By Caitlin Piper
When I first heard that “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2,” sequel to the wildly popular independent horror game released in August, was going to be released several months ahead of schedule, I was cautiously optimistic. I greatly enjoyed the first game, despite its faults, and the sequel promised more plot, more scares and more murderous animatronics.
However, I didn’t think it was probable for a one-man development team to build a functional game from the ground up in the three months since the release of the first “Five Nights.” If anything, it seemed like developer Scott Cawthon was overeager to push out a sequel after the surprise success of the original.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s 2” definitely delivers on its promises of more plot and more enemies. It also addresses some of my biggest gripes concerning the first game, and is much more visually appealing and detailed than the original.
I just wish it was actually scary.
“Five Nights at Freddy’s 2,” like its predecessor, places you in the role of the new night guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a combination family pizzeria and arcade in the vein of Chuck E. Cheese’s. The pizzeria has undergone some major renovations recently, most notably replacing the original Freddy Fazbear band with an entirely new set of singing animatronics. These new bots are sleek and cutesy, not smelly and decrepit like the old band members, who are left to rot in the back room as spare parts. The animatronics can get a little strange and may wander into your office since it has no doors, but you should be fine as long as you throw on an old Freddy head to disguise yourself.
While “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2” shares some game mechanics with its predecessor, namely checking your security cameras and your immediate surroundings for any nearby animatronics, it plays quite differently. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza can now afford to keep the power on all night, so you can use your cameras and lights as often as you like — though you will have to conserve your flashlight battery in order to scare off the original Foxy the Fox, who is quite sensitive to light, but will not fall for your Freddy disguise. And since there are no longer any doors around you, you cannot stop anything from waltzing right into your workspace.
There are also several more animatronics this time around. In addition to the original cast of four and their replacements, you also have to keep an eye on a living statue that will temporarily disable your lights if it gets inside your office and a sinister marionette that will automatically kill you if you do not keep the music box in its starting location wound. Compare that to the five seen in the first game, and things get hectic quickly.
While this makes for a much more challenging game, it also makes things considerably less frightening.
One of my chief complaints with the original “Five Nights” was the contrived power and security door systems and the fact that they literally ran on batteries, but now that the sequel has eliminated them, I realize just how crucial they were in building atmosphere and tension.
When the player was forced to conserve power, they were forced to stand still and leave themselves vulnerable to attack. The desire to check their surroundings with battery-sucking light and cameras was constant, but if you wanted to survive the night, you were forced to sit on your hands for seconds at a time and listen to the booming footsteps and demented laughter of the approaching animatronics, hoping they weren’t just outside the doors you couldn’t afford to close.
That sense of urgency just isn’t here anymore. With almost a dozen different enemies after you at all times, the game never allows the player to just sit back and revel in the atmosphere. It’s just constant noise, and after a night or two, I became completely desensitized to it.
Regardless, I thought there were a few good changes between games. “2” features a plot twist that is genuinely surprising and naturally ties it into its predecessor, as well as a few short, disturbing mini-games reminiscent of early Atari games that appear randomly after death and build up the backstory.
Despite my criticism, I believe “Five Nights at Freddy’s 2” succeeds fairly well as a source of entertainment. But it fails miserably as a horror game. I hope Cawthon continues making games, but this is definitely not his best work.