In the wake of Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro’s Silent Hills being cancelled came P.T., the teaser with much to offer. Now a new game arises, a fellow walkabout simulator with some contention factor, Layers of Fear.
Developer: Bloober Team SA
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also Available On: Steam, PS4
Release Date: Out Now
The game opens with a lot of confusing twaddle and thrusts you head first into a house, your house, the house of a maniacal artist sent, for some unknown reason, to complete a painting. And thus, the ride begins. I say ride because Layers of fear is another one of those ‘walking simulator’ type games where you waddle around opening and closing draws and cupboards looking for things to pick up, be it keys and other items of importance, which aid progression or notes and other objects which provide some narrative.
Setting off on a high note, the atmosphere is incredibly creepy and creates a real sense of dread and unease with every step taken and every door pushed open made me eek and wince with anxiety for what could possibly follow. So much so that at exactly 22 minutes in… I turned off the game. Books shot out at me, paintings distorted and rooms changed every time I turned, this turned me into a quibbling wreck of a human and so I took a short break.
On returning I found myself feeling very much the same emotions but on a more dampened down scale and as the game progressed and the lead protagonists magnum opus came to fruition, the scares got samey and the changes became predictable. So I soldiered on through the remainder of the game aptly chasing the various things that were supposed to be scaring me, this was because I soon realised that there was no actual threat in Layers of Fear, no enemies and no game overs which meant that providing you can solve basic puzzles of finding one thing and putting it elsewhere and you can deal with things moving and loud noises, the game becomes without challenge.
This really saddened me as the game had such a fantastic formula from the offset, but it simply became a victim of its own originality, it has some great concepts and ideas but uses them so often that they just don’t have any effect as the game progresses. Piano playing itself. So? Paintings morphing into bloody messes. Whatever. This is what destroyed what started as a great concept for me. As the story continues to develop the atmosphere and gameplay backtracks.
With roughly an hour or so of play, depending on how much time you spend cowering at the beginning and looking for documents throughout the house, Layers of Fear is truly scary for about the first 20 minutes of your initial playthrough. The game has some moments where it looks beautiful and others where it seems poorly textured; for example, there are some sequences where gravity for all physics objects in certain rooms switch off and everything floats and can be pushed around which looks fantastic, but again, it happens four or five times within the game and it just loses its effectiveness.
In summary, Layers of Fear has some fantastic ideas and implements them well, but as the game goes progresses, that unique and unknown atmosphere quickly turns to tedium and familiarity as the fear dissipates.
Is the game worth buying for its story, no. Is it a worthy homage to P.T from which it draws its inspiration, yes! But it takes the concept of P.T which was, you guessed it, roughly twenty minutes and attempts to flesh it out, succeeding in part, but ultimately failing to be a game which is both a challenge and has strong narrative. But hell, it is creepy and I did enjoy playing it!
But hell, it is creepy and I did enjoy playing it!