Jaime Cross Interview – Team Junkfish (Monstrum)

Brute Attack
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If for some tragic reason you’ve been locked in Davy Jones’ sub-aquatic locker for the past two years, then you might not be aware of Monstrum, the brilliant and brutally addictive horror game from Dundee-based Team Junkfish. Let me fill you in on the details while you splutter up all of that rancid seawater.

In development since 2013 and approved for Steam Greenlight program in March 2014, Monstrum has proven popular with horror fans since the game left Early Access in May of this year. The game is essentially a massive nautical nightmare; you find yourself trapped on a decrepit 1970s cargo ship, with the rest of the crew nowhere to be found. Well, sort of – it depends on what exactly you classify as ‘the crew’. Unfortunately, it soon transpires that you’re actually stuck on board with a monster who is only too happy to make your acquaintance…before it mercilessly crushes/eats/twists your head off, naturally.

Your goal then is pretty simple; repair one of the three escape vessels by collecting the necessary tools and get the hell out of dodge. So far, so Slender, you might say – but wait, there’s a twist. What sets Monstrum apart from the majority of its creepy collectathon rivals is the fact that it’s a roguelike with extensive procedurally-generated systems in place. Every time you fire the game up, you have no idea what the interior structure of the ship will be, no idea where the specific items you need are located and, perhaps most importantly of all, no idea which of three different monsters is currently hunting you. With no one layout to memorise or a single strategy to master, the pressure can quickly ratchet up to ridiculously high levels as you desperately try to make your daring escape. In the words of Scooby Doo‘s Shaggy, “Zoinks Scoob!”

Monstrum is a harsh, demanding but incredibly rewarding game of hide and seek on the high seas, and one that’s had me gripped (like a monster slowly crushing the life out of a frightened, isolated sailor perhaps) since release. Keen to learn more about the game and its dastardly delightful design, I reached out to Jaime Cross, Team Junkfish’s Director and Audio Designer to talk about monsters, audio design and the exciting multicultural future of the horror genre.

How did Team Junkfish originally form as a studio, and what’s the story behind the cool name?

Team Junkfish came together in 2011 at Abertay University. In the third year we had to do a big group project – they have a lot of big briefs from Microsoft, Sony, Disney etc., but students also have the opportunity to form their own team and present their own idea. They can pitch it to the lecturers and if it’s good they’re given the go-ahead. Back then, there were currently nine members of what would become Team Junkfish, and they wanted to do this big idea but they were told they were probably not going to be able to do it unless they got a sound guy. So they pitched for a sound person in front of the entire year, and I just said “I’ll do it, aye!” and that was kind of it. There’s been ten of us ever since, and it’s coming up on four years now in total that we’ve been working together. It’s scary when you think about games companies and the way they can come and go, but yeah we’ve been doing this for four years and we officially became a company two years ago now. The Team Junkfish name came from when we did our first big prototype, and it was basically a giant flying mechanical whale, and we just went “Yeah, let’s call it Junkfish!”

Your previous projects FooFoo and DinerSaur were aimed more at children and younger audiences. What prompted the shift to darker, more adult material, or was it just a natural evolution of the team’s creative urges?

Originally the FooFoo game was part of the Samsung Student Developer Challenge, so we put it together mainly for that competition. We did quite well – we got a lot of press out of it, which was very cool. DinerSaur was made for the Dare to be Digital competition a couple of years ago, it was a cool augmented reality arcade shooter. The game itself was technically made just by six members of the team (then known as Prehistoric Spatula) over a period of nine weeks. That included three programmers, two of the artists and me doing the audio. We had thousands of people come by and play it, and after that we sort of decided “So what do we actually want to do now?” Everybody pitched in with ideas, and the one that we thought seemed the most interesting and doable was Monstrum. It was more of a diplomatic way of moving forward rather than an impulsive choice of “Let’s just do horror games”.

Where did the original idea for Monstrum come from, and what were the main influences throughout the game’s development?

The original pitch was basically what would happen if you mixed The Binding of Isaac with Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We ran with that concept for a roguelike horror game, something that would be replayable over and over and where you’d never get the same jumpscare twice or anything like that. That was the main emphasis that we were working on – to make a really replayable horror game.

What was the reason for situating Monstrum in the 1970s? What is it about that time period and aesthetic that was crucial to the look and feel of the game?

With regard to the game’s setting, the designer decided that with landlocked locations – such as the usual horror game tropes of hospitals and asylums – not only are these environments overused, but theoretically you could also just break a window, escape and you off they go. However, if you’re stuck on an abandoned ship out at sea then you have to escape in a more specific way, because otherwise you’re probably just not going to meet a great fate otherwise! (Laughs) As far as the ’70s aesthetic went, it was down to a mixture of things. In the original concept for the game, the player was supposed to be exploring an old ship but one that’s set in the current time period. It’s since shifted from that obviously, but generally we just thought that it was an interesting aesthetic that hasn’t really been done all that much. We thought it would be something that would make the game stand out that little bit more.

Hunter StairsYou’ve previously described the Monstrum experience as ‘Alien on a boat’ but interestingly you suggest that the player’s experience is more closely aligned with the character of Captain Dallas rather than Ripley. Can you elaborate a bit more about this distinction?

It was one of those weird things where we thought yeah, ‘Alien on a boat’, that’s a really great way to describe the game. Then Alien: Isolation got announced and we were just like “Fuck!” It kind of put a bit of a dampener on us all; we thought we were screwed. This new game is coming out, it’s going to look amazing – we’re done. However we gradually started to pick ourselves up after that and reminded ourselves that actually no, Monstrum is probably going to be quite different from Isolation – we’re aiming at different markets, let’s just keep going. We were at EGX Rezzed in 2014 and Creative Assembly were also there with a big Alien: Isolation booth set up with VR headsets, so we got a good chance to compare the two games there. That was quite reaffirming, as it showed us that they were different enough.

The focal point of the Ripley/Dallas character comparison was based around that sense of impending doom that surrounds your character in Monstrum. Namely that Ripley survives her alien encounter and makes it through the film as a survivor, whereas Dallas doesn’t! We wanted to apply those feelings to the players; that you’re not Ripley, that you’re probably not going to make it out of this. You’re just going to have to get out of there as best you can and try. I think that was the basis for comparing the two characters.

I understand that you prototyped Monstrum as a board game first before moving ahead with the bulk of production. How was that as a testing experience, and did it highlight any issues about the game that you hadn’t previously considered up to that point?

It was very, very loosely tied into the game and really strange, but it did give us a feel for how the real game would eventually play out. Essentially it was a singleplayer board game where you had to move through the randomly placed corridor pieces and rooms to find the random items potentially hidden in them. We had all these different systems going on, but some of them didn’t carry across all that well because they were based on dice rolls and stuff like that, but in terms of generally planning out whether all this would work as an actual game, it really helped us look at different issues we might not have properly considered before. How should things be placed? What speed should this monster travel at? How easily should it be able to find you, or chase after you? Little concerns like that eventually become much bigger things once you actually start to develop the game and are really important, so having that sort of stuff trickle down into the final thing was pretty useful. It’s stuff that we’re doing again now as we’re prototyping new ideas – paper prototypes are still very important.

Did you ever have any ideas about including randomised sea conditions in with all the other procedurally-generated elements of the game, or would that have been just a technical nightmare or simply not fun for the player?

Yes we did speak about having different environmental conditions as part of the experience. Things such as large-scale environmental fires – you can manually set small fires in the game with the fuel cans, but we wondered what if they could break out around the ship itself? Or what if you had some decks which were flooded and now underwater? We even talked about small things such as whether to have the ship rock back and forth, but ultimately it was one of those things where in the end we decided that it would be a nice idea, but it really wasn’t that important and far too much work for the little return it might give. They were all good ideas, but ones we couldn’t really make viable. Also, on the topic of having choppier seas, because we started Oculus Rift integration very early on, that was one of the big things that made us think having a rocking ship wouldn’t work well and potentially might just make people feel even more sick! (Laughs)

Notes

Speaking of Oculus, how is the VR integration coming along? With the game already out at this point, how do you plan on making VR functionality feel like an integral part of the experience rather than just a bolted-on extra?

We’ve been working on the VR integration right from the beginning of the project, developing for Oculus Rift alongside the game since we started in September 2013. It’s not like we finished the game and just decided to stick the Oculus stuff on it and then start again from scratch. So in that sense it’s been really good, we’ve been aware of any issues that we need to address, and we’ve been going back to fix them as we’ve been moving along.

Our programmer Stephanie has been getting all the VR stuff sorted; there’s a lot of weird things that you might not consider when designing for VR, such as user interfaces and post-processing effects. Elements like that don’t really work the same way in the Oculus because of the stereoscopic screen. Getting that sort of stuff working has been quite difficult, so she’s done a lot of iteration on the UI systems and solved some weird clipping and animation issues. It’s all these little weird problems that you might not consider all that much until you run into a wall and you can suddenly see through the entire ship – that is a bit of a problem!

The concepts of player agency and responsibility are particularly well implemented in Monstrum – how did you manage to balance the game’s difficulty so that it works well for both brand new players as well as expert ones?

A lot of this stuff came about from simply doing lots of playtests to see if people wanted another shot – yes or no? If players came from a background of having already played roguelikes such as The Binding of Isaac and knowing how those sort of games work, then they could quickly adapt, learn and experiment through dying. The main issue came from people coming in from the opposite end of things who hadn’t played a roguelike before. They would go “What do I do? I don’t know what to do with this thing! Nothing is telling me anything!” We didn’t want things to be hand-holdy; Monstrum is very much a difficult game, and we say up front that it is hard and you will die quite a lot. So we iterated quite a lot on the initial tutorial room which basically just says “Here’s some stuff, this is what you use it for, press these buttons for interactions”, but beyond that you’re on your own. You have to explore, you have to check your journal to see “How do I solve this situation? Ah, I need to need to find X, Y and Z to escape – okay, got it.” The main thing that we were looking to build into the game was that as long as the player learns something from each death, it doesn’t feel like a complete failure on their part. It’s stuff like that where if you’re new to the game and run into a new monster, you don’t know what it’s going to do so it’s about picking up on its behaviours. On your next run, if you get the same monster again, you’ll then have a better idea of how to deal with it. Picking up important information like that is very cool, and interesting to see how different people do it.

Hunter Attack

Have you been surprised by the ways in which players go about tackling the various monsters and escape routes? Have there ever been instances where you’ve seen players do something totally unexpected?

Yeah, there’s been quite a lot of those instances just because of the way the game is built. The procedural generation is one thing, but the monsters are all AI-driven, so there’s no real pre-set things or scripted things that happen as a result. There have been a few instances where I’ve seen players carefully following a plan, and then suddenly BANG! A door suddenly just flies through the corridor and you see them freak out! This also goes on in the Team Junkfish office itself, especially with the Oculus Rift testing. You just see people go jumping right out of their chairs! It happens at trade shows as well, so it’s been fun to see how people take to that and all the different instances that can happen. I don’t think I’ve seen anybody have the same exact runthrough, which has been our main thing, our overall objective. It’s a very emergent experience; we hear people telling their own stories about how they would be trying to find a particular item, and then out of nowhere this intense chain of other events kick off. I think that’s an interesting thing in games in general. Being able to give people that opportunity to have their own version of the same game is pretty cool.

Brute Grab

The way you have designed the monsters according to various forms of fear is a really interesting concept; the animalistic rage of The Brute, the claustrophobic paranoia of The Hunter and the cruel psychological mirth of The Fiend all come across really effectively in their designs. Can you talk about the inspirations behind each monster and what went into designing their unique AI behaviours?

In terms of the monster designs, we’ve always had those three basic archetypes in mind. The Brute is big and chunky, triggering your primal fear response when it’s chasing after you. Then you’ve got The Hunter which is the thing lurking in the dark making creepy noises, and then The Fiend which is the sadistic psychological one. Even when we didn’t know exactly what the monsters were going to look like originally, we’ve always had these design concepts in mind; we basically thought about what each one’s going to do, and then expanded out from that. The Brute was the first one we built because technically he’s the simplest. We built a lot of the backend AI work around him, and then adapted it for the other monsters to make sure that it worked for each of their unique behaviours. It was interesting to see it change up, especially when it came to stuff like The Hunter, because he’s completely different from the other two monsters in that he’s not really available on the ship and instead he pops out at you from the vents. It was interesting to get those systems all working together, especially from the audio perspective, to make sure that they all tied into the ship and the environmental sounds. You might hear a rumble and be able to identify it as the monster, or you might not and think “Oh no what was that? What do I do now?”

The Fiend

On that topic of encountering a new monster, you ingeniously put The Fiend into the game disguised as part of a routine lighting update. I’m guessing you must have heard some crazy horror stories of people encountering it for the first time?

We snuck it in just to basically beta-test it and see what we thought. Then we saw people on forums just going “Why are the lights going weird? What the hell is this thing?” and all that sort of stuff. We saw videos where people were just freaking about this strange new thing that had just killed them, and calling us sneaky bastards – we were just like “Yes, yes we are!” So yeah, it was pretty cool and it gave us a decent opportunity in Early Access to see how people took to it and tighten it up a bit more before release.

The in-game notes dotted around the ship allude to a spawning ground from which the monsters were presumably collected – is there a possibility that we’ll get to see this area in a future game?

We’ve talked about future stuff, and even if we’re not necessarily doing a direct sequel, it’s something that we’d like to keep continuity wise. It’ll be interesting to go back to it in a future game, even if it’s not the next one. We’ve created this little world, now how can we expand on it? We’ll see.

Sparky

Any chance we’ll get to go up against the original test monster Sparky?

I’m not sure! It’ll be interesting to see if we can polish and change him up a bit more, and see what else he can bring to the table. I’ll mention that to the team – “Hey we’ve got a half-finished monster here!” (Laughs)

You’ve been using Ableton as your primary digital audio workstation throughout the project. What is it about that program in particular that appeals to you over Cubase/Logic/Pro Tools etc. and what VSTs and plugins do you tend to favour when working?

Ableton was one of the things that I was taught when I was at college alongside Pro Tools. I was mainly using Pro Tools going into university but it just kept crashing too much, so I decided “No, go away I’m using Ableton!” That was basically it, there was no big overarching decision to it and since then I’ve been using Ableton for the past four years nearly exclusively. As far as VSTs and everything goes, for a lot of the sound design in both the music and the game itself, I basically used a lot of Ableton stock stuff. Their granular delay is really cool – I’ve used it quite a lot on various different things, and it’s just a really weird sounding delay which stretches the sounds out – it’s weird to describe without letting you hear it, but it was one of the ones I’d always go back to. It was just basically a lot of the standard Ableton tools that I used, nothing super fancy or expensive. I’ve got some Waves stuff that I’m sometimes using in newer projects, but when it comes to stuff like EQs or compressors, I’m still find myself going back to Ableton because I know their tools so well. I know exactly how they affect sounds so I can get them to work really quickly. I suppose that’s me being lazy and not learning new tools to a degree, but it’s also down to familiarity of speed. There’s a trade-off there I guess.

The game’s soundtrack is an interesting blend of atonal textures layered with creatively melodic noises and effects. How did you approach the composition process for Monstrum?

A lot of the music wasn’t necessarily instrumentation as much, but rather a lot of sound design and manipulating samples. All the monster themes were built around that idea.

For example, with The Brute’s theme, I really wanted to focus on it being driving and pulsing because he’s this big physical thing charging after you. That’s a lot of percussive elements with a strong drumming pulse going on, which also ties into the creature’s fire elements too. There’s actually an engine loop playing on the track which I basically warped out of time, then pitch stretched it in Ableton to make it into a constant triplet rhythm. So you’ve got these two pulsing rhythms running through the track which give it this chaotic chase feeling. Then there’s other sounds like steam screeches and stuff like that going off in the background which are basically samples where I was pitch shifting them to have them sound melodically in tune.

Another VST I made use of was Camel Audio’s Alchemy. That one was really cool, but unfortunately it doesn’t really exist anymore. It allowed you to sweep through various presets, and it had the two XY pads which are similar to Ableton as well so it meant you could do really quick automations and stuff like that. It was very handy, especially for The Hunter’s themes where I used it quite a lot.

For The Fiend’s themes I ended up using one of the Max for Live plugins called Granulator. It’s an interesting granular synth that reads little bits of a WAV file which you can then stretch out and control how many times they’re repeated. Once I’d composed the Wander theme I simply dragged it into that synth to use it as an instrument. I ended up using the Wander and Chase theme as three separate instances, so that was interesting.

You’ve mentioned before that Silent Hill‘s composer Akira Yamaoka was a big inspiration for the soundtrack. What is it about Yamaoka’s music and compositional style that appeals to you?

There are a few different things which come to mind. Looking just at his music on its own, it’s the way he uses sound and samples to create that signature feeling of his. Like with the original Silent Hill soundtrack, it’s dark, gritty and very industrialised, whereas the later ones sort of become slightly more melodic. You can sort of see a different musical feel in the other games from that point on, but he still keeps that familiar really oppressive feeling across the whole series. When you’re hearing his music in the context of the game, it just works so well with all the stuff that’s going on. One of my favourite Silent Hill moments is the final Pyramid Head encounter from Silent Hill 2. There’s those big screeches and crunching sounds playing which mirror the movements of his knife and helmet, but then you’ve got this eerie choir coming in behind all that which gives the scene this sort of otherworldly, god-like feeling. It’s moments like that where he uses those sounds and contrasts really well together which I find pretty cool.

When designing the diegetic sound effects, did the procedurally-generated room reverb systems make your mixing process easier or more complicated?

It was a mixture of both really. Some things we made quite dry, such as footsteps, but because of the way our system worked, in some cases we had to pre-bake the reverb onto specific effects. The reverb in the game engine is mainly for spatialisation – making an effect sound like it’s actually in that area and space you’re currently in. There were some sounds which didn’t play well with our in-game reverb system, such as the environmental rumbles I mentioned earlier for example, so in those cases we had to pre-bake all of the reverbs onto those sounds and give them all different distances and drop-offs and things like that. Sometimes you just have to do one or the other really! (Laughs)

I particularly enjoy the small changes you make to the music as the game progresses, such as the way the main Wandering Alone on a Ship at Night theme will irrevocably change once you’ve encountered the monster for the first time.

It’s one of those things where I didn’t think it felt right for the music to sound the same after the player experiences the monster for the first time in a game. The way you’re now perceiving the game world is different, and so the music should reflect that change. It was one of those things where musically you’re almost starting from a blank slate, but then after the first monster encounter it should change and morph into something else. You know what you’re up against now, and you want to carry that feeling across in the music even when it’s not there onscreen. That’s what I wanted to accomplish with changing up the wandering themes.

You wrote a really interesting blog post which explores the fallacy of the ‘game audio as 50% of the experience’ adage. Why do you think that audio design is overlooked in a lot of games design, and what can be done to better integrate the process with the other design disciplines?

I have this personal philosophy about world building when it comes to games. I think everybody should work together to make a cohesive role as opposed to everybody doing their own little thing separately and hoping it’ll all come together and work somehow. In other words, there needs to be plenty of back and forth on everything – conversations like “What’s the monster design in terms of the art team’s perspective? What does it do design-wise?” I see what I can take from those discussions and make music from them basically. Rob Bridgett talks a lot about this design approach in his book, Game Audio Culture, which is definitely worth reading. He writes about this sort of stuff and how we should improve game audio workflow, and just game workflow in general. It’s a really interesting concept and I really hope it carries forward.

It’s one of those things where people will have a lot of appreciation and nostalgia for things like game music, but they might not necessarily understand how it actually works in the context of a game. A lot of the time, other members of the team might just say we need a sound effect for a specific thing, but it’s very much a black box situation. They’ll tell the audio designer what they need, but not talk about what they’re doing, and the audio designer will just make the effect and say “Here you go, does it work?” Again, communication is the big issue, and it’s essential in order to have programmers, artists and designers understand audio designers workflows and vice versa. It’s about seeing how you can come in from the audio side of things and how you can influence your fellow designers, how they can influence you, and making sure that when you’re trying to explain stuff to them, they’ll actually understand what you’re saying and not get confused with really weird technical jargon. I think that’s where a lot of the issues lie. With artists and programmers and designers, they have this shared lexicon where they can probably speak to each other roughly but they might not know the technical nuances of everything. However if I started speaking about things like parametric EQs, they’d all just be like “What is that? What does muddy mean? I have no idea what you’ve said…but okay!” (Laughs)

Yeah I suppose it’s hard to express some of those sonic qualities accurately from a linguistic perspective. It’s similar to trying to describe the minutiae of a particular part of the colour spectrum to another person; what might appear as a bright red to my eyes might look more like a reddy-brown to yours.

Yeah, it’s all about understanding the implementation process. When it comes to getting the right ‘feel’, a lot of people will say they really want an element to feel a certain way, but getting it to that point is not necessarily down to just making the right sound effect. You can make the effect so that it sounds good on its own, but when played in the game, it might jar with everything else that’s going on. Things are getting a bit easier with middleware programs like FMOD and Wwise, which are opening things up a bit more. We actually didn’t end up using anything like that in Monstrum for the final game, but we did use it for prototyping early ideas, which made it a lot easier for me to explain the various systems to programmers. I just had to set up all the logic and explain that this is how it works; these are all the music things, if you trigger this element, then this will happen. Even using it for non-traditional methods like that, it’s still really handy, and learning those tools is really useful for anybody who wants to do game audio and game music.

How do you see the future of Monstrum going forward? You’ve successfully released the game through Steam Greenlight and it’s now out there in players’ hands – do you consider the game to be a completed project now that you’ve left Steam Early Access, or as more of a platform you can go back and add new content to over time?

Well we did say we’d get the Oculus stuff out, so once that releases then the game’s technically ‘finished’, but it’s one of those things that’s never really finished as such. There’s lots of stuff we’d like to add in, or maybe even things we could go back to and patch up, but it’s just a case of having limited time and resources to actually do these things. That’s the unfortunate reality of the situation which has kept us from just going “Yeah let’s keep working on this and adding loads of extra monsters” and stuff like that. It’s a shame really, but we’ve got other projects that we’re trying to do as well, and I suppose we have to make sure that we can keep roofs over our heads!

As far as future plans go, I’m not entirely sure right now. We’d like to add more stuff, even if it’s just smaller things, but we’re just sort of seeing how things pan out. We’ve got a few bits and pieces of work that we’re doing just now to keep us ticking over while we’re sorting out new prototypes and all that sort of stuff. We’ll see how it goes, but we’d like to anyway.

Any thoughts about porting Monstrum to PS4 and Xbox One?

We’d really like to, but it’s another question of resources, and figuring out all the necessary backend stuff. If we speak to somebody at Microsoft for example, it’s working out whether they actually want the game on their platform and all those sorts of other hurdles. Hopefully though – it’s one of those things where if we got the greenlight to do it we probably would, but getting there is still quite a lot of work. Maybe!

Nightmare BonnieWith the rise of streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube, do you see traditional horror games becoming something of a rarity in the future? In other words, do you see traditional solo horror experiences giving way to more community-based spectator sport experiences?

I’m not too sure. An interesting game to watch out for, especially in that regard, would be SOMA. I’m hoping it does really well and it does still prove a point that you can make these horror games that are primarily singleplayer experiences that you’ll want to really immerse yourself in and go through by yourself. At the same time though, I don’t think group/spectator-orientated horror games are necessarily bad. Things like Five Nights at Freddy’s have done really well, and every time I’ve seen [creator] Scott Cawthon speak about the games he’s basically said look, this is my work – if my games don’t appeal to you, they will to someone else. A lot of people complain about the rate at which he’s producing his games, but from a game developer perspective I think it’s really clever, because he’s got all this extra stuff that he adds in with each new game. It’s not just another churned out sequel with the same content, there’s more things going on in each new one; he might need to develop extra systems and stuff like that, but a lot of the same signature backbone is there every time. In that respect, I think he’s done really, really well off the back of it, and the way he’s kept the continuity across all four games is impressive as well. Reading all he’s posted about the series, he comes across as very humbled by it all and grateful for his fans – a genuinely nice guy. People are obviously engaging with that series and really enjoying his games, so there’s room enough for all types of horror games to co-exist. So Five Nights at Freddy’s might be a great horror game for one audience, whereas Silent Hill, Amnesia, or say something like Clock Tower might be more to the tastes of another. They’re all different horror games but they’re all horror games in their own right.

I suppose they aren’t mutually exclusive categories are they really – like you say, horror is now such a broad genre that there’s now games available for pretty much every particular niche.

I think the more interesting thing to look at is the different types of horror that will come in to the genre from other cultures. Japanese horror games are obviously quite big and they’re based on their own culture’s thoughts and considerations of what horror is, and the same goes for their films too. When films like Ring and Ju-on get remade as for American audiences, they didn’t really have the same sense of horror to them. They still work as basic horror films, but not in the same way; there’s this feeling that some crucial part was lost along the way. It might just be people insisting the Japanese versions are better because they were the originals, but other people might say that there’s slight translation issues and influences that aren’t as apparent culturally to western horror audiences as they would be to Japanese ones. That’s why those films might be way much more terrifying for Japanese audiences than western ones. In that respect, I’m sure there are horror things things we have in British culture which aren’t necessarily applicable to America or anywhere else in the world.

Dreadout

Seeing new horror games exploring different cultures of horror will be really interesting, especially with the advent of major game engines like Unity now going for free. This democratisation of game engines allows smaller teams or even individuals to make their own games – Digital Happiness, the Indonesian developers who made DreadOut are a good example, and seeing titles like that coming out of countries you might not expect is very exciting. There might already be a really thriving scene there, I’m not entirely sure, but it’s going to be really cool to see all these different aspects of horror, or even brand new genres coming out of these different cultural elements. A lot of people moan that this means we’re just going to get a load of random people flooding Steam trying to sell a load of random crap. While it’s kind of true on one hand, on the other it enables people who might never have had the opportunity to make their own games now have the means to get stuck in. Instead of just rushing something half-baked out, they could take years working on their magnum opus before finally releasing it; it might be this really good game. Look at people like Tom Happ with Axiom Verge for example. He was doing everything himself on that game, and when it came out people just thought it was absolutely amazing. People always seem to look at the negatives rather than the positives when it comes to things like an abundance of Unity games appearing. We used Unity for Monstrum, and other companies much bigger than us have also used Unity to great effect, it’s a powerful engine. Lots of people don’t seem to consider that however, instead just writing off anything on the engine as just another random Unity game. It’s a shame. I guess it’s one of those things – if you don’t like these games, then don’t play them – but people like complaining I guess!

What’s next for Team Junkfish then? Any plans to revisit Into the Sky perhaps?

Right now, we’re prototyping two different projects. One of them is completely different to Monstrum, while the other one has a couple of similarities, but is still quite a bit different. I’m not entirely sure which one we’ll be pushing ahead with, but hopefully we’ll have that sorted out in the next month or two. Into the Sky would be interesting to go back to, but it’s one of those things where we’d have to start from scratch again and look at the core idea and ask ourselves can we rebuild it. If these prototypes pan out then we’ll hopefully announce something next year. One of them is very similar to Monstrum, so hopefully we can capitalise on our success as well as learn from our mistakes.

Hunter Sub Escape

Are you looking at going through the Steam Greenlight process again for these projects, or have you considered crowdfunding it through Kickstarter etc.?

Greenlight is a weird thing, in that Valve have been saying for a long time that they’re planning to get rid of it, so we’re not really sure what the deal with that would be. It might be a case of having to go through the Greenlight process with new projects anyway, or it might already be gone by that point – we just don’t know. It’s the same with Kickstarter – we don’t know if we need to do a Kickstarter, and if we did that then there’s so much planning that needs to go into that. Now that’s a scary thought! (Laughs)

Fiend Attack

Monstrum is out now for PC, Mac and Linux.

Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 – Review

Old Freddy Attack
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(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
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(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