Review: Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator

Store page / View this review on Steam

For the longest time, I stayed as far away from Five Nights at Freddy’s as possible. I’ve always been a jumpy person, and while I’ve come a long way I still can’t handle jumpscares very well. But this cute little thing here wouldn’t jumpscare me, right? It’s just a pixel pizza-slinging simulator! Make pizzas, feed kids, right? Right? No? No, it’s far more than that, and offers a clever new take on both horror and management sims by crossing wires between their key elements. That should be enough to get anyone to try it, but if not you’re welcome to join me in Spoiler Town so I can explain exactly why it’s all so brilliant.

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Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is just that, a simulation of running your very own slightly-not-quite-right pizza restaurant. Forget the low-res arcade thing on the store page, because what you’re actually doing after that fake-out is buying supplies and attractions for your restaurant, arranging them tastefully, and then managing the daily tasks of the place. You’ve got everything from party hats and paper plates to pinball machines and robot entertainers to stock your business with, each with their own ratings for entertainment and, well… risk.

Once you’re finished arranging your restaurant, you have to get it ready to face the day. You do that in a tiny, poorly-ventilated office with a computer and two ironically-huge ventilation ducts, large enough to easily crawl through. All you have to do is order stocks of flatware and balloons, print out flyers and posters, and wait for the place to be cleaned. Apparently you do all this over a dial-up connection, so you’ll be sitting there for a good long while, perhaps wondering why those ducts are so damn big. Depending on the choices you made when setting up your restaurant, the reason might just pop out to greet you.

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If you’re somehow unfamiliar with the Five Nights at Freddy’s games, they center on possibly-haunted animatronic puppets who have a bad habit of making their patrons incompatible with life. Despite initial appearances this one is ass-deep in the animatronic horror show that is the FNaF universe, with you leasing a franchise from the very company that inflicted these adorable murderers on the world. That means that anything involving animatronics is going to come with a hazard to you, but unlike the previous games you have a significant level of control over that hazard. And what makes it so clever is that it’s thoroughly tied up in the economics of it.

Every business day you get a small amount of money to buy and maintain your party equipment. It’s not much, so when your catalogs of party goods offer major mark-downs it can appear quite tempting. However, mark-downs come from unverified sources, which means their risk level is higher. That risk level represents the actual threat to you, in your office at your computer, that something not right has entered your restaurant and is going to make you not alive. Cutting corners and taking insane deals like the $5 coal-black animatronic bear saves you money at the cost of making it harder to survive the night. If you learn how the office resources like motion detectors and audio devices work you can still get by, I suppose, but the key is that you are inflicting the horror on yourself this time.

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Nowhere is this more apparent than in the “bonus” round between shifts. Your company helpfully salvages old animatronics and offers them to you for big cash bonuses, but only if you can complete a salvage checklist first. This is done by sitting across a table from the derelict robot, under a low, flickering light, and playing audio cues for it. You have to watch for any response from the thing, and then take your eyes off it to mark the results. Of course, take your eyes off it too long and it’s coming across that table for you, which not only nets you nothing but looses the thing in your restaurant to kill you later. Essentially you have to submit yourself to the most immediate danger in the game, close proximity to an aggressive murderbot, for the chance at bonus cash. You have the option to pass on it entirely… but can you really resist all that money?

Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator is filled to the brim with clever designs like this, perfect triangulations of horror, humor, and pragmatism. While arranging your restaurant you can take lucrative promotion deals, but during your shift they’ll play loud advertisements that attract the animatronics. You can try out the arcade games and attractions you buy for extra cash and bonuses, but several of them have dark sides hidden behind bright colors and smiling faces. There’s plenty of black humor and jokes, of course, but in the end you’re going to be fighting the urge to buy that sketchy robot rabbit, and cursing yourself when it emerges from the vents to eviscerate you.

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Fans of the FNaF franchise will surely be pleased with this installment, but there’s a unique offering here for any fan of horror or even management sims. The series has always challenged players to battle their fears through the mechanics, whether it be staring down the monsters or leaning in to hear them breathing, and this time you face the unique choice between greed and safety. Making the best restaurant you can will almost surely get you killed, and playing it safe is going to leave you lagging behind your goals. It’s up to you to decide how much horror you can handle, and here you make that choice with your wallet instead of a difficulty slider or alternate path. Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria Simulator finds a new and poignant way to terrify, by pushing you to scare yourself in pursuit of that almighty dollar.

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