By Michael Fontanini / October 21st, 2020
|Title||Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted|
|Developer||Steel Wool Studios|
|Publisher||Steel Wool Games|
|Release Date||May 21st, 2020|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4|
|Age Rating||ESRB: T for Teen|
Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted drops you into a number of scenarios from the Five Nights at Freddy’s game series. Many of the scenarios task you with surviving until morning in a kids’ restaurant where you work, and which is full of animatronics that go rogue at night. Others see you repairing some of these animatronic characters, including the restaurant’s namesake, Freddy himself. Can you survive what lurks in the dark shadows of each scenario and maybe even uncover some hidden lore along the way?
Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted is a console port of what was originally a VR game on PC. Once you get into the game, the main menu gives you a selection of scenarios to play. They are divided into seven categories: FNAF 1, FNAF 2, FNAF 3, Dark Rooms, Parts and Service, Vent Repair, and Night Terrors. Only the first scenario is available in each at the start. When you clear a new scenario, the next one in the same category will unlock. To the right you can see a counter showing how many of the hidden Faz Tokens you’ve found so far. The lever to the left of the main menu on the monitor will switch the game into hard mode, which gives you a new scenario selection menu full of tougher challenges. The lighting changes to denote you’re in hard mode, and on top of the Faz Token monitor, some cassette tapes will appear when hard mode is activated. They allow you to listen to the hidden cassette tapes that you’ll find scattered around the game. You can also access the prize counter from the main menu, where kids would redeem their tokens for prizes. The Faz Tokens you find unlock things you can interact with on the prize counter screen.
The first three categories of levels contain four scenarios, each of which recreate the first four nights from the FNAF 1, FNAF 2, and FNAF 3 games. These levels are fairly straightforward if you pay attention to the phone call that briefs you at the start of each. You’ll need to switch between the various security cameras to keep an eye on things. Each of these games had some unique mechanics of its own. It gets a bit trickier when you reach the FNAF 3 levels, as it drops you in without giving you much understanding of the game mechanics at play in those levels. After these first three categories, the rest of them shake the gameplay up a bit. The Dark Rooms levels put you in a dark room with various tasks to stay alive. One example is keeping an eye out for three plush babies who try to sneak up on you in the dark. Your flashlight has limited power, so you need to leave it off to let it recharge. Then you have the Parts and Service and Vent Repair level categories, which see you doing various repair work. I liked these more than the Dark Rooms levels. Of course, you once again have the misfortune of being on the night shift, so it sucks to be you doesn’t it? Repairing these rogue animatronics is not what you’d call a safe job! Finally, you have the Night Terrors levels, which are, well, nightmares. Usually, they have you stuck in a bedroom hiding or looking out for rogue animatronics, including the terrible Nightmare Fredbear. There are a bunch more levels to unlock in hard mode, as well.
Overall, the gameplay in Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted is fairly simplistic, but it can be fun nonetheless. Of course, playing on your TV screen is not the same as VR. The controls are no doubt better in the original game, as you can move around by moving your own body. In this game, you can use the left stick, but it is very twitchy. There is also a free-look mode you can enter by pressing down the left-stick button. This lets you look around in a slower, less twitchy way. Beyond this, you usually only have a few buttons to remember for any given scenario, for actions like turning your flashlight on, or closing a door. This game is all about jump scares, and this leads into my next point. The player can become inoculated against them pretty quickly for various reasons. One is just repetition, like if you have to play a given level numerous times before you win.
I mentioned before that the mechanics at play in some levels are rather obscure, which can lead to some frustration. I think this problem is made a bit worse when playing on a screen, where immersion is less than in VR. When you have this kind of situation where the player doesn’t understand the mechanics, that can quickly break down immersion, which is super important in the horror genre. The first part where I really encountered this issue was when I reached the FNAF 3 levels. A second example is in the Night Terrors levels, specifically the Nightmare Fredbear level. That level took me a lot longer to clear than it needed to, because I didn’t understand that he can teleport onto the bed or into the closet. So it just looked like every time he saw me looking down the halls, he’d kill me no matter what a few seconds later. There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to whether he does or does not see you when you look down the hallways. He is less likely to see you at the far end, but he still does sometimes. If he does see you, that’s when he teleports to the bed or closet. I had just seen him in the hall, so why would I think he is suddenly in the room? The game never gave the player any expectation that he can teleport like this. While that was a frustrating experience for a while until I understood what was going on, I will say that Nightmare Fredbear is probably the scariest of the animatronics you’ll face. That’s quite the set of teeth he has, as you can see in his screenshot further up the page! To be fair, this issue may also have just been a consequence of this being my first time playing an FNAF game.
Visually, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted has some gritty, detailed graphics. The models of the various animatronics are pretty high quality. In the sound department, most of the heavy lifting is done by good ambient sound effects. These add to the atmosphere of vulnerability and the fear of the unknown that lies beyond the edges of what you can see. There generally isn’t background music, as the ambient sound effects do all the work of making the environment more immersive.
Overall, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted can be a fun game in spite of its flaws. I imagine most players will want to play it in a darkened room for improved atmosphere, but you’ll get used to the jump scares fairly quickly. I like horror games, but I personally have no desire to play them in VR! So I really wasn’t too bothered by this version of the game not being in VR. If you really want to play this one in VR, you can get the original Steam version of the game, which also happens to be cheaper. The Nintendo Switch version is available on the eShop for $29.99. It is also available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. I got through all of the normal mode levels and collected most of the Faz Tokens in around 10 hours or so, but there is a lot more content in hard mode. A few of the Faz Tokens and cassette tapes are hiding in hard mode too, so there is a bunch of additional gameplay beyond normal mode. Can you survive the night and avoid the rogue animatronics that are out to get you from the shadows?
Review copy provided by publisher.
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