From the get-go, Layers of Fear establishes its dark, moody and atmospheric designs. The graphical style of the Unity engine has been put to excellent use to create an almost photo-realistic house of horrors. The sinister home will keep you on the edge of your seat, dreading every corridor. Or the inspection of every item for fear of what it may trigger.
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Avg Game Length: 4 hrs
Players will inhabit the painter’s mind for around four hours. His madness allows the developers to transcend gaming norms in the most twisted way possible. This may involve corridors that twist and turn for infinity. Or it may involve looking up to realise the ceiling is no more and the stretching hallucinations that have replaced it are the next step in your descent to being a total loon.
Layers Of Fear Is Morbidly Engrossing
Phwoar, heavy stuff, right? As a result of what I’ve just described, Layers of Fear establishes its personality as a macabre walk-and-dicover-athon. There’s no comic relief or slowing momentum to gather your thoughts. Although, the relentless onslaught of horrors can be a little tiring. Yet there’s no denying that I was happy to get lost in morbid fascination with the game. That would likely be because the developers never lost their sense of artistry for Layers of Fear.
The mad painter’s house is strewn with disturbing yet brilliant artwork. Some scenes will look like a Pink Floyd album cover in motion. Of course, many of your encounters will be brief and seriously messed up rides. But they are presented to you in a subtly beautiful way. If there is not much to speak of about gameplay here, this is worth your attention just to treat your eyes.
While Gameplay is Not Varied, The Undertones of Horror Are On Point
Speaking of gameplay, Layers Of Fear is indeed very straightforward. As I said earlier, you will simply be walking around. Opening boxes, inspecting documents and solving the very occasional puzzle is this painter’s fate. Like my previous review, Firewatch, this game is very similar as the story progresses through specific player discoveries. It is up to you to solve optional puzzles to discover more about the painter’s tragic past and his obsession with creating the final masterpiece.
The main story will have you discovering his homicidal reasons for creating a painting by very unconventional means. You will rarely get stuck and if you do, it will likely only be on one of those optional puzzles. So Layers of Fear only just dips its toes into the genre of being a puzzler.
While it is very short, it was nice to have played a horror game that made no apologies for what it was. A contained and concise horror experience. It never ended up diluted with ambitious and obscure ideas. Suffice it to say, there is no combat in this game whatsoever. When I think about it, there’s no upfront violence in the game either. Layers of Fear, being a terrifying ‘ from A-B’ experience down fascinating corridors of artsy madness, is just the right length for what it is.
Layers Of Fear Gets Under Your Skin
Horror games rarely impress me as they tend to opt for cheap jump scares and pointless gore. Layers of Fear is a far more intelligently crafted, ‘under the skin’, kind of horror. Achieving that in a genre so mired in disappointment gets a thumbs up from me. Extra respect goes to the developers for engineering three different endings for the player. These are determined by just how thorough you are with the optional puzzles.
Yet, Layers of Fear is not without its failings. Actually, it is a victim of its own designs. At first impressions, this game will have you dreading every development that may lay on the other side of every door slammed shut behind you. But the aforementioned onslaught of horrors will leave you numb and un-affected in the game’s closing chapters. Your body will have given up jumping at all the scares due to the lack reprieve. No pause for a rebuilding of tension, save for the brief intermissions in which you will update the twisted masterpiece.
So many ‘freak out’ moments are jam packed into an already short game, you’ll probably end up apathetic, mocking the developers’ final attempts to scare you in the closing chapters. As a whole, Layers of Fear will stick in my mind for a very long time. Play it alone at your peril.