“Sister Location” fails to frighten

(Scott Cawthon)

“Sister Location” is the fifth entry in the “Five Nights at Freddy’s” series, the first of which was released in August of 2014.

The series is part of what I call the second wave of survival horror games. A trend that was set off in 2010 with “Amnesia: The Dark Descent,” a legitimately atmospheric and scary first-person experience. “Amnesia” blew up in popularity thanks to YouTube’s gaming community.

In the wake of “Amnesia,” some game developers started to piggyback on the popularity of these games, leading to the release of titles such as “Slender: The Eight Pages,” “Layers of Fear” and the now infamous “Five Nights at Freddy’s.”

The “Five Nights” series revolves around a haunted pizza restaurant – I’m not kidding – filled with possessed animatronic mascots in the vein of Chuck E. Cheese’s. It’s an idea that, at first, seems like it could work given the amount of children who were terrified of these contraptions back in Chuck’s hayday. But, after playing “Sister Location,” I can assure you it’s not scary.

Over the lifetime of the series, its fanbase has grown to primarily consist of young children. In a sense, it’s become the new “Minecraft.” It’s hard to walk through a public place without seeing at least a couple “Five Nights at Freddy’s” T-shirts.

Creator Scott Cawthon has jumped on this phenomenon. In what is admittedly a clever marketing attempt, he claimed he was reluctant to release the game because it was “too dark” and he was “unsure how it will affect people.”

“Sister Location” tries way too hard to be something that it’s not. It constantly bombards the player with the same type of dry humor found in the “Portal” series, except in this case, it’s not funny in the slightest.

The interjection also conflicts with the tone the game tries to set. The sarcastic narrator clashes with the over-acted voice work of the mascots.

You play as a new employee at Circus Baby’s Rentals and Entertainment, a company that rents out animatronic mascots to private parties and functions. Your job is to maintain them in this storage facility.

Previous installments had the player sitting in a stationary position for the entirety of the game. In “Sister Location,” you are given the illusion of freedom. You can walk around, but only forward  and your field of view is extremely limited.

This is a side effect of Cawthon’s reluctance to use anything other than Clickstream Fusion, an embarrassingly out-of-date engine built for developers just learning to code.

The game relies on jump scares far too heavily. In other horror games such as the “Resident Evil” and “Silent Hill” series, jump scares are used effectively to startle the player while they feel at ease. It’s supposed to be a subversion of expectations. All of “Sister Location’s” scares – I use that term loosely – come from one of the mascots jumping into frame. It may be a bit scary the first one or two times, but after that, you’ll know when it’s coming and it just becomes funny to watch a purple cartoon bunny jump towards your computer screen.

The game is boring, which is just about the worst thing a game can be. Everything new Cawthon tries here falls far short of innovation, and the faux-deep story is laughable at best.

There are far better horror games to play this spooky season –  don’t waste your time with “Sister Location.”

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