This game is a cut above.

Layers of Fear came out for early release a few months ago, and for our YouTube channel, we played it together. The completed game was finally released a few weeks ago, and just last night, we finished playing all the way through.

Don’t believe what you hear in the news. This game gets scary like Van Gogh got Starry Nights. It is a masterwork in horror that almost defies explanation. 

There’s a movement in the horror genre that horror games don’t necessarily have to involve killing enemies or even fights for survival. More horror games are moving on focusing on telling a good story, like sitting around a campfire trading tales of shadow people and black-eyed children. This focus on the narrative and atmosphere is something LOF embraces fully. There’s no real running from enemies or fighting anything off. No collecting resources or searching for weapons. Instead, what we’re left with is an immersing narrative and a heavy, nail-biting atmosphere that left us on the edge of our seats the entire time we were playing.

A Chilling Ride

I’ve heard critics say the game feels like a haunted house, and to that point they would be correct. You move from one room to another in your house, watching as the facade begins to slowly crumble around you while the specter of your late wife taunts and ridicules you. All the while, you collect pieces of your master painting hanging in your studio, which you strive to complete throughout the game, hopefully allowing you to leave the nightmare. You solve puzzles, which can be tedious at worst, but brilliant and inspired and best. So to those who don’t like the game because it feels like a Haunted House, all I say to them is, when did you stop having fun? Haunted Houses are a staple of the horror culture, and the game engages you well enough that you almost forget that there could be other things you could be doing, like hiding in closets or fighting off monsters.

The painting theme is heavy and reoccurring, your wife will traverse between paintings, leaving colorful trail of paint wherever she lurks. The paintings in the house will shift, taking on new properties or hypnotizing you into intense moments of brief insanity.

Food, Water, Atmosphere

Unlike so many other games designed specifically for YouTube consumption (I.e. Games with a lot of jump scares so YouTube personalities can scream on camera), the game handles its intense moments with tact. In a few situations, you can see the jump scares coming, but they’re no less terrifying when it’s something you have to do in order to progress. The music lends itself to a creepy dissonance that follows you throughout the journey. Each room is unique and interesting, yielding itself to some new nightmare behind every closed door that sometimes make it hard to progress. Hallways disappear and reappear in new places, making the house feel claustrophobic and sinister, as though it’s leading you to deeper and darker recesses on purpose.

As you explore you house, you find pieces of memorabilia from your married life and your child, and the story slowly comes to light before you of what happened to your family and why your wife is haunting you. If that weren’t good enough, the game ends with a nice twist that yields itself to a never ending nightmare for the protagonist.

The Critical Verdict

It’s not the most “gamey” game ever made. You don’t have a life bar or an inventory. But you do have puzzles to solve and the atmosphere and story telling more than makes up for what’s lost in the process (like Silent Hill 2, and everyone can’t get enough of that game). There were parts that were a little tedious, but coupled with how many times my friends and I were left plastered to the couch in terror pleading for the game to let up, it was well worth the journey. I give Layers of Fear nine creepy doll heads out of ten.

P.S.

If you want to see me and my friends try to survive Layers of Fear, you can check out the playthrough here at Fytstyx Gaming:

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