Developer(s) – Scott Cawthon
Publisher(s) – Scott Cawthon & Clickteam LCC USA
Designer(s) – Scott Cawthon
PEGI – 12
Released in 2014 by indie developer Scott Cawthon, who at this point had released over 75 games since 1994, the idea behind Five Nights at Freddy’s was first conceived after one of the previous games, Chipper & Sons Lumber Co, had received comments from reviewers remarking that the characters looked and moved like animatronics. The critiques stuck with Cawthon, and he created Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria, a Chuck-E Cheese-style restaurant whereby kids come for fun in the day, and where the animatronics come to life at night to terrorize a newly-hired security guard. It went on to become one of the most popular franchises throughout the eighth generation of gaming, and it all started with a small horror title with an insanely unique approach to gameplay. At the time when this game came out, I was pleasantly surprised by the end result, especially as I’m not the biggest fan of the survival horror genre anyway.
Graphics – 8/10
Set in the horrifying Freddy’s Fazbear’s Pizzeria in the early hours of the morning, the game is incredibly atmospheric, especially for a setting that would sound quite generic on paper compared to other games. It only gets even more intense the further the player progresses with new goings-on and situations to deal with throughout. Later games in the series would expand on this idea, as well as the series’ mythos, but the foundations of which were set up perfectly in this game.
Gameplay – 7/10
The object of the game is to survive five 6-hour nights at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria by watching the cameras around the restaurant and making sure the doors are closed at the appropriate times so that player is not caught and killed by either one of the four animatronics mascots of the restaurant that come to life in the night. The challenge is to make sure the restaurant’s facilities are used to a sufficient extent that the player is kept alive but to not overuse them in order to conserve electricity as best as possible before it runs out. There is also a 6th night to unlock, and an additional custom night, whereby the player can set the difficulty to the max; something that was initially deemed impossible to complete by Scott Cawthon himself, though many have since succeeded. Again, as with the visuals, the gameplay only gets more intense as each night is completed, and there’s more to think about, like when Foxy starts to come out of Pirate Cove, or when Freddy finally starts coming out to stir things up in addition.
Controls – 10/10
Although the gameplay mechanics are unlike any other game ever released up to this point, the control scheme poses no problems and is easy to come to terms with, It’s one of those games that’s easy to learn, but hard to master, and it’s handled in a very fluent manner. Again, more mechanics would be introduced later on throughout the series to keep things fresh, but the whole idea was fresh anyway. I’ve yet to see how this game works on controller-based consoles, and I imagine it’s far less bearable, but I can understand how it works with the Switch when playing it away from the TV. It was scary back when it was released to think about how it would function in VR, which unfortunately didn’t happen until many years later with Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted.
Lifespan – 4/10
The worst thing about the game is how criminally short it is; only clocking in at around 3 hours in total, depending on player skill. Again, this is something that later entries in the series would go on to address with the inclusion of things like mini-games and easter eggs to discover along the way in between nights, or even discoverable during night shifts, but I suppose for more intrepid players, the are many replays of this to be had. Though the following point was definitely easier for me to make with the benefit of hindsight, there was a fair bit of folklore, and it would’ve been nice to have the mini-games incorporated in the first game to explore that more.
Storyline – 9/10
Besides the basic plot of what the player has to do each night to survive, there is a mythos to this series that has been perpetuated since the first game in a very low-key and obscure manner, but it is extremely satisfying to piece the early story together by discovering different things hidden throughout the game. Also, the message the player received from the previous security guard over the phone only adds to the intensity of each night, which all comes to a head come the fourth night.
Originality – 10/10
As I’ve alluded to numerous times throughout this review, there simply wasn’t, or truly isn’t, any game like Five Nights at Freddy’s. It’s definitely one of the most unique survival horrors ever released, as well as being one of the most unique games ever released in general. It gives testament to how innovative a lot of indie developers proved themselves to be throughout the eighth generation with games like Blasphemous, The Witness, and Enemy Mind but this game is one of the most prominent examples of that; arguably the most prominent.
Overall, the original Five Nights at Freddy’s received overwhelming popularity upon release, and it’s simple to see why. It’s a unique concept that spawned a massive fanbase that cried out for more and has become one of the most prolific indie gaming series’ in recent memory, and it’s all started here, and it was an excellent start.