Manage your very own killer robot-infested pizzeria.
PC Release: December 4, 2017
By Ian Coppock
Hoooo boy, is it really time for another Five Nights at Freddy‘s game? Even by contemporary industry standards, the number of sequels in Scott Cawthon’s smash hit horror series is getting a bit gratuitous. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator may not have a number in its name, but this is the seventh FNAF game to release in just over three years. Still, Cawthon’s accrued no shortage of fans with his series about possessed animatronics that murder unsuspecting night guards, so power to him for that. Meanwhile, it’s time to see what this game adds to the burgeoning Freddy-verse.
Released at the beginning of December, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is a game that combines two strange bedfellows: management simulation and survival horror. Unlike in previous FNAF games, players have the opportunity in FFPS to manage their very own killbot-inhabited pizzeria. That’s right! Any hardcore FNAF fan who’s ever dreamed of franchising a demented pizza place can do so in this title. Whether it’s picking the paper plates or installing favorite arcade games Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator lets players do it all.
Well, at least during the daytime. For while the business sim portion of the game is replete with colorful little tasks like expanding the restaurant floor and building stages for animatronics, things take a sinister turn after the “We’re Closed” sign fires up. Players have to sit at a computer (conspicuously positioned between two open vents), and close out for the day while trying not to get murdered by Freddy Fazbear & Co. Who knew that signing off on time cards could be so dangerous?
Don’t be fooled by FFPS‘s Steam store page. Beneath the veneer of pixelated mini-games and Cawthon’s cute little anecdote about starting a pizzeria lies a horror game that’s in lockstep with previous FNAF titles. Sure, managing the restaurant is a big part of this game, but players live and die by their ability to survive five nights alone in a monster-infested restaurant.
Not to say that the management portion of this game isn’t without its own challenges. Players start out with a bit of cash with which to buy attractions, and have to do so in a way that balances their restaurant’s atmosphere, fun, and a few other meters. Successfully evening these meters out will result in lots of happy customers (and lots of money), but screw something up and the restaurant might be liable for a lawsuit. The series’ cute little disclaimer about murder and dismemberment doesn’t apply here; if one too many kids breaks an arm in that discount ball pit, it’s off to court for the player.
Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is a big believer in that old adage about spending money to make money. The only way to upgrade the restaurant is to buy more hokey junk to fill it with, which unlocks bigger catalogs with better items. As players build an ever better restaurant, they can accrue points that’ll go into the game’s final score. Any restaurateur who can guarantee good customer service and avoid getting eaten by the attractions will go far at Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza, Inc.
All told, the restaurant-building portion of FFPS is fun, if simplistic. Players simply pick items of varying quality from catalogs, then install them in one of a few pre-allocated spots. While longtime FNAF fans will probably have enough fun with this stage of the game, it would be so much better to be able to see actual people in the restaurant. Merely picking places for stuff to go and then peacing out for the day makes the management component of this title feel shallow. Even racking up a high score for good Freddy Fazbear feng shui only does so much to stifle the ho-hum of seeing a hollow restaurant.
As previously mentioned, the other half of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator comprises not getting killed by the restaurant’s animatronics after everyone’s gone home. There’s not a whole lot to be written about this segment of the game that hasn’t already been written five other times about five other Five Nights at Freddy’s games. Just like in every other game, players are confined to a small, vulnerable spot and have to rely on quick reflexes to avoid getting jumped by murderous robots. Before anyone asks, the answer is yes: the game’s five nights get increasingly difficult.
Every FNAF game has its own obstacle that keeps players from watching the robots, and Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is no different. Instead of monitoring electricity or office doors, players have to complete various end-of-day tasks on their PC while also being on the lookout for unwelcome guests. While ordering napkins and cleaning the oven seems simple enough on paper, the catch is that the player’s computer and ventilation system are both extremely loud. Turning off either will make it easier to hear monsters, but also prolong finishing up for the night.
Although Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator provides one of the series’ smoother survival experiences, it really illustrates just how much of a one-trick pony Five Nights at Freddy’s is. As always, players are expected to watch out for monsters while also putting up with some truly ludicrous environmental hazards. Leaving the fans off for too long will cause the temperature to rise quickly and boil the player alive… because apparently this restaurant is in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert in July. This setup isn’t as egregious as that of the first game, in which the doors were powered by electricity instead of, y’know, gravity, but it cuts pretty damn close.
FNAF‘s total reliance on quick reflexes makes these games feel more akin to clickers or infinite runners than survival horror titles. A decent survival horror game relies on thick atmosphere to build the player up until that first encounter with a monster, whereas FNAF can’t wait to throw all the monsters it can at the player as soon as possible. This setup makes the game’s scares feel a bit cheap, and Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator demonstrates that Cawthon’s formula has not and will not change anytime soon.
If both of Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzera Simulator‘s gameplay elements end up shallow, at least they’re well-connected. The animatronics comprise the missing link between managing the restaurant by day and surviving in it by night. At the end of each day, players are presented with an animatronic that some “charitable” soul left by the dumpster out back, and they can opt to adopt it. Successfully salvaging the animatronic can land the player tons of cash for daytime operations… if they’re willing to tolerate that animatronic trying to kill them the next night.
This element of the game isn’t FFPS‘s scariest challenge, but it is the game’s most interesting. Players have to judge how well they can get by with or without the cash that each animatronic brings. The choice is tough: do players take that cash at the expense of a tougher survival challenge the next night, or throw the animatronic back outside and forfeit that extra dough? Each would-be Freddy Fazbear superstar has to consider whether they’re better at climbing the corporate ladder through thrifty management or withstanding hordes of killer robots. Both scenarios present their own obstacles.
All of these FNAF design choices, both new and old, are presented much the same way that FNAF games have always been presented. This game relies on its predecessors’ combination of crunchy pixels and Flash-style visuals to get its unsettling points across. For anything that can be said about Cawthon’s reluctance to innovate new gameplay, he does succeed in sharpening and refining FNAF‘s visuals with every new game. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator also features much stronger colors and smoother animations than previous FNAF games.
Cawthon also gets credit for continuing to improve his games’ sound design. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator‘s voice acting comes through crisp and clear… as do the creepy, creaky noises that the animatronics make. The cutesy restaurant music sounds a tad stifled, but that’s probably to reinforce the game’s retro feel. As always, Cawthon also insists on making the monsters’ screams about twenty times louder than the rest of the game just to ensure that those adrenaline glands kick in.
Despite the inclusion of a brand-new management mechanic, Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator doesn’t advance the FNAF universe in a meaningful way. Sure, the game’s generated the usual deluge of fan theories and little kid fandom that every FNAF brings, but the game’s reliance on formulaic jumpscares is a bit disappointing after Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location at least tried a few new things. Players who are already heavily invested in the Five Nights at Freddy‘s universe will no doubt enjoy the title (especially since it’s free), but everyone else can safely skip it.
You can buy Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator here.
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