seat every few minutes and steal your paltry winnings.

However, it’s that very unpredictability which makes the game so much fun to play in the first place. If you knew exactly how long that pesky Bonnie is going to lurk outside your door, or just how frequently it is that you’re going to have to check Pirate Cove to keep the maleficent Foxy at bay, then the game wouldn’t be half as frightening or tense. You’ve just got to do your best to stay calm, stick to your plan and not become a gibbering mess while desperately hoping that you make it.

Whether you win or lose a night will be down to mere seconds. Usually, your game will play out like this; the time will be at 5:00am, and you’ll be down to your last dregs of power…when the lights eventually shut off and you’re left in darkness. If you’re unlucky, you’ll just hear some approaching heavy plodding footsteps before Freddy jumps out at you, but sometimes you’ll just see his illuminated eyes staring back at you from the gloom as he begins to play an eerie child’s music box version of the Toreador Song.

FNAF - Toreador Song

As long as he doesn’t grab you and keeps playing the tune at this point, you’re still alive; you’re still in the game, and the clock might just roll round to 6:00am and you’ll live to monitor the cameras another night. However, there’s no indication at all of just how long Freddy will play the song for, and the minute it’s over, you’re dead. You’re powerless, you have to sit there in the darkness with all your fingers and toes crossed, and hope beyond all reason that you’ll make it. It’ll go right down to the wire whether you’ll survive, or get stuffed into a spare robot costume once again.

When you actually do see the time roll around to 6:00am to signal that you’ve survived another horrific night (complete with a rewarding celebratory cheer sound effect), it’s hard not to let out a loud whoop of joy. It’s such a euphoric rush to have survived what feels like, at times, a fiendishly impossible challenge.

Bearing Up

FNAF - Bonnie Restaurant

Having extensively watched the game being played online by others before first playing it myself, I was quite sceptical about how well it would translate onto a touchscreen device. I thought that playing the game on my iPad would be a completely inferior way of experiencing this game in pretty much every way. However, to my surprise and delight, the mobile version’s touchscreen controls work incredibly well, and compliment your in-game activities to a particularly good degree.

The security guard actually uses a small tablet-like device to check the cameras in-game, so pressing through the cameras using on-screen touch controls actually felt incredibly immersive – particularly when playing in the ideal horror game conditions of a pitch-black room, late at night, headphones on and turned up loud. Additionally, as each night only lasts for a couple of minutes (although they’ll feel agonisingly long when you’re playing them of course), having the game on a mobile device makes it very easy to pick up and play for short gaming sessions. Particularly useful when you prefer to take your jumpscares on the go and freak out passers-by.

Also, it’s hard to tell just how the difficulty compares to the PC version. As your only way of surviving each night is to have quick enough reaction times to spot the animatronics down the corridors or outside your door, I can’t help but feel that the response/attack times of the Fazbear gang must have been slowed down somewhat from the PC version in order to compensate for the slight delay and generally inaccuracy of touchscreen controls. That’s not to say that the touch and swiping controls of the mobile version aren’t smooth and responsive, but there were times where I felt like things were just slightly more cumbersome on the iPad’s touchscreen in comparison to the PC’s mouse and keyboard controls.

Personally, as cool as I find motion and gesture controls on touchscreen devices to be, being a lifelong console gamer at heart, I find that I pretty much always prefer tactile button controls and inputs to touchscreen controls everytime. Swiping with your fingers to look around the office and check the doors works perfectly fine with the iPad’s touchscreen controls, but it does feel a tad more clumsy and a less accurate method of control compared to the keyboard and mouse inputs of the PC version…particularly when you’ve got to hit the door and light controls like crazy on the later nights to prevent being forced into yet another Fazbear costume.

Additionally, with the iPad having a smaller screen than your typical PC monitor, there’s several slight visual problems which quickly become apparent with this mobile port of the game. For example, on the iPad, you can either be looking at the left door, the right door, or down at your in-game tablet for the camera feeds. However, in the PC version, you can see both doors on at once without having to turn, making things feel much smoother and easier to manage when the pace and frequency of the animatronic attacks really ratchet up on the later nights.

More significantly, when you’re in the camera view, the camera/map overlay takes up a great deal of the screen real estate, which can detract somewhat from the playing experience. In fact, you only have a thin bar of space on the left hand side of the screen which is unobscured by the camera/map layout. This means that you’re often having to peer round the map to look at the already dark and fuzzy camera screens (which are hard enough to make details out on anyway) in order to observe all the horrible goings-on from Freddy et. al. It’s not a huge deal, and due to the smaller size of the iPad’s screen (not to mention mobile screen displays), there’s not really any other way that the map could feasibly be integrated into the display without some degree of overlap.

Plus, when you are finally caught by Freddy and his furry friends of doom, the death animations play at a much lower framerate on the mobile version, so they don’t look quite so intense as the PC version. Often the animation will lag to the point it looks like just looking at a static kill screen image, which does feel rather chintzy, and takes away from things a tad. However, it’ll still be enough to have you jumping out of your skin when Bonnie creeps into your security booth or Foxy sprints down the corridor, trust me.

FNAF - Bonnie Attack

In terms of replayability, if a mere five nights at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza aren’t enough to meet your animatronic jumpscare needs, then never fear…well actually, just keep on fearing now that I think about it, as there’s an additional sixth and seventh nights you can unlock – the weekend shift, if you will – after you’ve beaten the five standard nights. Interestingly, the seventh night is a custom level of sorts, where you can manually set the A.I. intelligence/difficulty of each robot. Surviving ’till 6:00am with all the gang set to level twenty (the max difficulty) is extremely challenging, but it can be done.

Overall, from a mobile game perspective then, it’s an incredibly entertaining and memorable horror experience, a port that has surprisingly translated really well from the original mouse and keyboard experience of the PC version to the touchscreen gestures of the iPad screen; making it perfect for extended play, or brief pick up and play sessions.

The Honey Pot

Five Nights at Freddy’s is an absolutely essential purchase if you’re into your scares, and like me, you love horror titles that are built around player vulnerability and that feeling of being totally powerless to fight back. Despite the simple gameplay fundamentals of watching cameras and closing doors to avoid the same repeating jumpscares from the animatronics, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a really special horror experience.

Due to its unpredictably nerve-wracking design and its twisted mix of horror and humour, the game has quickly become one of my favourite games to play as of late (as you might well have gathered by this point). Even though it’s quite a short game, thanks to it’s fast pace, good controls and intelligent UI design, this mobile version of the PC game actually works out to be a great pick up and play title whenever you feel in need of a quick and violent jump or two, or you simply fancy an extended evening of animatronic terror. I just wouldn’t advise playing it on your morning commute however, as you’ll be terrifying the other passengers with your terrified yelps.

The game is just so much damn fun, whether it’s your nervously sweating buttocks planted in that security office hot seat, or whether you’re watching some other poor sod getting scared out of his mind on Twitch. It’s lovingly put together with so much heart, which can be felt in all aspects of the design, that even when you’re on the receiving end of yet another point-blank shriek to the face from Freddy, you can’t help but feel charmed by the whole thing.

Thankfully, for those of us who don’t have enough bloodthirsty animatronic animals in our lives, a sequel, Five Nights At Freddy’s 2 has already been released on both PC and mobile platforms. So, remember to keep an eye out for that review, but don’t forget to keep checking those cameras too. Speaking of which, you were of course remembering to keep checking the cameras whilst reading this review weren’t you hmm? Right? RIGHT!?

FNAF - Freddy Hat

FNAF - Freddy Attack

FNAF - Freddy Face

FNAF - Freddy Eye

FNAF - Game Over