Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted Review- Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Cawthon
Developed by Scott Cawthon
Produced by Steel Wool Studios
Available on PS4, Xbox One, Steam, Nintendo Switch
Let me start by saying that I’ve never actually played a Five Nights at Freddy’s game before this one. I recognize that this is one of those titles that, for all the hate it received, revitalized the horror community in some form. To what extent, I don’t know. What I do know is that every streamer played FNAF and every player at least knows about FNAF. It may be a meme game, but that is testament to how prolific the franchise it is.
I myself had no real interest in playing Five Nights at Freddy’s, at least before now. In fact, I did not put much thought into it at all. Much like Slender, I figured that these games were a novelty at best. Popular among the likes of Markiplier and Game Grumps, who were for an audience a little younger than me. FNAF was just some scenery, background noise that I did not bother paying attention to. And yet, on some level, I was intimately aware of what the game was all about. Through some kind of osmosis, I had absorbed an incredible amount of detailed information about the series, which I had not even noticed until now.
Without even playing Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted, I could already tell you the premise. For those who need a refresher (as I refuse to believe there are people out there who have not heard of this series), Five Nights at Freddy’s is about the graveyard shift security job at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, a Chuck E. Cheese knockoff. And like Chuck E. Cheese, the animatronics—Freddy Fazbear, most notably—remain on at night roaming the halls. And if you are spotted by one, they will attempt to kill you on sight. Also like Chuck E. Cheese.
Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted is different then most of the FNAF games, in that this one takes a step back, introducing a whole new meta-narrative. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, impacted by a reputation of employing murderous animatronics, has had their business suffer dearly. To keep from going under, they have created the “Freddy Fazbear Virtual Experience,” turning the horrific rumors into a fun game.
Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted starts off with a guided tour down a dark corridor, narrating and with large screens displaying the premise above. The robotic sounding narrator posits in your brain that, despite decrying the murders as fake, the haunting of Freddy Fazbear’s is very real. After agreeing to a comically long legal note, the game places you in what appears to be some kind of testing room straight out of SCP. You are put at a desk and allowed to choose which sort of FNAF game you want to do.
Basically, you are playing as someone playing as someone playing FNAF.
FNAF has a flow that goes like this (generally). Each night, you start out in the security office. You have a board full of buttons that change to different security cameras, and you have different buttons to turn on the lights and close the doors. However, all these things require power, and the battery is not all too good. As the night goes on, you need to carefully choose when to turn on lights and lock the doors in order to keep Fazebear and crew out of your office. A game where your ass is cemented in a chair, contrary to what I would have assumed, actually works pretty well.
I said it was like an SCP test, and that’s more than just the atmosphere. There are a number of collectable tapes from a person the wiki creatively calls “tape girl,” which gives you a lot more lore about what’s going on. Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted, like all FNAF games, has some fairly intricate lore hidden below the surface. I won’t spoil any more, because the tapes are really cool, but just know that the story is a lot more interesting than just a person playing a VR game.
The Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted “virtual experience” gives you the option of playing ~40 different minigames, though in practice, that’s not quite accurate. Probably 17 of those are just the days in the first three Five Nights at Freddy’s games. Meaning, you don’t actually need to beat the five nights consecutively, you can go back in and start wherever you failed or left off. Which I thought was a good choice, as experienced players probably will not want to play the first level repeatedly, skipping straight into the main FNAF experience on night #2.
The other minigames in Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted are unfortunately not as interesting, at least not in the manner I played. Some of the minigames included an admittedly pretty stressful but ultimately boring ventilation repairman simulator, where you are in a small ventilation shaft and have to turn around pushing buttons while making sure no animatronics are watching (they are). A good horror experience, not so much a good horror gaming experience. Another was a different and much less scary repairman simulator, where you fix the animatronics themselves, reaching into body cavities and pulling out/putting in doodads. These are novel and admittedly give some new depth to the FNAF gameplay style, but ultimately I played them in the wrong way, the non-VR Nintendo Switch.
Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted is clearly meant to be played in VR; after all, you are playing a guy playing a guy playing VR. Trying to use the joysticks is almost impossible, there’s just something wrong with the sensitivity. However, the three main games have some stuff mapped to different buttons, meaning you can play them almost entirely without using the joysticks, and I was able to get a hang of the gameplay pretty quickly. The minigames require a bit more fine joystick control, which is incredibly difficult and frustrating at the moment.
Graphically, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted is pretty impressive. At least, in terms of Nintendo Switch games. The models are anti-aliased and the framerate is good. Not a whole lot more to say about that, but when your game takes place in one chair, you don’t have as much to worry about in terms of rendering.
Overall, Five Nights at Freddy’s: Help Wanted seems like it would be great, but only if I was able to try it in the manner it was created for. Or at the very least, with a mouse and keyboard. It’s unfortunate that it was not more accessible, because I would love to get in there and find the easter eggs and secrets in the minigames. However, the version I played on the Nintendo Switch is certainly not optimal, and while I can recommend the game, I cannot recommend it on this platform.