Developer: Bloober Team
Release Date: 8/27/2015
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With P.T. only being a demo it sure did imprint itself into the horror genre. Games since have been trying to copy its experience, but is this such a bad thing? I think not as P.T. showed us what we have forgotten, the overall scare factor and how the atmosphere can do that. You don’t need cheesy monsters, jump scares, or even great visuals. The Just plain old atmosphere can do the job just fine. Layers of Fear is an indie horror game that is probably one the most insane I have played in a long time. The game did have a forlorn and eerie atmosphere, but just visual trip it gives you is just mind blowing.
You play as a crippled painter in the early 20th century who is trying to complete his masterpiece. The game starts out just fine while you wander around an old mansion opening drawers and finding pieces of text that help tell the story. Layers of Fear’s only goal is that you walk through doors. You will open more doors than you would like to in a video game. Once you get through your first door and into the main hub, which is your painting room, things go crazy. The game is very linear where you walk room to room and enjoy a visual acid trip that never stops or gives you breaks. As you think there’s no way out you will turn around and a painting will pop up behind you and start melting. Turn around again and the room changes or a ghost appears in your vision. What kept me going was that I wanted to know what was in the next room. It was like a funhouse but scary. Each room was always different and I never felt bored or that I wanted the game to stop. There are six major pieces you need to collect to finish the game and each one is themed. For example, one piece is a finger and you slowly build up the story on how you took that finger. It doesn’t tell you directly, but through crazy visual cues and clues you can figure out what happened.
The game is also a bit of a collect-a-thon as you can open drawers and search around each room for clues and allows you to unlock achievements. There are actually three different endings, but I can’t quite understand how to get them. There are no choices in the game, but maybe taking different paths? Each area is so linear that there’s only one way to really go so figuring out what ending you get is a huge mystery. There also isn’t much thinking in this game, there were maybe 3 or 4 puzzles and they required almost no skill to work out. I feel there should have been more puzzles, but that would have slowed down the pace of the game. You literally run around opening door after door and experiencing the next visual freak out like a roller coaster ride. There are also no enemies to run or hide from. The only ghosts that appear in the game are supposed to get you as it’s part of the story.
The visuals are fantastic as the game has amazing lighting effects, tense atmosphere, and there’s so much detail and so many different objects everywhere. The way some of the set pieces play out is pretty insane and required a lot of care and detail. The visual effects alone from warping, shifting, melting, and various other effects are pretty amazing as you don’t see many of these in games. All this was done with the Unity engine was is also pretty impressive. The audio in this game is quite amazing with a lot of variety and each sound effect put into the right place at the right time.
Overall, Layers of Fear is well worth a playthrough and it’s quite scary and you never want to stop. The great pacing, visuals, and amazing roller coaster ride of effects is something you don’t see in games very often. If you’re tired of cheesy horror gimmicks of most indie games then look no further. This game may be short, but it’s got a lot of soul and heart for what it is.