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[Game Review] Five Nights at Freddy’s 2

Meh, isn’t this a good start to the new year. An old game. Still, it’s one that I feel deserves a discussion, because it’s widely considered the game that took FNAF from ‘widely appreciated’ to ‘stupidly popular’. However, I don’t personally like it. There’s lots of little reasons for this, but the main one is quite obvious once I explain that FNAF 1 came out in August 2014. FNAF 2 was out in November, just three short months later… I’m sure my criticisms are already clear.

The first thing I have to say, and this might be a weird place to start, is about the trailer. I said it then, I will say it now, and I will still say it in a year’s time: Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 had one of the best trailers I’ve ever seen. I can’t put my finger on the precise details why, but it did everything right: set up the next game, leave just enough clues to keep players interested in the changes, and hyped the hell out of the release. I wasn’t fond of FNAF 1 at first, but FNAF 2’s trailer, I suppose, it what made me turn around and go ‘yep, I suppose I’m a FNAF fan now’. Go watch it. It’s great.

Sadly, like any game released in three months with a ridiculously good trailer, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 underperforms, like a man who can’t get it up. It keeps the same major beats as the first game: you get rung up by a phone guy who explains why you’re not going to like the next six hours of your shift, you hold off animatronics using a mixture of cameras and girlish screaming and there’s minor hints around the place that there might be a child murderer on the loose.

Gameplay often takes a backseat in FNAF games, but I feel that’s rather undeserved. Yeah, the story is what we’re all there for, but there’s an interesting strategic element to FNAF’s gameplay that I really like. Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 doesn’t really build on this, but it changes it up. Not a direct improvement,but a change. So, you still have your camera to keep an eye on the robots, but there’s now about 11 of the little shits running around. Rather than doors being your secondary defence, however, you’ve got a Freddy Fazbear mask that you can take on and off to fool the robots.

“N-n-no doors?” I hear you quavering nervously. No doors indeed. There’s an obnoxious Puppet character that exists in one of the cameras, and you have to go to that camera to wind the music box. If you let it unwind fully, the Puppet kills you. There’s no defence against the Puppet, and so with this knowledge in hand, we realise one thing: the music box is the crux of this game. Everything is designed around winding that fucking box. When you have your cameras up, however, other animatronics can brazenly wander into your office through the side vents or front entrance – some of them lurk in the vents and must see you in a mask before they get into the office, or death comes for you, but some will enter the office and putting on the mask whilst they’re there causes them to go away. This leads us neatly onto one of my gripes with this game.

The animatronics lack personality. What I loved about the first game – and I touched on this in my Pizzeria Simulator review – was that each animatronic had character. They had a name, they acted in a different way, and you had to learn their specific pattern of movement to avoid them stuffing you into a Freddy suit. However, in this game, with so many new animatronics (for a given definition of ‘new’) there’s a lot of overlap. As far as I know, characters move in one of two ways: following a set route, such as Toy Bonnie and Toy Freddy, or moving at random into available rooms, like most of the Withered bunch. They also, besides Foxy, act in one of two ways: as I said before, either appearing in the vent lights and wandering off when you put the mask on, or appearing in your office and wandering off when you put the mask on. It’s boring – the animatronics feel lifeless here, rather than the first game where they had a lot of personality in their movements and murder techniques.

Your reactions have to be quick for this game. Because putting on a mask is more of a reaction-based challenge than the strategic usage of doors, as in the first game, which were more forgiving with reaction times, there is barely any reaction time. In later difficulties, you pretty much have to know beforehand that animatronics will be hanging out in your office to repaint it with your insides in order to be quick enough with the mask. …There is a very easy strategy to cheese this, for those who are quick thinkers, which is just putting the mask on whenever you put the camera down, because there’s no downside for doing it when there isn’t an animatronic in the room. This is a weakness in the design, I feel, because the first game didn’t have this. Kept the doors down half the night because the bunny man moved once? Good, you’re on 30% power and have 3 hours to go, good fucking luck to you, Captain Useless. There’s no power mechanic in Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 (unless you count the flashlight, which I don’t because it’s so forgiving, it’s not even an issue) and so the game is only hard when you don’t know what you’re doing.

I find I don’t like this. Five Nights at Freddy’s 1 is hard in later nights, not because you don’t know what you’re doing, but because even when you DO know how to deal with them all, you still have to tweak your strategy depending on how the animatronics move, how well you’re doing on power, whether Foxy’s ready to slam his booty into your door… it changed during the night. FNAF 2, as I have actually proven in my own frequent playthroughs of it, has one strategy, which can be recycled for every night (except 10/20 mode, which can fuck off) and makes the game boring to play. It’s hard, up until you realise that there is a very easy strategy that can make the rest of the game cake to finish.

Let’s say you are shit and you don’t know what you’re doing, and you get murdered. It’s common, don’t worry. A new feature of FNAF 2 is the death minigames, which introduced the 8-bit-minigame-that-reveals-horrific-past-events-and-lore that has been reused in basically every single FNAF game since. When you get killed, you have a small chance of getting to play one of about… 5, I think, minigames that reveals lore tidbits. You know, back when the lore was interesting and made at least some semblance of sense. You play these, and you get the information, and you get right back into playing the night again.

I also don’t particularly like this. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the minigames themselves – they’re a fun way of demonstrating events, and the inherent 8-bit nature of the games means that players have to figure out what exactly is being shown, such as in the SAVE THEM minigame – what is it that the purple guy is holding? We shall never know for sure, due to the limitations of the graphics. However, what I dislike is the direction this took the lore in. You see, what I loved about the first game was that the lore was dotted around the gameplay itself. You read the newspapers during your night, but you could only do that if you had the time to check the camera without getting killed. Lore was earned in FNAF 1. In FNAF 2, lore is handed to you on silver minigame platters, rewarding you for getting your neck broken by a deranged robot by explaining the sad backstory between how the child inhabiting that robot got murdered.

It also creates a timesink between getting killed and replaying the game that is irritating more than anything. When you die, you don’t want to spend time running around delivering cake to children, you want to switch up your strategy and hope you can hold out for 6 hours. The minigame just creates a forced time that you have to wait before you can retry the actual game, and I find that it’s not particularly conducive to rerunning them. This problem becomes most obnoxious in playing Golden Freddy mode, or 10/20, of course, because you die the most frequently in that gamemode (and with good reason, what did you expect when you set all the animatronics to their highest difficulty?) but that’s also the time when you’ve seen all the minigames and don’t need or want to replay them.

The Custom Night makes a return, naturally. When you beat the five nights and the special sixth night, which is less of a surprise in Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, considering people who’ve played 2 have definitely played 1 and seen the surprise sixth night, you unlock Custom Night. This, I like – there’s 10 animatronics-worth of difficulties to tweak, and there’s preset modes called Ladies Night and 20/20/20/20 and stuff like that, and beating those preset challenges gets you dolls. I wish, personally, that beating the challenges gave you something more worthwhile, like in SisLoc’s Custom Night where beating challenges shows you more of the purple guy’s story. However, this was the early days of the franchise, so I’ll forgive it for being a bit odd. It’s a gameplay-lengthening feature, we all know it, and like hardcore pornography, it’s fun for some, but not to everyone’s taste.

So, that’s Five Nights at Freddy’s 2. My least favourite game in the series – or it would be, if FNAF 4 didn’t exist. That’s also a review for another time, though, so for now, I’ll just say: there are some people who claim that FNAF doesn’t have any gameplay and you just do the same thing for ages or risk getting jumpscared. I’m prepared to contest it in terms of FNAF 1 and 3, but if there’s any game in this series that is just ‘do this thing for 7 minutes straight and win’, it’s definitely Five Nights 2. Maybe it would be better if it had more than three months of development time. Maybe I’d be less disappointed if the trailer hadn’t been so amazing.

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