‘Layers of Fear’ Review: When Curiosity Isn’t Enough To Make You Want To Jump Down The Rabbit Hole

Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear does a great job catering to its niche horror audience. Bloober Team

Layers of Fear takes the term “tortured artist” and runs wild in imagination. The dark feelings associated with creative frustration are personified in ways the most twisted of minds couldn’t even imagine. Still, by the end you’ll be wondering why you’re traveling down the rabbit hole, as there’s little sympathy for the person’s mind you’re exploring.

[Mild spoiler warning: most of the fun in Layers of Fear is learning about the characters and discovering the secrets within the house. It’s common knowledge you play as a tortured artist, but what he did to deserve his own personal hell is a mystery. We tread lightly on the spoilers, but some mild spoilers are unavoidable.]

Layers of Fear doesn’t give you the opportunity to relax. Right away you’ll find yourself wide-eyed, holding your breath as you try to predict the jump scares before they get to you. There are random noises, things that pop out, and possessions by a certain ghost that haunts the artist. The ghost possessions are unavoidable. It’s not like Lisa in the now deceased Silent Hills P.T. demo where you can get her to go away.

It’s important you take your time exploring the six layers of Layers of Fear. There are Gone Home -style clues about the characters in the game hidden in drawers, walls, cupboards or sometimes in plain sight. There are photos, letters and drawings you can collect in the game. They aren’t just random collectables; each item reveals a piece of an interesting picture. However, there are only six key items you’ll need to unlock the layers.

Visually, Layers of Fear is stunning. The way the developers used the artist’s personal things to exaggerate his obsession with perfection was great. You’ll see a lot of broken paintbrushes and empty paint tubes everywhere. There’s warped furniture that appears to melt as if a painting was on fire. You’ll see distorted images of faces and demented children’s drawings that will give you chills. The problem is everything kind of blurs together after the third layer.

Layers of Fear
A child's bedroom quickly becomes the scene of your worst nightmares. Photo: Bloober Team
Layers of Fear
This screen doesn't do Layers of Fear's creepy atmosphere justice. Photo: Bloober Team

My first play-through of Layers of Fear was roughly between 5-6 hours and this was with me trying to search through everything I could. The more notes I read written by the artist or people the artist knew, the less I cared to know about him. Without getting into spoilers, he seems like a particularly cruel person with no real redeeming qualities. I didn’t care about the few nice things he did nor did I really want to understand why he did them. With games that are story-driven, you naturally want to find a way to relate to the character. You want to connect to the story, and this game doesn’t really allow you to get attached to anyone. I found myself reading the notes in the game and thinking, “Okay, he’s really sick. I get it.” I continued the game out of curiousity of what I’d see next, not necessarily to learn more about the story.

The puzzles in Layers of Fear are pretty simple, almost too simple at times. It relies on creating tension for the player to get distracted by their fear, which isn’t a bad thing if you scare easily. You’ll fly through this game if you’re not easily spooked, especially if you naturally like to take in the sights and observe your surroundings. There were two puzzles that took me a bit to figure out and it wasn’t because they were challenging. One puzzle was in a library/office where in order to progress you had to find a secret door. The lever is in one of the bookcases. It wasn’t clear the door existed until I spent a good 20-30 minutes searching for clues about what to do next. It wasn’t until I saw a book faintly shining that I realized what I had to do. The second puzzle I had trouble with was during the sixth layer. You have to look for a particular item but the room was way too dark. It didn’t help the items you need are extremely small in a room with many compartments. It became a source of frustration having to adjust the brightness to see it what I was missing.

Overall, you’ll enjoy Layers of Fear if you like horror games. It knows its niche audience and caters to them well. The inspiration from Silent Hills P.T. demo is there, especially with the ghosts in the game. It’s a title horror lovers will be able to play through multiple times and find something they missed. If you’re not into horror games, unfortunately, Layers of Fear won’t blow you away or inspire you to pick up more games like it.

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