Five Nights at Freddy’s took the world by storm after its August 2014 release, yet series creator Scott Cawthon wasn’t one to simply rest on his laurels. A mere three months after the first game’s debut, Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 was available for purchase, offering an expanded and revised take on that basic cat and mouse, jump-scare gameplay that made the first one such a success. Coming so hot on the heels of its predecessor, one had to wonder how good the sequel could be given the quick turnaround time, and indeed, it does utilize a lot of borrowed ideas.
Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 starts out almost exactly the same way as its predecessor, putting you in the shoes of a new night-time security guard at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria. Just like before, you’re guided each night by phone recordings from a fellow guard that serve to explain both the backstory and the gameplay mechanics of each harrowing night. Unlike its predecessor, you no longer have some nice, thick steel doors to hide behind when the murder machines come calling. Instead, you have a helpful helmet designed to look like Freddy that you can put on to fool the machines into thinking you’re one of them.
Of course, it’s not as easy as simply donning the helmet and napping for the rest of your shift. There are nearly a dozen animatronics this time around, and not all of them are so easily fooled. For example, Marionette is a new monster that has to be kept ‘asleep’ by continually winding up a music box. Should you forget to wind up the box (or if you’re simply busy fending off all the other creatures), Marionette will promptly breach the office and murder you. Or, in the case of Foxy’s new iteration (lovingly called “The Mangle”), only repeated flashes from your limited use flashlight can send it on its way.
Indeed, there’s a lot to juggle in Five Nights at Freddy’s 2, and this is perhaps why the game feels notably inferior to the original. By the time you’ve reached the fourth night, your attention is near-constantly split by several overlapping activities that are of equally critical importance. Say you need to wind the music box, but before doing so, you shine the flashlight in the hallway and see Freddy smiling back at you. Immediately, you must put on the mask to conceal yourself, but doing so will also prevent you from being able to wind the music box in time.
The abundance of ‘no win’ scenarios like this leads to plenty of jump scares, but more than anything, they tend to wear out the horror element that much quicker. Having to juggle multiple defensive options at once removes a lot of the breathing room and tense anticipation, making the jump scares more of an expected consequence than a genuine shock. It’s still stressful, sure, but not necessarily in the same wonderfully dreadful way that you’d expect.
As ever, the presentation remains excellent, particularly in the animatronics designs this time around. The ‘new’ variants are creepy in their own way, while the versions of the villains from the first game are suitably horrifying in their decrepit state. Taking these along with the new pizzeria layout, it’s clear that Scott Cawthon wanted to take things to the next level with the unique identity of this franchise. Also, the inclusion of new Atari-style minigames after some deaths helps greatly in building out the behind-the-scenes lore, introducing some answers while making you ask many more questions. Five Nights at Freddy’s 2 may not necessarily reinvent the wheel, but it still does a fine job of keeping you on the edge of your seat.