Back when I reviewed the third Five Nights At Freddy’s game, I foolishly predicted it might be the last. I’m not falling for it this time, Scott Cawthorn, you wily developer. I’ve already seen you change the wording in the description ever so slightly to call Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 the last game in the original story. Freddy will be back, and regrettably, I probably will be, too. Everyone else at TouchArcade Towers seems to think it’s hi-lar-i-ous to see me spew out a stream of curses at semi-regular intervals, so the Freddy reviews tend to fall to me. Well, having played the games all quite a bit, I have to admit that my appreciation for the series has grown. It’s actually grown to the point that I’m pretty disappointed with some of the decisions made for the iOS port of the latest game.
Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 ($2.99) is an interesting mix of tossing aside series conventions and calling back to the first game. You would think it would be hard to milk nostalgia for a game that’s barely over a year old, but it’s surprisingly effective. The big change this time around is that you are not a night security guard, but rather a small child. The space the game takes place in isn’t a closed pizzeria or a kooky attraction, but instead what is by all appearances an ordinary kid’s bedroom. The original group of animatronic horrors are all back, including Freddy, Chica, Bonnie, and Foxy, but they’re pretty different from how you might remember them. The biggest change in terms of gameplay is in how there aren’t any cameras you can check. As usual, your goal is to survive each night without being killed by any of the roaming mascots. Doing so is harder than it’s ever been.
Deprived of your cameras, the only way you can check the exit points of the room is to shuffle on over and shine your light down the hallway or into the closet. You can hold a door closed to send any nearby monsters away temporarily, but you can obviously only keep one door shut at a time. Should you happen to shine your light outside a door while one of the mascots is there, you’ll get a nice jump scare and a game over for your troubles. Your flashlight has unlimited battery power, at least. Since you can’t just flip through the cameras to see where everyone is at, and shining your light is risky if they’re close, you have to rely on sound more than ever. In particular, when you go to check at any of the doors, you’ll want to listen carefully for breathing. If you hear it, hold the door shut and hope they go away. If you don’t, feel free to check at your own risk.
So yes, basically Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 wants you to pay careful attention, focusing intently on sounds, and if you slip up in the slightest, you’ll have a loud jumpscare to deal with. Will you react? I can’t see how you wouldn’t. Is that scary? Not really, but it is frightening, if that makes sense. I suppose ‘nerve-wracking’ is the best way to describe it. So in that regard, this latest game is a big success. With that said, the game design feels like it has regressed from other installments. There are no resources to manage other than your time, and really nothing to do except listen carefully and wander from door to door, slamming them in Freddy and Friends’ faces, hoping desperately that nothing sneaks into the room. The original four aren’t nearly as clever as Springtrap was in the third game, but they’re certainly not shy about using their numbers to overwhelm you, especially later on in the week.
If you’ve enjoyed the frantic plate-spinning of the previous games, you’ll probably be happy enough with the gameplay here, however. It may be stripped down a bit, but it’s still tense and exciting in the same ways as the other games, and the use of sound to play on your paranoia works very well here. The shocking gameplay, though, has always just been one part of Five Nights At Freddy’s success. The bigger part, as near as I can tell from the fandom, is the story. Typically sitting in the background, sometimes literally, there are scraps and fragments that you can put together to try to figure out what happened with these restaurants to make their animatronics go murderous. Five Nights 4 has those, too, and paying careful attention will help you figure out the true nature of your situation.
Since the second game, though, the narrative has been more deliberately told via sets of faux-retro mini-games. As promised, developer Scott Cawthorn has tipped a lot of his hand in this supposed story wrap-up, though a quick look at any gathering of fans on the Internet will tell you he still left plenty up in the air. The problem is, he did most of that in the faux-retro mini-games, and due to memory limitations, they’ve been completely cut from the mobile versions of the game. I suppose it’s not surprising, as the developer has had to simplify some mini-games in previous installments, but in fully cutting them out, those who are playing only on mobile are not going to get the story revelations they might have been hoping for. The PlushTrap mini-game, which has you playing Red Light/Green Light with a little maniac in a chair for a chance to shave two hours off of the following night, has at least been retained, but I’d honestly have preferred to have the story-relevant bits.
How happy you are with Five Nights At Freddy’s 4 is going to depend on why you like the games to date. If you’re here for the cheap thrills and jumpscares, it might be the best one yet. You also won’t be disappointed if you just really enjoy the essential challenge of FNAF‘s frenetic gameplay, because this might be the toughest one yet. If, on the other hand, you were hoping for some major gameplay revelations, you probably won’t like this installment at all, and if it’s the story and vague lore you’re chasing, you’ll be far better served going with one of the computer versions. I personally found it more satisfying tangling with Springtrap in the third game from a gameplay point of view, and I was really disappointed about the lack of mini-games, especially for a game that has been hyped as a final chapter of sorts.