Will I never learn?
RPS Towers, two days ago
Adam: There are so many. I can’t play them all. There isn’t enough liquor in the world.
Pip: This isn’t one for Alice’s Encyclopædia Animatronica. It’s Five Nights At Freddy’s 3.
Adam: OK. I’m going in.
I shouldn’t have gone in.
When I was a kid, I had two toys that provided me with a lifetime of nightmares. Some people got burned by the nightmare fuel in the Dark Crystal, but I filled up my tank with a Worzel Gummidge doll and the Tomy game, Pop-up Pirate. For anyone who knows Worzel Gummidge, the former should be self-explanatory.
For those who don’t, imagine a rubbery, living scarecrow with a collection of detachable heads. Gummidge was all the most terrifying parts of Return to Oz crossed with the most terrifying parts of Last of the Summer Wine and Emmerdale’s Dingle family. Now imagine what happens when one of the sack-like googly-eyed heads is lying in the middle of the floor while you’re trying to go to sleep one night, and you end up staring it in the eyes, convinced it will move as soon as you blink.
I didn’t dare sleep. I was convinced the body was crawling around under the bed, searching for a head to plant on its rotten guano-clogged neck-stump.
Forget the scarecrow though because Pop-up Pirate is the toy I came here to discuss. A pirate sits in a barrel and children take turns to stab him. In principle, they’re trying not to stab him, I suppose, but eventually one of them will, and he’ll respond by popping out. Not “popping out” in the manner of Alan Partridge wearing a pair of vintage shorts – “popping out” in the manner of a hideous, wounded Jack in the Box.
Considering my abiding fear of Buckaroo, I’m probably never going to understand the kind of mind that thinks a scary clown in a box is a fun toy for children to play with. You wind the handle and then wait for something terrible to happen. There’s a reason the bastard things are called “diable en boîte” in France. It’s because they’re evil.
Five Nights At Freddy’s reminds me of the toys that scared me and that’s probably because it IS a toy that scares me. Creator Scott Cawthon has noted the heat of the iron and is striking fast and hard – I don’t blame him. The third game, now released, changes the rules slightly but sticks with the now-familiar formula. A security guard (you) listens to creepy/comic answering machine messages, and then attempts to survive a night in a dilapidated attraction with a population of terrifying animatronic murder-machines.
The viewpoint is first-person but the player character doesn’t move. There are cameras to keep track of enemies and devices to distract and blockade. Prevent the horrors from reaching your room and you move onto the next night to do it all over again, with extra hallucinations and increasingly agitated animatronics.
This time around, the setting isn’t a restaurant – it’s a horror attraction BASED on the Freddy Fazbear restaurant. Thirty years after the closure of the world’s grottiest pizza parlour – on grounds of murderous machines stuffed with corpses – a bunch of absolute nincompoops decide to hunt down as many original props and machines from the restaurant as they can find, and install them in a creepy building.
The idea is that people will pay to walk through the building, screaming in delight and tittering with glee right up until the moment a metal bear skeleton cracks their arms and legs, and forces their body into a fursuit full of knives. It’s fucking Pop-up Pirate all over again, except this time I’m the pirate.
If Freddy or his friends catch me, not only will I have to endure their weirdly corroded shrieks and should-be-funny-by-now-but-aren’t jumpscares, I’ll also end up broken and contorted, acting as a robot’s guts. No thanks.
I shouldn’t have installed Five Nights At Freddy’s 3. Playing it, I feel exactly as if I’m staring at a Jack in the Box, waiting for the world to end. Maybe I have a nervous condition but I used to find those screamer websites that were popular for a while absolutely devastating. Psycho put people off motel showers, Jaws made going for a swim seem unwise and Ring made unmarked VHS tapes a thing of terror – screamers convinced me that I should avoid the internet for a few days.
ACtually, Freddy’s is worse than a Jack in the Box because it’s full of levers to pull, buttons to push and handles to wind – all of them exist to prevent the Jack from emerging. Imagine a Jack in the Box so terrifying that anyone trapped in a room with it is piling objects onto the box, trying to hammer nails into the lid. Doing anything possible to stop the thing from bursting out and stabbing everyone in sight to death. That’s Five Nights At Freddy’s.
It almost doesn’t matter how it plays because the people who love the series are playing to find easter eggs and plot secrets. Sure, the mechanics need to be sound but they’ve ceased to be the main attraction. Nevertheless, I have deciphered the game’s inner workings and present my judgement below.
Wot I Think: Five Nights At Freddy’s 3
FNAF 3 (calling it FNAF makes me feel like I’ve defeated it in some way) changes the watching and waiting formula by ramping up the apparitions and making power management more complicated. You’ll need to charge audio abilities (to distract murderous machines), ventilation (to stave off hallucinations or something) and camera feeds separately. Recharging takes time and that’s time in which a furious bear might be chewing on our face.
I’d tell you if the changes are sufficient to justify a purchase but I shat it on the second night and uninstalled.
*We can pronounce square brackets and we do say “official site” whenever we mention a game in conversation. Just imagine!