“And you’re killed in the face by a monstrous toy-like automaton” probably isn’t a sentence you’d usually expect to open a games review.
Still, it’s appropriate for Sister Location – the latest Five Nights at Freddy’s game – because it can be applied to so many of your experiences.
For those uninitiated in the charms of Five Nights at Freddy’s, the series has mostly revolved around being a night watchman, initially in a chain that married fast food and Disney-style animatronic characters. Only at night, the androids got a bit murdery if you took your eye off of them.
However, the chain’s long gone and so this time round, things are a bit different.
This time around, you’re employed by a lunatic actually renting these horrors out.
The first of your five nights begins with a breezy introduction from the resident unhinged AI. You then find yourself in a control room, directed to give robots electric shocks, in order to ‘motivate’ them. We’re sure that doesn’t make them want to kill you at all.
You might at this point also wonder why moving between locations requires crawling through vents rather than using a perfectly good door, but you’re then immediately hurled into night two.
At this point, Sister Location shifts to having you fulfil a varied series of short objectives. The good news: you get out of your chair. The bad news: put a finger wrong and you’re killed in the face by a monstrous toy-like automaton.
Screw up and your only punishment is to begin the night – or a portion of it – again. This lessens the frustration you’d have from starting Sister Location from scratch, but the game starts feeling like Groundhog Day in hell. You’ll get halfway through a task, and do a little better than before. Then you’ll mess up, and you’re killed in the face by a monstrous toy-like automaton.
A bigger problem is that, in the translation from PC to mobile, Sister Location has lost some key elements.
All five nights and some extras remain, but the visuals are simpler, the controls don’t always gel (at one point, you’re told to ‘click’ the touchscreen), and subtler omissions have made things needlessly difficult.
One early example finds you flitting between a circuit breaker and your surroundings, where you fend off deadly robots by way of soothing audio. On a PC, you get a danger meter. On mobile, it’s a guessing game. Guess wrong and you’re killed in the face by a monstrous toy-like automaton.
Oh, the horror!
What makes Sister Location still worth consideration is its plentiful (and, if you’re suitably ham-fisted, repeated) moments of genuine horror. The jumps-scares when your face is torn off are one thing, but a sense of unease and creepiness permeates practically everything in the game.
Notably, whereas in previous entries you almost felt like a prison guard on high alert, here you feel like a sick person’s plaything, fumbling around in a macabre series of tests. Play in the dark, headphones on, with rain lashing down outside, and the experience comes tantalisingly close to mobile horror perfection.
It’s just going over the same sections time and again gets old to the point you sometimes wish Sister Location was more interactive novel and less game. After all, there are only so many times you can be scared getting killed in the face by a monstrous toy-like automaton.