I am a Five Nights at Freddy’s neophyte. Though my kids (who annoyingly refer to the series as FNaF – pronounced “Phh-Naff”) continuously prod me to dig into the series, I couldn’t be bothered to sit down in front of a PC long enough to engage with what I thought of as a slight free-to-play diversion.
But when you throw PSVR into the mix, then you have my attention. And when you tell me that in one game, I can experience a Freddy’s “Greatest Hits” package, with the best levels from the series all gathered into one streamlined experience? Sold. But would I actually enjoy the gameplay loop? Is there enough “game” in FNaF to keep me playing?
Five Nights Of Freaky Fun
Five Nights At Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted is a humorous, but deeply unsettling experience. The original Five Nights at Freddy’s games have a simple – but highly effective – set up. I’ll explain it for the two of you that aren’t familiar. Players are take on the role of a night guard at a kid’s pizza joint. You know the type – the sort of place with sticky floors, where giant curtains open every fifteen minutes to reveal an animatronic band clanking through flaccid versions of classic rock songs before singing Happy Birthday to some kid that isn’t even in the room because he’s off playing video games.
The simple conceit of FNaF is that the animatronic characters are possessed by some evil force, and at night they will come to life and creep towards any living being in order to kill them and stuff them into a mascot suit.
Though there is some variation on the theme, most levels begin with the player plopped in a seat in front of a bank of monitors. Using a series of buttons, the player can switch between views of the interior of Freddy’s. Before long, the animatronic freaks start creeping towards the player, lurking in the corners of the monitors with suspicious (and upsettingly excited) expressions on their faces.
There are two open doors leading to the office the player is seated in – one on the left and one on the right. Beyond switching between monitors, the player can jam on buttons to turn lights on in the hallways right outside, and slam the office doors shut in the event that the damn chicken guy is lurking out there.
The catch? There is limited power at Freddy’s, because…power is limited at pizza places? Whatever the reasons, you can only maintain lights and closed doors for so long before the power runs out. The job of the player is to make it through each night, conserving power but not so much that one of the weirdos makes it into the office. Let one in and they shriek in your face, lurching around with their eyes bulging and googling unnaturally.
And even though you know it’s coming, it makes you jump. Every. Damn. Time. The suspense in the game comes from scrambling around, trying to prevent the inevitable terrifying jump scare that you know is heading directly for you. The fact that the band members look utterly demonic in the game’s lighting doesn’t help.
Does VR Make A Difference To Freddy?
I’ve already admitted that I haven’t played the original games, so I can’t say whether or not Freddy’s is scarier in VR. But I’m betting it is.
Something about the combination of the suspense of the slowly encroaching evil with the extreme repeated jump scares left me feeling a little ragged by the time I ended each of my play sessions. PSVR makes creepy things creepier, and the nutball band at Freddy’s is no exception.
Freddy’s VR makes great use of shadow and scale – two things that virtual reality is particular suited to. The band members loom over the player threateningly, and when you turn your head and they are suddenly standing in the doorway, the effect is stunning. You ever see a grown man scream in sudden terror? My kids have.
The headset tracking works well, even when players are frantically whipping their head back and forth to check the doors. The controls, on the other hand, need a little work. The DualShock implementation is fairly dire, with the game losing track of the light-bar regularly.
I fared better with two Move Controllers, but there were still occasional issues with the game misplacing them. I also had to move far, far away from my PlayStation Camera in order for the game to allow me to reach certain items. But seeing as how the DualShock was utterly unable to pick up objects at all, the Moves are the way to go.
Since I was introduced to Freddy’s via PSVR, I can’t imagine going back and playing the game “flat”. It simply would not deliver the scares that I’ve become accustomed to without the atmosphere and immersion that VR allows.
What Else Do You Get?
Beyond the base games, there are a number of modes that I assume are cribbed from later instalments and spin offs. I enjoyed the part of the game that cast me as a small child trying to prevent an incursion of evil toys by slamming doors in their face.
Slightly less successful were the levels that had me “repairing” Freddy’s band members. This is accomplished by carefully manipulating and removing parts from their mechanical innards (think VR Operation). Unfortunately, the above mentioned tracking issues made these sections a nightmare of a slightly different type than intended.
There is a coin-collection game that runs as a through line, tying all of the levels together with an overarching goal of earning prizes from the prize counter. It’s kind of like 2K’s Carnival Games, but, you know…with the devil. Collecting coins keeps you interacting with the environment, flipping stuff over and opening drawers. It’s a mild diversion, but fun when you succeed.
You probably already know if you are going to purchase Five Nights At Freddy’s VR. Hell, judging from the May PSVR sales numbers, most of you already have it. But for those that are hedging your bets, know that you are getting a solid package with a lot of content, but with somewhat finicky controls. Freddy delivers the scares, but a fair amount of frustration comes along with them.
Five Nights At Freddy’s: Help Wanted is out now for PSVR.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.