Fazbear Frights

Lately, I haven’t been able to spend more than about thirty seconds at a time thinking about anything that is not somehow related to Five Nights at Freddy’s. I’ll admit it: I’m obsessed. It waxes and wanes, but I’m being hit really hard right now. And it’s all because of Five Nights at Freddy’s VR.

I really wanted to write something about the game other than how I’m a big baby and have a really hard time playing it, and in typical Ryan fashion, the easy out seemed to be a list that ranked each mini-game by how scary it is. So I made up a spreadsheet and started sorting them out and… Well, the game actually did a great job of already having them in a pretty good order. There really wasn’t much for me to add.

So instead, I’m just going to point out something that I found notable: The mini-games in FNAF VR that are directly based on the previous games in the series are by far the most frightening of the bunch. The mini-games that are more “inspired by” previous titles spooked me pretty good too, but when I look at the list of mini-games that I’ve been able to complete, there’s a pretty clear trend. The Dark Rooms, Parts & Service, and Vent Repair categories all went down pretty easily, but it’s been a struggle to make it through even the first night of the rest.

Well, except for FNAF3. It’s stupidly easy to lock Springtrap in place and that takes a lot away from the scare factor.

To explain a little further, FNAF VR includes fairly complete remakes of the first four Five Nights at Freddy’s games. “Night Terrors” takes some creative liberties with the way that FNAF4 worked, but it’s still a pretty close stand-in. These VR remakes are actually what really drew me to FNAF VR in the first place. As much as I like the game where you need to shine a flashlight on teleporting Plushbaby dolls before they kill you, it doesn’t nearly compare to the thrill of being in a full VR recreation of the original Five Night’s at Freddy’s game. The other three are neat too, but I never actually played any of the sequels until Sister Location

The reason for that being that the original FNAF scared the ever-loving crap out of me. I played it once. For ten minutes. And then I couldn’t sleep for weeks. Visions of murderous animatronics filled my mind whenever I closed my eyes. They could have been hiding around any corner, in any sufficiently dark area. Every light was on in my home at all times until I was able to escape the dread of being killed by a giant robot bear. That terror was apparently also able to spark obsession within me, as my mind has been constantly preoccupied by the franchise ever since.

You may be wondering then, if I was so terrified of these games, why would I want to place myself directly into them. Well, it’s that obsession, I guess. The fascination of what a cheap little indie game would be like with an actual budget is also a part of it. But mostly it’s because I’m not particularly afraid of FNAF anymore. I watch and re-watch gameplay footage and other related media all the time. I have FNAF merch strewn about my home. I’m very familiar with all facets of this series, and the only thing that could further stoke the fires of my fandom would be… to actually be in the games.

The thing is, I really do enjoy being there. Actually being behind any of those desks (or in that bedroom in the case of FNAF4) is intoxicating, and being free from the tyranny of having to control everything with a mouse pointer is a revelation. It’s so much fun! The thing is that… they cause me so much anxiety that I still have a really rough time playing them. I know that I’m going to be jumpscared, and I know what all the jumpscares are like, and yet the sheer anxiety of not knowing when the jumpscare is going to happen is enough to melt me into a puddle of whimpering goo. The first couple in-game hours are fine, but then I lose track of one of the animatronics, or Funtime Freddy starts taunting me, and everything falls apart. If you want to see the absolute fastest a human being can move, just watch me tear off a VR headset when my stress level gets too high.

Interestingly, the FNAF2 recreation has proven to be the worst of the bunch. A lot of it has to do with the fact that trying to keep track of the animatronics via the cameras becomes impossible very quickly. There are seven creatures out to get you once it shifts into high gear, which is just too much to control. And you’re going to need to keep the camera locked to the prize corner to keep that music box wound anyway. So all you can do is quickly hop between lighting up the vents and the hall to see if anything is coming. The rhythm isn’t too hard to get into, but it’s highly stressful, and having the music box constantly drowning out any helpful audio cues makes it so much worse. At least you could be ready if you were able to hear things coming.

I think that the dominance of the FNAF remakes also has a lot to do with the fact that all of the other random mini-games are just that. They’re smaller, more focused experiences. The FNAF recreations task you with keeping track of and fending off monsters for about nine minutes at a time. It’s a heck of a lot more stressful than a mini-game that has you push a few buttons and flip a few switches while listening for the approach of a single robot. Even the FNAF4 approximation isn’t quite as bad as the FNAF1 or FNAF2 nights, since you’re only dealing with one or two legitimate threats at a time.

All of that said though, FNAF VR is still a solid lock for best game in the series. I mean, it pulls together the best parts of all the games that came before and remakes them in a stunning virtual environment. There’s really no competition. It’s also important to note that it shows a really high level of polish; there are so many little touches and hidden secrets, you can really tell that the developers were passionate about bringing Freddy and his cohorts to life. And I’ve got to say that even though it forced me to wait almost two years to finally play the game, I’m glad that I didn’t settle for the “flat” version. It would still be a lot of fun, but could never compare to the exceptionally well-done VR version.

Now that I’ve said my piece, it’s almost noon and I’ve only checked about thirty-seven times today to see if there’s a release date yet for Five Nights at Freddy’s: Security Breach. I gotta get Googling!

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