By Isaac Espinosa
Get ready for the jump scares! As Fazbear Entertainment turns their relatively dark history from a bloody animatronic nightmare into a creepier virtual reality experience, you become their play-tester. Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted, made by Steel Wool Entertainment, was created in order to re-purpose the series of horror games into a deliciously terrifying virtual reality experience. So, without further ado, let us dive back into the horrors of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza!
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted begins with a history lesson of sorts. The narrator describes how Fazbear Entertainment, in its attempts to use animatronics to entertain children, has earned a bad reputation over the long years that they’ve been a company. And while some of these events happened in real life, some are said to be so called “fabrications,” created by a deranged psychopath seeking to ruin Fazbear Entertainment. So, as a way to poke fun at and get rid of these fabrications and possibly bring Fazbear Entertainment into a more positive light, the company has created a virtual reality experience based on the previous restaurants. As in each of the previous Five Nights at Freddy’s titles, the lore is rich and exciting in the dark and creepy corners of the game. I feel it is best for players to delve into this lore themselves in order to gain the best understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes. So I’ll avoid spoilers and say no more about this aspect of the game.
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted is separated into seven different modes for the player to choose from. Five Nights at Freddy’s 1, 2, and 3 all play as they did in their original counterparts, but now they’re in virtual reality, making the experience all the more horrifying. The new modes, which include Vent Repair, Parts & Service, Dark Rooms, and Night Terrors, are especially frightening to play through. The entire series uses suspense to build fear. As you watch the animatronics, with their large robotic bodies, and cold dead eyes, move and tread closer to your safe space, you must pay strict attention at all times so as to not get caught by the animatronics. Unsurprisingly, since it’s virtual reality, the game creates an environment that feels so much more real and intense than the original Five Nights at Freddy’s. Seeing Bonnie and Chica passing through the hallway in FNAF 1 makes the player anxious and stressed about letting the animatronics anywhere near the doors to your office, which serve as your only form of protection from them. Of course, not every mode will have these doors, and as the gameplay changes, the stress players feel changes as well.
I found Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 and Dark Rooms to be the scariest. In FNAF 2, the doors are gone, and you’re stuck in an exposed room, waiting for the animatronics to approach you. In order to prevent them from killing you, you must wear a Freddy Fazbear mask, which drives them away. All the while, you have to wind up a music box that keeps the deadliest animatronic, the Puppet, at bay. As you check down the hall and from behind the vents for any danger, you grow more anxious as to where the creeps could be. This is because FNAF 2 in virtual reality amps up your fear of the unknown. It came to the point where I had to pause the game and take a breather to keep myself calm.
Dark Rooms, while not as complicated as FNAF 2, is just as suspenseful, if not more so. Five Nights at Freddy’s 4 contained a minigame in which you had to watch Plushtrap, a small animatronic plush, with a flashlight using it to stop Plushtrap in his tracks and make sure he lands right in front of you, so you could win the minigame. Whenever the light wasn’t pointed at him, Plushtrap ran around in the dark, making you rely on sound in order to know when to catch Plushtrap and avoid the jumpscare that ensues if you fail. And all of this had to be done in 90 seconds; there was no time to waste. In the virtual reality version, that somewhat creepy minigame becomes a suspense-inducing nightmare. You feel as if you’re in the room waiting to catch Plushtrap, which creates a heart-pounding, claustrophobic tension that the original version did not contain. Even the sound of Plushtrap moving in the dark can make even the most hardcore horror game fans quiver in their boots.
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted, plays beautifully with typical VR controllers. The HTC Vive controllers, and even the PlayStation move controllers, work perfectly well. However, any other non- VR controller that is used to play FNAF VR does not work properly within the system of the game. With the previously mentioned VR controllers, every mode is accessible and easy to complete. In contrast, using something like the lone PlayStation controller makes most of the modes much more difficult. Vent Repair is especially demanding since the mode requires that you fix the vents as fast as possible so as to not die at the hands of the animatronics lurking within. With one controller, it becomes a much slower process as you continue to cycle checking for animatronics and managing the vents. Having two controllers for this mode makes the process of fixing the vents much easier to accomplish.
Five Nights at Freddy’s VR: Help Wanted is not only a great addition to the series, but also a fantastic VR game. The series, since it began, has lived on creating an isolating and intense environment for players. Recreating that experience in virtual reality turns Five Nights at Freddy’s into a full-on nightmare that must be played hands-on, so as to get the best and most horrifying experience possible.
Isaac Espinosa is a New York Videogame Critics Circle intern. He’s the founder of the Lehman College Videogame Critics Circle.