Last month I wrote an article about the latest installment in Scott Cawthon’s runaway video game franchise, “Five Nights at Freddy’s,” and how the new game was going to be released on Oct. 7 of this year. Surprisingly, Cawthon actually kept his word this time and the newest game, “Sister Location,” was released on time.
This spin-off game was teased by Cawthon to be completely different than previous games and, while still connecting to the overall lore, would be a new title.
In my own words, the premise of “Sister Location“ made me “cautiously optimistic,” as I felt the FNaF series was starting to be led astray as Cawthon pushed games out more and more frequently, making the story overly complicated and sacrificing gameplay and horror for new games quickly. Could “Sister Location“ be the series’ saving grace?
In my opinion? “Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location“ is just as good, if not better, than the original game.
“Sister Location” is one of the most genuinely terrifying games I have ever played, dripping with atmosphere and being so totally different from all the previous games before it that it is impossible to predict.
“Sister Location” breaks the traditional FNaF structure of looking at cameras and shutting doors completely, with the presentation being more of one long story rather than being strictly divided into 5 near-identical nights. “Sister Location’s” presentation is much more like a horror movie rather than a horror video game, which only increases the scares and makes for a truly haunting atmosphere. The player feels more like being in a dark movie theatre, wanting to yell at the protagonist “Don’t go in there!” which makes it all the more terrifying that you, the player, has to ‘go in there’ to progress through the game.
“Sister Location” has the player assuming the role of a repairman (rather than a security guard) by the name of “Eggs Benedict,” or at least, that is what the robot voice guiding you through the nights has auto-corrected your name to. In a “Portal”-esque series of commands by an automatic, robotic voice, you are in charge of checking on the animatronics in Circus Baby’s Pizza World and keeping them in check with electric shocks.
From the first night, you can already see how different the game feels in terms of atmosphere and game mechanics. After checking on (and electrocuting) the animatronics named Ballora and Funtime Foxy, there is a game segment wherein you have to forcibly hold a door shut by clicking and dragging your mouse, or you will be caught by two other animatronics and killed. Having hold a door shut by holding your mouse down is so much more interactive than just pushing a button to shut a door, and lends more to the idea that if you mess up and are not strong enough to hold the door, you’ll die.
Immediately after you have to crawl to your next location (as in this game, you go to the animatronics, they do not come to you,) through Ballora’s gallery, which is completely dark and in which, as you are told, you have to be completely silent. If you hear music, you have to stop moving, and Cawthon specifically designed the music to utilize surround-sound speakers and actually have the music creep around you, giving the feeling that you are actually in the room with the murderous robot.
From there, no night is the same. Crawling in dark, cramped spaces is the only sure mechanic you can expect each night, as each night expects you to do anything from playing sounds to keep Funtime Freddy, who is talking to you the whole time, pacified, to repairing Circus Baby in the dark while another animatronic creeps behind her, or Circus Baby herself guiding you through the darkness just by relaying instructions such as “Move left,” and “Stop. Don’t make a sound.” You do not want to rely on Baby, but you end up having to for segments like this.
You have to rely on her again during night four, which actually flows seamlessly from night 3. You do not start out in your normal location; the character opens his eyes inside one of the springlock suits from FNaF 3, Baby talks for a bit, then as soon as the action starts, “Night 4” appears on the screen. You do not get a breather; you are in the action immediately.
While I do think the ending is a little weak, which I will not spoil on here, “Sister Location” as a whole I believe is one of the best in the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” series. I think I like it even more than FNaF 2, which previously was one of my favorites in the franchise.
The shift to being more like a horror movie is an ingenious change that gives the franchise a breath of fresh air. You are forced to rely on an animatronic who seems to switch back and forth between being your friend and wanting to kill you, and each night is so different, it is impossible to get comfortable with the mechanics enough that it feels like second nature. The game changes so much, you are forced to adapt and are always on the edge of your seat, waiting for what is to come.
The atmosphere is just as terrifying as the feeling of playing FNaF 1 for the first time. The inclusion of voice acting I was initially wary of, but trying playing this game in a dark room with headphones on- you really feel like you are in Circus Baby’s Pizza World. Hearing the animatronics acknowledge that they know you are in there and they can see you just makes the player feel completely unsafe, like the only thing keeping you alive is the animatronics’ lack of free will and their ability to be controlled with electrocution or sound cues.
This is a helplessness that is not frantic, panicked or primal, this is a slow, quiet helplessness, keeping the player wary at all times and never knowing what is next, or who they can trust. You feel alone and trapped in a place where no one can hear you scream.
Sister Location is the perfect addition to the FNaF franchise, and if this is the direction Cawthon is heading with these games, I will not be opposed to having new games in the future.