Review: Layers of Fear (PC)

Developed by: Bloober Team
Published by: Aspyr Media, Inc.

If you’ve been a long-time follower of the cast of characters on this site, you might remember me from my time writing on the Toonami United page. If not, that’s probably for the better. To keep it short, my name is Kory, but you may refer to my online fursona err… persona as Ace. For you PC gamers out there, I’m your silent but critical voice on this site, so get used to me.

Alright, let’s get to why we’re all here. So over the past month or so, I’ve had the liberty of playing a psychological horror game aptly dubbed, Layers of Fear. The indie studio that brings you this artistic portrayal of a Victorian horror (Yeah, get used to the puns) is Bloober Team. They’re known for renowned games such as A-Men, Double Bloob, and Basement Crawl. Yeah, I’ve never heard of any of them either.

To start, we find ourselves playing through the eyes of a skilled painter who’s in the pursuit of painting a masterpiece. When we reveal the canvas, we notice that there’s barely even a background on the painting. Was this an elaborate ploy for me to revisit my middle school Art class trauma? I would soon find out that answer.

Our lovely art studio

Interestingly enough, once I went through the door to the painter’s workshop, the door behind me no longer led back to the foyer of the house. Yeah, buddy, I’ve just been thrown into a post-P.T. horror game. As I progressed through the game, there was a countless amount of paintings that would stare me down, just before the paint oozed off into some grotesque image. And right below the terrifying painting, there’s a little collectible. Here and there, I’d find these and they would shed light on what happened to the house of our limping hero. To add some context, I quickly found out he has a prosthetic leg when I found the schematics lying around the house.

The game controls somewhat clunky on PC. There were many times where I had to open cabinets and wardrobes and I ended up yanking my mouse off my pad trying to open it. When I came across a crank lever, it was the scariest part of the game. Outside of that, you limp around and await the next jump scare. There is a sprint/hobble button if you get really spooked and want to make a run for it, but that’s particularly difficult because 99% of the doors lock behind you. In my case, I hobbled my way towards my character’s doom whenever the opportunity presented itself. Sadly, the painter would lose consciousness and wake up somewhere else in the house.

Layers of Fear is very story-driven. Similar to Outlast, you’re tossed into a scenario where hell has already broken loose and you need to piece the events together that made it happen. As I said, there are collectibles: tattered pieces of newspaper, photographs, mementos, etc. Occasionally, picking up one of these incurs a little bit of dialogue from the painter, which clues us in on the significance of the item we’re holding. The more I discovered these well-hidden bits of information, the more the story of the painter became clear. The guy is a maniac who is staking everything on painting his masterpiece, and the house changing itself is representative of his erratic state of mind.

This particular track creeped me out. As it played the room would start distorting.

After clearing a chapter, you’ll have found an important story item and the nearest door will take you back to the painter’s workshop. You then proceed to paint on the canvas with the newly gained item acting as inspiration. I won’t divulge what is drawn on the canvas, but each time an addition is made to the painting, one of the cabinets houses the item you found for that chapter. Once all the cabinets are filled, the painting will be complete and the game is, for the most part, finished. Apparently, there are alternate endings, but I wasn’t looking for another playthrough.

Now to get to what really matters, is it scary? Personally, I didn’t feel like it was that scary (by the way, I played this with all my lights off by myself). For me, the first three chapters were honestly some of the best jump scares I’ve seen in a while, but that’s the thing. Layers of Fear throws a slew of jump scares at you, accompanied with eerie sound effects and distorted scenery, but by the time I was clearing the last two chapters, I felt like I had burnt out. I would go as far to say that the jump scares in Layer of Fear are beautifully orchestrated, yet I feel like that’s a gimmick that can get old quick once you realize that you can’t actually die in this game.

Why should I care? I know I can’t die!

Layers of Fear is an interesting horror game that will take you on a journey through the distorted mind of a Victorian-era painter. The developers definitely know how to set an atmosphere, and it’s absolutely great to play in segments due to how the game’s chapters are structured. Not to say it doesn’t have flaws, the controls for the mouse make things difficult as hell to open or turn, over-use of jump scares, and the last couple of chapters feel significantly short for a conclusion. All in all, if you want to play one of the better horror games to come out in recent years, and are still a little salty about P.T., I recommend you give Layers of Fear a shot.

Final Verdict:
Layers of Fear is definitely a great game for horror and psychological fanatics, and it’s really representative of how much the genre has evolved. Although, I’d wait to pick it up since Halloween is right around the corner and there’s bound to be a sale.

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