The Five Nights at Freddy’s craze did its best to not appeal to me at all. It wasn’t so much that the series features too much creepy for me to digest (it doesn’t), but the lack of depth seemed apparent from the get go. I have no issue with a simple game nor a jump scare game. My fissure grows when you can’t bring much else to the table.
Even so, I got Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 since it seems to be the high point according to some fans in my life and took a dive. You absorb the entirety of the conceit fairly quickly with an over-explanatory phone call from your boss that just warns you to keep an eye on everything. In the dark. Inside of what Chuck E Cheese would look like if James Wan designed it.
Up front, I find some enjoyment with the concept of red light, green light as a core gameplay mechanic. Inherent tension follows you as you click through the baker’s dozen cameras and rooms, maybe fiddling with some devices along the way. Your body is sat behind a desk, complete with an old-ass fan, that uses a flashlight and an animatronic mask as defense against…well, animatronics.
The most I have to say about Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 deals with these weird little conundrums. On one hand, they’re teeming with the a certain innocence-turned-obsession-based fear in their eyes that mixes well with their strobe light movement. Glancing between room cams will flash you some new movement where their massive teeth and gaping maws are usually angled threatening towards you. Or, of course, they can be motionless and seem completely benign in an unpredictable fashion. Every gameplay session feels approachable with that same level of tension, then.
Because you know the jump scare is coming, damn it. You know it every single time but the brilliance of the animatronics never seeming to overlap previous movements (for too long anyways) keeps you off balance. Thus the Twitch popularity, thus the series magic has procreated and spread like a cordyceps cloud.
On the other hand, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 is seriously lousy with jump scares and an obtuse inability to let one of those opportunities pass it by. The animatronics end you by approaching (I think) in one of three ways (I think) and your defenses not being raised fast enough to stop them – mostly. The confusion comes from a deep inconsistency that doesn’t give you the bare minimum feedback to understand the main mechanics. Your flashlight, for instance, is meant to act as a shield for each of the ingress points where you flash it to repel any murderous entrants. Since there’s no movement to their bodies, you receive no real feedback. So Foxy will just stare at you, blankly, while one hand is clicking away on the flashlight and the other is trying to slide your ticket closer to the clock punch.
For all the detail that Freddy’s does have with the environment, the secret story, and those animatronics, there is a serious lack of visual stimuli. There’s no pupil dilation when you shine the light, no sign that they’re rendered momentarily harmless and no auxiliary sound effects to sound the internal alarms for you to defend. The intention for this is clear: the game wants you to fail and scream in terror. The deck is playfully stacked against you at all times beyond the first night.
Despite how well-seeming this stacked deck likely looks, it doesn’t create an engaging experience throughout Five Nights at Freddy’s 2. The creatures are delightful in their wicked turns against humanity, but this certainly feels like a molehill compared to the mountain that Scott Cawthorne eventually built. And this experience confirms that I won’t be adding any other cups of dirt to that mountain as long as this formula keeps splicing ahead.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 Score: