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[Game Review] Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator

I don’t think anyone was surprised when the ‘pizzeria simulator’ Scott Cawthon had been hinting at turned out to be FNAF 6 in secret. I think many were surprised at other things, mainly animatronics leaping up in front of your face and screaming, or how much lore this game revealed, but as I am someone who has long since given up on the FNAF lore (mostly, anyway, I still check the subreddit now and then) this review will primarily study the gameplay of Pizzeria Simulator.

Honestly, I like the game. It’s a definite change in focus, with the gameplay being one part salvaging murderous robots, managing your pizzeria and cash, then surviving the day with said salvaged robots aiming to rearrange your face into paste. Each phase is short and sweet, besides the main survival bit, and it all comes together to keep you interested.

So, how does it all work? You play as a franchisee who definitely isn’t Michael Afton (if you want to know anything about the lore, watch all the Game Theories and then Dawko’s theories and then everyone else’s damn theories and you might have a 50% complete understanding of the story) who has started running a Fazbear Entertainment pizza place. The first phase is the pizzeria simulator phase, where you buy items to stick in your pizzeria to draw in money – this includes animatronics, sanitation equipment, bonus revenue objects like arcades and interactive toys, and all that good stuff. Once bought, you place them in your pizzeria; some of the bonus revenue objects have minigames attached, so you can play those a few times to put off your daily trip to Freddy’s asshole rearrangement vent funtime hour.

But everyone’s asshole must eventually be rearranged by murder bots, and so we move onto the survival phase. Here, you complete tasks sat at a computer that looks older than I am, and each task takes a certain amount of time to complete. There’s huge, inconveniently big vents on your left and right where the animatronics may be lurking, and depending on how much noise you’re making depends on how murderous they are. It’s a game of strategy – you turn off your monitor and ventilation to reduce noise, keep the torch trained on the vents until the offending machines bugger off, then switch everything back on and desperately wait for the next task to be completed. There’s a motion sensor and audio player, and silent ventilation, that all help reduce noise or locate/move animatronics; whilst helpful, they feel very inconsistent, as often I would play audio in a specific place to lure an animatronic, only to have it turn around and leap for my face with reckless abandon as soon as I even considered the thought of maybe reaching over to turn the ventilation back on. So, really, I just used the motion sensor, and on rare occasion, the audio player to keep them away from me. Turning off your electronics and staring at vents with a torch in hand is more than enough to keep them at bay usually.

Once you’ve played with your pizzeria simulator and completed your tasks, you enter the final phase: salvage. At the end of each day, a murderous robot turns up, and for some reason your character has the wild idea to not throw it back out onto the street (well, you can do that, but you don’t get the proper ending if you do) and instead go through the salvage phase. Audio plays from a tape recorder, and after each audio prompt, you have to lift a paper up right in front of your face, conveniently preventing you from seeing the animatronic sat across the table as you tick the correct response. When you put the paper down, most of the time, the animatronic will have subtly moved. Once it moves 2 or 3 times, it’s ready strike, and your only option is to zap it with a trusty controlled shoc- uh, taser. That returns it to normal. It’s fun and tense, because you only get 3 uses of the taser before you damage the animatronic and reduce how much salvage money you’d get for completing the salvage, so you have to keep a watchful eye on the creature to know what state it’s currently in and whether it’s seconds away from treating your face like a bite-operated blood dispenser. I very much like it – though I’m not particularly good at saving my taser shocks for when I actually need them.

This three-modes-of-gameplay approach does mean that some have more polish than others, and curiously, different modes have polish in different areas. The salvage mode is basically as good as it can be – simple, scary and effective. The simulator aspect is similarly polished, and yet my issue with it is that it lacks a purpose. Some of the interactive minigames have secret endings that reveal more lore secrets – I especially the way the story is told in the fruit maze one, but I won’t ruin it for those that haven’t seen it – but besides that… it lacks a purpose.

Nothing you buy (besides Lefty and marked-down objects that have Lefty hiding inside) actually has an effect on gameplay, and I think that’s what Pizzeria Simulator is missing. There’s no connectivity between your pizzeria and the gameplay – besides one. During the pizzeria simulator phase, you can choose to have advertising or not in your pizzeria, and if you do, from time to time on your monitor in gameplay, you’ll get stuck watching an advert which takes 3-4 seconds before you can get rid of it, like a particularly obnoxious date. There should’ve been more of this – maybe buying security doors gives you doors to close the vent, but you can only close one vent door at any one time. Maybe expanding your floor space expands the size of the vents, meaning there’s more chance that the animatronics aren’t in face-rearrangement range. Maybe the animatronics you buy also wander the vents, protecting you from or scaring away the other monstrous foes.

There’s a lot to like here, though. The presentation doesn’t necessarily look HD, but it’s a return to form and looks more similar to FNAF 1 than I think any of the other games have achieved. The game is free, which is always a plus in my ‘I’m a poor university student’ book. Oh, and let’s not forget that the minigames are accessed in the pizzeria simulator phase, meaning they’re not stupidly obtuse like FNAF 3’s, nor are they awkwardly into post-death events like FNAF 2’s. Each animatronic is also characterised quite nicely, besides the aforementioned Lefty. Molten Freddy (who is the leftover bits of Ennard post-SisLoc), Scrap Baby and Springtrap (or Springscrap, which is a great name for him) all say things when they approach the vents, and when they kill you – it may only be a few lines of dialogue each, but it makes them feel like opponents.

I’m going to digress for a moment. Know what I loved the most about FNAF 1 that no other game has captured? The animatronics were unique – each one approached your office and moved around in a unique way, and learning how each one worked was key to evading them all. FNAF 2 lost this a bit, with Toy Freddy, Withered Freddy, Withered Bonnie, Withered Chica and Golden Freddy were all evaded in one way, whilst the rest of the Toys and Balloon Boy were evaded in a different way – including Foxy, who’s always unique, that’s only 3 different archetypes of animatronic. This game, however, does the same thing, with the 4 animatronics all doing the same damn thing, but their characterisation and voiced dialogue is now what makes them unique, and I can accept that. Hell, Springscrap’s voice is wonderfully scary when it rings out through a quiet vent.

Speaking of wonderfully scary, this game isn’t. It’s got some terrifying moments, but salvage is only scary in it’s jumpscares, and that’s mostly the same for the survival phase. I liked the survival phase in general, but I found it odd that you don’t get to see the animatronics actually in the vents, when, you know, they’re in the fucking vents. But no, even when they’re supposedly right next to you, shining your torch in reveals nothing more than shadows, and that’s less scary than it would be to flick to a vent to reveal Lefty or something melting back into the shadows, a look of murderous intent in his (her?) eyes.

Generally, though, I found Pizzeria Simulator an acceptable experience: then I got to the ending and realised that it was really damn good. The ending is striking and wonderful, rivalling that of FNAF 3. Say whatever you like about FNAF 3, so long as I agree with it, but nobody can fault the happiest day minigame and the good ending, which were emotional and moving, and would have been a satisfactory ending to the series had Scott Cawthon not decided that he needed another two cars to go with his Porsche. The ending of Pizzeria Simulator is just as decisive an end to the series, and it neatly wraps up all the leftover problems in the lore – well, most of them.

Scott Cawthon, I’m talking to you now, man to animatronic animal fetishist. If Pizzeria Simulator is the final game in the series, then I’ll happily say that the FNAF series has had a positive impact on horror games and gaming in general in the last 3 years. It’s certainly far from the dizzying heights of FNAF 1, but it comes way closer than Sister Location, FNAF 2 and FNAF 4 did, and I very much like it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and get the other 5 endings, because I can’t see why playing the same 6 days about 5 times in a row would get tedious and boring…

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