For those that don’t already know, Five Nights at Freddy’s is a horror puzzler anthology with a back catalog that has emerged on a number of platforms over the years, notably PC and mobile.
The latest iteration, Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted is mostly a repackaging of scenarios from the previous games reimagined for VR.
The collection of games is wrapped loosely in the conceit of you being an in a digital VR theme park of sorts run by “fazbear entertainment”, and tasked with reliving the experiences of the previous games from a VR perspective. The game sets this up by funneling you through an on rails “welcome” section while a smarmy Themepark PA announcer provides his disclaimer, positing the notion that events of the former games were “definitely a bunch of lies”. I thought this meta narrative was quite a neat way setting up what is essentially a ported collection.
For those uninitiated into the FNAF world, like I was, this game is both charmingly tropey, but also effective in its simplicity making it a very versatile and accessible game across these various platforms. VR is ostensibly the perfect home for this game.
The premise of the initial few games in this collection are simple. You play night security, restricted mostly to the confines of your often claustrophobic control booth where you have to survive for the night.
Making things tense is the fact that during the night, a number of animatronic puppets come to life and gradually close in on you. Your job is to prevent them from reaching you by cycling through security camera footage, then switching lights and door locks without fully consuming the limited amount of power required to do all of these tasks. It’s simple, but very very nerve wrackingly effective.
A couple of additional game modes have you repairing the animatronic puppets while they’re in service mode, a particularly nail-biting experience as you desperately try not to screw up. Other modes have you repairing a series of vents through several mini-game tasks, while using your headlamp to ward off robotic critters as they come at you from the vents all around.
The game knows you can’t keep your attention fixed to any one place at a time, and uses this, as well as cleverly punctuated timing, to great effect.
You get to select these scenarios from a creepy selection menu, and can complete them in any order you wish, which is a great idea because some scenarios may be more entertaining for some than others.
Graphically, the game manages a lot with little. The lighting is minimal, but is used to the best possible effect, whether it be casting ominous silhouettes or providing jus enough light to be suspicious of whats around that hallway corner, or behind that piece of furniture.
The designs for the giant robotic plushies have a weird, demented nostalgia to them and definitely assist with the effectiveness of the creep-factor.
In saying this, the liberal use of jump-scares involving these critters can result in diminishing returns as the predictability sets into routine, particularly in some game modes such as the dark rooms.
The sound in this game does incredibly well at providing a large contribution to the creepy, tense atmosphere. You will be spinning in your seat to determine where that last clang came from – hoping that you’re not confronted up close and personal by a screeching demon-plushie.
There’s always a foreboding humming or tune in the air, punctuated at points by sound effects that have come straight out of horror audio library – be a music box, doorbell, creaky door, girl whispering and giggling, or the arching of faulty electrics etc. It’s cliched, but effective.
This game is perfect for VR, but your enjoyment really comes down to whether you appreciate conventional horror tropes, albeit without the bloodletting.
I’m a baby when it comes to scary games in VR, but for those wanting a tense, creepy experience from a that is perfectly self-aware, you owe it to yourself to check out Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted.
Released: July 2019
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PSVR
Genre: Horror, Virtual Reality
Developer: Steel Wool Games