GAME NAME: Layers of Fear
DEVELOPER(S): Bloober Team
PUBLISHER(S): Aspyr Media
RELEASE DATE(S): February 16th, 2016
It’s not to often in the digital age that as a reviewer I get physical media or press kits anymore. One day last week while pulling up my driveway I noticed a shipping box outside my front door. Of course, like the N64 kid made famous by his epic present opening skills and reaction, I couldn’t wait to rip this package open. Upon opening the box there was hay all over the place making my kitchen a nightmare. Thank goodness I got it all clean before the wife walked in, or the game inside wouldn’t have been the only horror instance happening that night. Not only was my download key inside this awesome press kit, but also was a nice holographic image of a guys face melting away, a twisted children’s bedtime stories book and a nice letter with a wax seal and all. It’s nice to see a publisher and developer get together to really try to immerse you into the experience even before booting up the game.
Layers of Fear is a horror game that feels different but yet doesn’t tread new waters. I absolutely loved the graphics and sound effects. If you want some hair raising bone tingling scares, there’s nothing better then lights off and surround headphones in. The scares are more of the jump variety that helps with the beautifully orchestrated and piano-blended music. One part almost had me fall out of my chair when you quickly turn around and there is a painting right behind you. The use of the artistry of the Gothic era really gives the game a great creepy look and I love the way the paintings come to life all over the mansion.
The story of Layers of Fear has a been there done that feel to it. You play as a once renowned painter who has had a severe creative block that has sent him spiraling in to a fit of madness. You will pick up pieces of notes and photographs that will progress the story much like any first person adventure. The voice acting too feels stiff and acted with not very much emotion. It almost felt that it was unnecessary and reading would have provided the same experience.
The gameplay will feel very familiar to those who have played first person adventures before. The game will have you walking from room to room, opening every drawer or cabinet you can find in search for clues and story pieces. One of the more annoying gamepad configurations was that when you open something, whether it be a door or drawer, you have to grab it first and then open it with the right stick. This becomes old really quick especially when there are hundreds of these things to open. Progression in the game is mostly linear. The game uses screams, cries or other ways to point you in the right direction. The only time I felt the least bit lost was in the phone sequence, but retracing your steps will get you out of that jam. The puzzles also lack any intrigue. Most are super simple ad even casual puzzle solves won’t have the slightest bit of difficulty.
Layers of Fear is really a mixed bag for me. While it is really short (about 3 hours) and linear, the graphics and soundtrack and effects are stellar. Walking around the mansion listening to the booms of thunder in the background with creepy piano measures playing is enough to scare the feint of heart and really is a breathtaking sight. On the other hand though, I didn’t ever feel I was having fun while exploring the house and solving puzzles. It felt more of a chore and less of a gratifying experience. If you like visual feasts and atmospheric soundtracks I feel there is enough there to make it worth your purchase.