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Layers of Fear Review

Layers of Fear Review

Feeling trippier than LSD for the PlayStation, Layers of Fear bends your sense of reality and leaves you stranded in a perpetual maze of wooden doors. The main challenge you’ll encounter along the nauseating thrill ride that is Layers of Fear is not intensely difficult gameplay, or a series of challenging puzzles, but instead an internal struggle to keep both eyes glued to the screen.

Layers of Fear follows an artist’s descent into madness, attempting to overcome his writer’s block and paint his final masterpiece. As players begin they are literally left in the dark to try and piece together the result of the protagonist's actions. This is done by examining a number of letters, objects and paintings that are scattered across the sprawling Victorian mansion. These collectables allow the player to delve deep into the artist's’ psyche and uncover the chilling underlying narrative.

layers of fear screenshot 1

The story is divided into six main stages that can be conveniently accessed from the title menu. Chapter titles such as “Paint”, “Canvas” and “Brush” offer very little to the imagination, which is pretty ironic for a game primarily focused on creativity. What is a nice touch however, is that each chapter is signified by its own eerie painting. Core gameplay involves exploring the mansion, combing every inch for clues and watching the chaos unfold around you. Objects will begin to levitate, doors will slam before you and distressed cries will fill the air. The atmosphere is always incredibly unsettling and you’ll often find yourself pausing to try and find the courage to proceed. Each horrific encounter is meaningful and symbolic of the aftermath of the artist’s actions.

What is largely disappointing is that Layers of Fear struggles to live up to its reputation as an unplayably scary game. Sure, it's undeniably creepy, featuring some horrifically vivid images that I’m probably not going to forget anytime soon, but I never felt truly overwhelmed by fear. I guess this was due to the fact that it never felt like I was truly in danger. The game is essentially a walking simulator where you progress from one horrific set piece to the next, there is no possible way to be killed apart from falling and there are no enemies in your path to cause harm. Due to this, the game struggled to have the same hold on me as Alien Isolation did for example, where I felt like I could have been snatched at any moment. An abundance of jump scares also soured the experience for me, leaving me rolling my eyes in distaste.

layers of fear screenshot 4

The title really shines in its sound department, implementing the DualShock 4’s internal speaker to add an extra layer of immersion. As you make your way through the many winding corridors, piercing scratches and cries will bleed from the controller, catching you off guard and adding to the suspense. From harrowing dissonant clashes, to the soft soothing sounds of minimalist piano music, the score always felt on point and captured the onscreen intensity. My only real complaint within the sound department was the voice acting, which was incredibly hit or miss. This fault lies mainly with the protagonist, as his dreary monotone voice made it hard to connect with him emotionally. The vocal performance was even laughably bad during later scenes that portrayed his mental breakdown, detracting from the overall immersion of the game.

Admittedly, the game didn't blow me away visually, but it was able to execute all of its mind-bendingly sadistic moments to great effect, adding a compelling sense of realism. The overall color pallet is also a little drab and not too pleasing to the eye, but is stylistically appropriate for the main setting. In terms of length, the game is frightfully short, lasting a mere three and a half hours. Fortunately, Layers of Fear is able to compensate this by finding room to tell a compelling story and reveal a number of terrifying set pieces. The large amount of clues and collectables will also likely see you return to the game for a second time, providing extra value and replayability.

layers of fear screenshot 0

Ultimately, Layers of Fear exists as a chilling cinematic experience that is capable of more than a few scares along the way. Uncovering the game's narrative is largely enjoyable and will forever keep you guessing, as clues feel well paced and each horrifying set piece is related. The game may rely on a few too many jump scares and voice acting may feel off at times, but there's still no denying that Layers of Fears is a truly memorable and massively creepy experience.

7.50/10 7½

Layers of Fear (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

Ultimately, Layers of Fear exists as a chilling cinematic experience that is capable of more than a few scares along the way. Uncovering the game's narrative is largely enjoyable and will forever keep you guessing, as clues feel well paced and each horrifying set piece is related. The game may rely on a few too many jump scares and voice acting may feel off at times, but there's still no denying that Layers of Fears is a truly memorable and massively creepy experience.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Kieran Harris

Kieran Harris

Staff Writer

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