Layers of Fear Reviews

AuthorReview
FullMoonBeaver
519,020 (320,260)
FullMoonBeaver
TA Score for this game: 1,427
Posted on 12 August 16 at 11:58
This review has 12 positive votes and 3 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Welcome to my review for Layers of Fear
Developed by: Bloober Team
Published by: Aspyr Media
Release Date: 16 th February 2016
Price: £15.99

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Layers of Fear by Polish developer Bloober Team is a rarity of the horror genre. Unlike other games which I have been told are scary, or will make you jump and have a tense atmosphere, Layers of Fear is genuinely that. I don't scare easy when playing horror games, watching films, or reading a book. Sure there can be some tense moments, but a lot of the time I just feel as though it really isn't a genuinely scary experience. The only game, or any form of media for that matter, in the last 10 years that has genuinely scared the living daylights out of me at any point was Outlast. Which reminds me, I need to find time to get back into that as I have been very busy.

So what is this all about? You assume the role of an insane painter. One who is looking to create the perfect masterpiece, and being of the frame of mind that he is in, nothing is perfect at all. Highly self critical, and also critical of others. Couple this with a short temper, and his mistreatment of others, and this forms the back story, and the lead up to your adventure in the mansion. You gain more history of events from family momentos, and notes left lying around in drawers, or on the floor, and voices from the past speak out, or scream out, venting frustration in all directions, from all parties involved.

The setting of the mansion is an eerie one, and when played with the lights off and headphones on, this becomes one game that can truly scare you. There are other moments but I will get to that shortly. The mansion itself has many doors, and rooms that at first look appear totally normal, if a little messy and neglected. A painter has more important matters to deal with you see. Shadows and ambient noises play a major role in generating an atmosphere that will make you look twice at every step and turn. I was on edge so often, and checking everything as I thought I saw something. Paranoia perhaps? Was I going insane too? The psychological effects of this game were certainly having an effect on me.

The game does a good job of leading you in the right direction on some occasions, as once through a door, it shuts and locks behind you. This creates an uncertainty, and nervous approach to what lies ahead. My first experience of a proper jump scare involved a piano. I wont go in to too many details. But I jumped out my seat, and it wouldn't be the first time. The toy dolls later on in the game made sure I was paying attention. I hate dolls, they are one of the few things that unsettle me, and to have them in the game raised the scare factor exponentially for me personally. Well played Bloober, well played.

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One sign of the insanity from our painter, is the obsession with rats which he maintains are infesting his house, yet a letter that you quickly discover, argues the claim and to stop the harassment. Are they real? Or are they the figment of a broken mind? I sure as hell saw them scurrying about the floors. Rat drawings can be found around the mansion along with rat traps. The former are a collectable within the game. Family momentos can also be found expanding on the madness and insanity, which in turn helps you understand more about the story and how he came to be so obsessed with the "perfect painting".

You may think that it's just wandering around a creepy dark mansion. And you would be wrong. The mansion distorts and warps reality and the physical world around you, and in ways that are so bizarre. Walking in to one square room, there are 3 other doors. Upon opening each one, you are confronted with brick walls. Immediate thought is go back the way you came. But the door is gone! Continuing to turn around will reveal that one by one, each door disappears into thin air. Am I going crazy too? I'm sure there was doors here a minute ago. One final turn and a hallway appears. That wasn't there.

Bloober have create a masterpiece in my humble opinion, and I certainly hope that they didn't go insane in the process. They make you question your surroundings, from the shadows dancing around, to the disappearing and reappearing doors and hallways, and even floating furniture and random objects. The moment when you encounter a doll that falls on the floor and screams as it plummets is just unsettling. I felt totally creeped out, and had to pause the game to compose myself. Then there are the ghostly apparitions of your wife that haunt the mansion, and you will encounter her. How you deal with her is your call. Me? I ran like a little girl. The psychological torment I dealt with playing Layers of Fear is something I have never felt before. Don't get me wrong, Outlast is a fantastic game from what I have played so far, and I'm not disrespecting Red Barrels effort. But that is a game that relies upon real world, tangeable horror where other people who deal with insanity on a permanent basis, can and will hurt you. Layers of Fear plays with your mind like a child would play with a toy. It manipulates you into thinking you have seen something when you walk in to a room, or stare at an inanimate object, expecting something to happen, and then doesn't.

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The story arc splits in to 3 parts as you progress through the game, rewarding you 3 totally different end results for the painting you are working on between chapters. This is down to decisions you make with regards to interactions within the world, and whether or not you are just that self obsessed with finding all the collectables in the mansion. I wont spill the beans on what they are in case you haven't played it yet. But don't despair, the game isn't a long game, and being able to work towards 3 different outcomes gives you value for money. I have finished it once, and don't mind working my way through another 2 times, as I genuinely want to see what other endings are on offer.

Layers of Fear certainly sits in my collection as one of the best Indie games I have played on Xbox One, and if you like your horror, and some jump scares then you can't go wrong with making a purchase. The price is entirely justified, and if you buy The Masterpiece Edition, you get the Inheritance DLC included for an extra £3. A bargain if you ask me. I sincerely hope that Bloober Team work on more horror games in the future, as they definitely have the knack for the genre, and are fully deserving of all support and praise

Graphics: Given the dark, moody atmosphere, they have the chance to cut back on detail as it would be too dark to really notice. But when there is light in some areas, the game does look good. But you can see them paintings, and feel them eyes of the painting staring into your soul. So is the light really a good thing? In conclusion, visuals are fine and I have experienced no issues with them.

Musc/FX: Mostly just eerie ambient noises to creep you out, and plenty of crashes and bangs to bring the jump scare factor into play. You will also hear the piano playing on a couple of occasions but that is your lot when it comes to music. A fantastic job in this area, and make sure you wear some headphones in the dark while playing for a superior experience. You'll thank me. Or curse me.

Gamelay: Easy controls to learn. So you wont find any trouble with learning them. Responsive and works fine.

Longevity: Three play throughs if you want to get all endings and the achievements associated with them. You're looking at approximately 4-5 hours each run. Depends on how quickly you charge through them in all honesty. Me? I like to take my time, so my game time will be a bit longer. My estimates are at the high end of the time frame, so you may finish the game quicker.

Achievements: One for each ending, and one for each of the collectables. This time they have a purpose and offer an insight to the insane mind, and his frustrations.
There are some miscellaneous achievements on offer, such as searching through 100 draws, or taking 1000 footsteps. But in all, they are not that bad, and yes you have to play the game more than once, but once you know your way through, each subsequent run will take less time.

In conclusion, this is am experience I am glad I had. A great game by a talented developer, and I for one want Bloober to continue creating games for Xbox One. Even if it's not a horror.
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JRPGsForTheWin
127,015 (90,248)
JRPGsForTheWin
TA Score for this game: 3,136
Posted on 12 August 16 at 20:44, Edited on 14 September 16 at 18:29
This review has 5 positive votes and 2 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
Usually, the term "style over substance" is used as a critical insult.

However, in the case of Layers of Fear, I will use that term to explain exactly why the base game works as well as it does.

This is a trip down hallways of psychedelia, a wicked evil acid trip without the negative side effects of chemical consumption, and it will fuck with your brain if you walk into it with no expectations whatsoever. The whole point of this game is to make the player ask, "What the fuck just happened there?" repeatedly.

There is no challenge involved and there really is no penalty for death. This really is more of an interactive work of art than an actual video game. But what fine and creepy art this turned out to be. The trick to enjoying this is to let the jump scares work their magic, and to put on the headphones in a dark room to maximize the effect of the multiple physics violation this game effectively and intentionally commits just to freak you out.

As far as replayability goes, there are three different endings to witness, but the jump scares and the atmosphere lose their effectiveness the second and third times around. There really is zero replay value outside of obtaining all of the relatively easy gamerscore this has to offer. I did the first two playthroughs without a walkthrough, but I will admit I turned to one for the third playthrough to unlock the Mother and Child ending.

As far as the plot goes, it is dark, it is grisly, and most of the gory details are effectively confined to the dialogue. This M-rated horror game is all about creating atmosphere that is so thick it could be cut with a straight razor. Anybody looking for buckets of viscera will certainly be disappointed, while fans of trippy mindfuckery will find tons to enjoy the first time around.

I honestly am not sure what I enjoyed more about Layers of Fear, however. Was it playing through the base game for the first time, experiencing all of the unexpected twists and jumps like the complete Layers of Fear n00b I once was? Or was it when I invited a good friend over for cigars, and I put this game on, handed him the controller, and just sat back and watched him jump and state "What the fuck did you get me into, JRPGsForTheWin?" repeatedly?

As far as the DLC goes, it suffers greatly because the tale of the suffering daughter is frankly not nearly as compelling as the descent into pure insanity that the painter in the main game faces. I recommend it for achievement completion fans only.

This game is not about challenge or achievements that are bragworthy. It is a highly accessible casual game that promises and delivers three or four hours of twisted atmospheric goodness. It is a breath of fresh air to see a horror game that does not rely on extremely explicit violence to get its point across, but due to the lack of replay value outside of gamerscore, I would recommend this if it ever goes on sale for 50% off as a DotW attraction. While there is enough content here to justify the price tag once one takes into consideration how much a new horror movie costs on Blu-Ray ($20 for three to four hours of entertainment is what this game is offering), I really feel no need to fire it back up at any point now or in the future of this lifetime.

I really wanted to give this a higher score because of the great joy I felt during my first playthrough. Yet, I cannot bring myself to. I really wish that the achivemenet list did not require multiple playthroughs featuring exactly the same dark rooms and creepy corridors. Nothing here is shocking the second time around, and that is a damn shame.
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x Mataeus x
569,678 (329,477)
x Mataeus x
TA Score for this game: 181
Posted on 12 October 16 at 07:33, Edited on 03 March 17 at 21:05
This review has 4 positive votes and 1 negative vote. Please log in to vote.
This review covers the Masterpiece Edition.

Preamble:
Please note I play a lot of these games on my 'review' tag, and often before achievements are live. As with all of my reviews, the verdict below is based purely on my personal time with the game. My reviews are not influenced by general opinions, they do not draw reference to other people’s experiences (unless I’m reviewing couch co-op play), nor are they based on any one particular element; rather they are an account of my own experiences, and as a result are entirely subjective – as they should be! I try to be as spoiler-free as possible, but in the interest of providing an honest account, some reveals may be necessary. Enjoy smile

Please COMMENT if you down vote - I take the time to create these reviews for this community; I'd love your feedback!


Review:
Sometimes, you don’t want something original. Sometimes you just want a good, old fashioned experience which excels at what it does. A few flashes of genius, sure, but you’re here for the core experience. Take horror films for example: You can watch Ringu or Ju-on for their psychological scares. You can watch John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of The Thing to be grossed out by hideous beasts. But sometimes, all you want to do is watch Jamie Lee Curtis and her friends running away from a man in a white mask carrying a kitchen knife.

Layers of Fear is a horror game. It’s a horror game set in an old, spooky mansion. Many of the rooms are barely lit, with dancing shadows and dark corners. There’s a storm outside (of course there is) and as the rain batters the windows, flashes of lightning briefly blind you, the thunder which follows embarrassing with it’s cheap jump scare. It’s a horror game where its cards are less up its sleeves and more on the table, face up, in chronological order. An old, haunted house in a storm in the middle of the night, complete with slamming doors, self-rocking chairs and ‘it’s behind you’ moments.

Layers of Fear doesn’t hold many surprises for horror veterans, but you know what? That’s ok. Because it knows what it is, and it’s brilliant.

Perhaps taking a page from the T.P. demo which Konami released on the PlayStation a short while back, which in turn was meant to be evocative of the terror experienced in their seminal Silent Hill series but brought into a player’s eye viewpoint, Layers of Fear is played entirely from a first person perspective. This restriction places a much greater emphasis on what you’re focusing on at any particular moment in time, and does an astounding job of keeping you on the edge of your seat. Unlike in real life, where you can flit your eyes around independently of your head and turn your neck in a split second, first person gaming is restricted to how fast you can move your thumbstick around. It makes perfect sense for a horror game, as looking behind you takes a moment to achieve, increasing the feeling of dread and anticipation as you explore. And where better to achieve this than in a Rose Madder style hundred year old mansion?

During the main game, you play the part of a once successful painter returning to his abandoned home. Without wanting to spoil the events and thus lessen the impact of the horror, it’s fair to say your character suffers from a somewhat fractured psyche. As you move through the highly interactive environments, opening drawers and cupboards and uncovering letters and documents which gradually reveal past events, you’re never sure if what you’re experiencing is real or just what your character thinks is real. This is a solid hook, as it gives the developer free reign to surprise and shock you when you least expect it without it having to follow a logical pattern.

Reality at times quite literally shifts around you, with environments changing in classic look-away-then-look-back moments. Like Stephen King’s Rose Madder, following a corridor you followed before my not necessarily lead you to the place you expect… As you do attempt to make your way through the ever changing stately home, you’ll come across countless collectibles in the form of news papers, documents and hand written letters. These all present various sides of your character to you as the player, the letters hinging on love and frustration while the papers report your genius as an artist’s and chronicle your successful rise. There are also hidden artifacts in the game, a whispering in the background giving hints to their location. When you find these you’ll unlock memories of your past, and get even deeper insight to who your are. It’s a great way to eke out the story, as it keeps you guessing about everything from your work and your family through to the very essence of what you’ve experienced and what makes you tick.

After an excellent exploratory prologue, the games chapters do become somewhat more linear, even though you’re exploring a huge mansion. It can feel like you’re just traversing from point A to point B just to reach the end of the chapter, which usually finish by reaching your study and adding more paint to your masterpiece. This actually focuses the horror elements more acutely though, as it goes someway to avoid repetitive traversals through the same rooms and landings, which would lessen the suspense. These environments are brought to life by excellent artistic direction. The game uses the Unity engine to it’s fullest, with sharp details, great lighting and textural effects and slight chromatic aberration giving the whole experience that ‘classic horror movie’ feel. As ever though, my continuous gripe about Unity not running smoothly does keep rearing it’s head here and there, but on the whole it looks fantastic. The soundtrack features excellent music, from gentle piano pieces to the classic harsh strings embellishing moments of suspense. Other sounds are top notch, with creaking doors and floorboards to the crashes of broken glass and thrown furniture.

As a whole, the main Layers of Fear experience is fantastic, focused experience. There are even multiple endings for you to experience – at least three – and witnessing them all isn’t as clear cut as you’d think. You’ll be scared and you’ll be shocked, but you’ll desperately want to find all of the collectibles and see the whole story through to the end.

So let’s talk about the inheritance DLC, which is included in this Masterpiece Edition. Inheritance sees you playing the part of the artist’s daughter, returning to the same (but different, due to the events of the main game) house she grew up in. Once again, classic jump scares abound – a little too often to be repeatedly effective, to be honest – and once again you uncover the plot as you play through. That’s where the similarities end, however, as the way the story unfolds here, again in different ways depending in your choices, is set uniquely apart from the base game.

As you wander through the old mansion, you’ll uncover areas and objects which bring back memories of your childhood. These memories act as the most important part of the DLC, as they directly reflect the outcome of the game. You see, the daughter’s opinion of her father is different depending on the actions you take during a memory sequence, and after the sequence that memory becomes set in stone – it becomes real, and we’re to take those events as what actually happened. To use an early example (not much of a spoiler, fret not): you recall your father behaving in a way which frightens you, so during the memory you find yourself sitting in a closet. If you remain there, he’ll come and find you, and feel sorry for you and apologise for his behaviour. If you choose to take the key and lock the door so he can’t get in, he’ll rage even more. Whichever action you take influences your memory, determining whether you saw him as apologetic or not. In turn, these events determine the direction the story will take, your choices being chronicled through drawings depicting your decisions.

The Inheritance package isn’t a particularly long tale – a couple of hours at most, really – but it’s succinctly told story is satisfying, and helps to reveal even more about the family and it’s unorthodox history. If you’ve never played Layers of Fear, this is where you should jump in. It’s a more complete package than the base game alone, and if you crave for the days of classic horror games such as Scratches or Silent Hill, Layers of Fear: Masterpiece Edition delivers in spades. In the run up to autumn, it’d be great to crack out at Halloween on the big screen with surround sound, letting your family all take turns scaring each other half to death!
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Mr Velezbian
286,327 (196,578)
Mr Velezbian
TA Score for this game: 674
Posted on 16 March 16 at 20:13
This review has 5 positive votes and 3 negative votes. Please log in to vote.
IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

“If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
-Vincent Van Gogh

Remember this as you walk through the eerie halls of Layers of Fear, as it sadly is the complete opposite for the poor protagonist artist. Layers of Fear has seemingly coined the term “psychedelic horror” for its genre, and appropriately so. For the most part, Layers is like nothing I have ever played before. Alone and on the verge somewhere between madness and sanity is your character, the artist. Plagued with doubt about your artistic abilities, you have one goal: finish it. Finish your Magnum Opus, the piece you will be remembered for. But what you soon come to realize in your mansion is the mind can play horrible tricks on itself when pushed to the brink, and the player soon falls victim to its tricks.

In essence, Layers is an immersive experience. There is no fighting to survive or solving of deadly puzzles, but more of a roughly 5-6 hour long trip through an intense haunted house. This is not a bad thing though, as I grew up with hands-off horror experiences. One of those experiences that most closely mimics the one you’ll find in Layers is an older title simply called D. I have never met many people who had the chance to play it, but it was a similar title where you explored a desolate building with collectibles and puzzles in mind. Memories of that game still give me chills today, and Layers delivered to send those same chills up my spine time and time again. Though I could have used more puzzles to give me a sense of involvement, the team at Bloober put forward a really cool take on traditional immersive horror games.

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Where the game goes from spooky to terrifying is in the mansions transitions from normal to twisted. This is a hard concept to define verbally (I recommend taking a look at the screens/video below). Let me paint you a picture, for lack of a better phrase. You are walking down a narrow hall, and into a room that has no exit. You turn around to exit that same door you just came through, and gone is the hall you just traversed, and now you are in a burnt master bedroom. Or better yet, you explore a large tidy great room, and after turning around at random come to find everything has been trashed. Its transitions like these that thoroughly impress, not only for their scare factor but for their smoothness during transitions. I do not think I ever noticed any slow down or pauses during these moments of travel, and that is praiseworthy in a horror game that needs to keep you grounded in the immersion.

In addition to the transitions, the general atmosphere is terrific. The game is dark, both in tone and quite literally. There is a thickness and depth to the darkness that surrounds you, giving a realistic feel when you see shadows of figures in the distance. The player is really put in the shoes of the artist so to speak, and it helps keep you reeled in. At standstills, you can notice his head bobbing ever so slightly. When walking, you’ll notice an apparent limp that he carries, and it shows even more when traversing steps. I cannot recall any other title that has done this with a way a first person character carries themselves. It is a fantastic way to feel like part of the game. The sound cues bring the whole package together, whether it is the echoes of a crying baby, pianos playing with no piano in sight, or thunder cackling just outside the windows, every bit of detail makes the experience more gripping. I only wish that the artist’s voice had some range, because he is sadly very dull when narrating collectibles and memories. Visually the game is impressive as well. The lighting of scenes is amazing, and the ghostly movements of objects is seamless which is haunting. There are some texture imbalances though. Things like furniture and paintings look great, but fruit and fires look blocky and dated. That in addition to some screen drags take away from what is otherwise a visually striking game.

The story could use a bit more hand holding in my opinion. Most of the story is told through collectibles you find like letters, newspapers, and objects that have memories attached to them. A lot of my time with the game was spent not knowing what is going on. Don’t get me wrong, mystery is fine and dandy but the narrative could have used some structural support all the same. There seems to be plenty of collectibles, but many revealed similar aspects into the life of the artist and his estranged family. All of this hurt and emotion plays into the torment that follows him on his path to finishing his last piece, but overall a richer narrative would have made for a less confusing experience.

I really enjoyed my time with Layers of Fear. It was creepy and cool, and overall just hit everything I want in a horror setting. The conclusion of the game was awesome, albeit a little brief, but had one of those great “whoa” moments that makes you consider everything you just did. I really hope at some point this title gets translated to a VR experience because the framework is clearly there. Though the story lacked depth, the setting and sheer cool factor of the game sold me. I’m ready for another run through the halls to snag everything, and take in this work of art.

*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review

FINAL SCORE: 7.5/10
+Fantastic Setting and Environment
+Truly Chilling Scenes
+Seamless Transitions
​-Some Technical Downfalls
-Poor Story Structure

Originally posted on Player2Reviews where you can find more of my writings and videos
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