Most big-budget video games are designed around player empowerment, making the player feel as though he’s slaying thousands of powerful enemies. In contrast, a good horror game needs to make the player feel nearly powerless. Games like Outlast and Alien Isolation rely on fleeting glimpses of terrifying enemies and atmospheric tension.
The only thing the player can do is run, close the door and hide. Enter Five Nights at Freddy’s, a game that sees its competition and decides to take terrifying player disempowerment one step further.
Five Nights at Freddy’s is an indie survival-horror game by Scott Cawthon available on Steam for Windows, Android and iOS. The playable character is a newly hired night employee at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza.
What sets Five Nights apart from the rest of its peers is the point-and-click aspect of the game. Players cannot run or hide from these monsters. Instead they are confined to one room with a set of lights and two doors.
There is only a limited amount of energy available, and practically every move made in the tiny room uses up some power. At its core, the game is about resource and time management.
The game’s approach towards gore, or more appropriately, its lack of any, is impressive. Most other horror games would have splattered blood across the entire screen in a cheap effort to unsettle the player. The fear in this game comes from a childlike fantasy gone horribly wrong.
The kid-friendly design of the animatronics is at odds with their large demonic eyes and their shrill screams once they enter the room. The complete absence of player movement is another great aspect, as it creates a deepened sense of helplessness and suspense.
The game knows that a monster is scariest when you don’t fully see it, and each time you look through the cameras, most of what you see consists of silhouettes and a pair of eyes staring right at you. When you don’t look at a particular camera, the monsters move, inching closer to the player.
The power supply stops being a tool that you must carefully use and turns into what seems like a timer after the middle of the game, and getting to the fifth night will probably require some helpful tips from the internet.
This game’s execution of horror tropes and added joy of surviving the night with friends, makes Five Nights a must-buy for Halloween.