Paint or die!
When someone hears the words “first person horror game” I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an immediate cringe or groan in the air. This genre just seemingly has no end in sight, especially considering popular famous YouTubers still creating let’s play videos of these titles and getting views by the millions. It’s not fair to take judgement on a game prior to this but that exactly what I found myself doing when I first heard of Layers of Fear. Once again I’m proven wrong and that judging a book by its cover is a sore mistake.
Don’t sniff the paint thinner.
Layers of Fear is a simple concept in reality. With the latest craze of what people are referring to as “walking simulators”, this would probably classify itself as such. It’s simple, players take control of the protagonist, and he is alone in his house. Yet things don’t quite seem to be normal. At first it just looks like a house, elegant as it is, but after a short time of exploring, things take a turn for the worse. More specifically, once he finds his painting canvas, the decent into chaos begins.
Platforms: PC, XB1, PS4
Price I’d Pay: $14.99
How long to beat: 3+ hours
Gameplay consists of exploring, finding key items, and on occasion doing a puzzle. Nothing here is extremely hard to figure out. Though because the game has a very good sense at messing with players’ minds and their perspective in the world, what once was a wall, could turn into a door, a door into a black void, etc. On constant occasions I was just confused or trying to figure out just how to progress. Do I turn around? Do I look up at the roof? At the ground? Reality is far from the rules of natures in the eyes of Layers of Fear so when all hope is lost, keep going. Hallways turn into longer hallways and there is some extremely interesting ways they have of messing with players.
Playing with headphones will leave players indulged in the scares, and it’s crucial for an experience like this. Yes, there are a ton of jump scares in Layers of Fear, but there is great atmosphere that keeps the tension high almost the entire time playing it. There is very little room for breathing and catching breath before the next terrifying or crazy element happens in front of players. Players can’t die in the game so the sense of losing progress or life is weighing players down and for some that might takes away from the experience of scares. It didn’t damped mine in the slightest, if anything it kept the pacing of the game going and it was the oddness of everything happening around me that just made me compelled to continue going and ultimately finishing the game in one 3 hour sitting, a rarity for me these days.
Yet there is a little bit of cracks in the paint that ruin this otherwise macabre game. Visually it looks great and runs seemingly well, but even with a beastly rig, I found moments of the screen chopping or framerate taking a chug. Unity games seem to have this persistent issue most the time and it rears its ugly head here. It felt as I got further in the game it happened more, but it was never long enough for me to feel it ruined the experience, but mileage may vary depending on players PC setup. The fact that the game was only 3 hours might be a detriment to some, for me, it was about the perfect length. Layers of Fear throws players through a constant barrage and gauntlet of the strange, weird, and downright creepy so much, that right when I was starting to get used to the trick they played and the effectiveness seemed to be wearing off, it was over. The story is also somewhat vague, but it’s easy to put together reading all the notes and keying in on the clues. It’s nothing that I didn’t expect but was a solid enough narrative to keep me playing also.
A painting to die for.
Often I find that a lot of games in the genre come out and try to capitalize on the popularity of being a “scary” game, having enemies constantly pop in front of players, doing jump scares just for the hell of it. To get that reaction from players, even at the cost of quality or game mechanics. Yes Layers of Fear has a ton of jump scares yet everything else comes together as well to offer players a feeling of truly descending into madness. Sometimes a game comes along that sees a team of people coming together to create something unique and scary all the same. That’s Layers of Fear in a nutshell and it scared the living hell out of me.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.