Layers of Fear 2
Bloober Team/Gun Media
2016’s Layers of Fear was a masterclass in how to make a super-creepy psychological horror game. It was about an eccentric painter who was in the process of finishing his magnum opus. Unfortunately, he was also in the process of losing his mind. Sure, it contained many of the usual horror tropes, but as they say: There’s nothing new under the sun. It was quite memorable for its chilling atmosphere and sense of isolation.
So, it was practically inevitable that its developers, Bloober Team, would go to work on a sequel. Thus, we have the recent debut of Layers of Fear 2, which rode in on an almost palpable wave of anticipation, due in no small part to the success of the original.
In Layers of Fear 2, you play as a successful actor who is on board an ocean liner. You quickly find out that you were supposed to shoot a film on said ocean liner because a well-known director had wanted to do so. You also discover that the director isn’t really there—well, at least his body doesn’t seem to be because he speaks to you in a seemingly disembodied voice. Is the director dead? Is he now a spirit? Why does he warn you about terrifying things that may or may not come to pass? In all, it’s a pretty decent set-up for a horror game.
Soon, as you’re going about the business of exploring the vessel in order to find clues as to exactly what is going on, the ocean liner transforms into a much more unsettling environment, much like things changed around you in the first game.
The shifting environment became sort of repetitious since we already saw it in its predecessor. But I kind of understand that the writers were trying to capitalize on this mechanic because it’s “their thing.” What really bothered me was that the game felt very disjointed. Whereas in the original Layers of Fear, every corridor that you walked down led to something which somehow moved the narrative along, in this sequel you can get lost and end up backtracking through already explored areas.
I don’t really mind that even. However, it was very unclear exactly why I had to go back through familiar territory. There were many times when I’d go back through rooms and had to re-inspect notes or other clues because I didn’t know how to trigger them in order to allow me to progress to the next area of the game. It really broke down any rhythm that had been built up and likewise ruined the immersion.
Layers of Fear 2’s puzzles were also quite odd and not in a good way. Whereas in the original game, puzzles felt natural and blended in seamlessly with the atmosphere of the game, here they are exercises in tedium. For instance, sometimes you’ll have to find the code to a locked safe or finagle and manipulate some shadows in a room.
Instead of being more straight forward and logical, these involved constantly fiddling around with objects for extended periods of time. It gave me the impression that the devs merely wanted players to waste a bunch of time with repetitive motion exercises in order to add filler between the scares.
Speaking of scares, Layers of Fear 2 does at least get that part down pretty well. At certain points throughout the game, you’ll encounter a malevolent presence that will begin chasing you. This evil entity is quite unrelenting and you’ll feel it practically breathing down your neck as you scurry through maze-like corridors and darkened chambers. There were several times where these sequences really got my temples pulsating with blood and I had to take breaks from the game.
Unfortunately, even though these chase sequences were terrifying, after a while they too became rather tedious. That’s because if you run down the wrong hallway or into the wrong room you’ll get insta-killed by the entity. This began to feel like I was more in a game and less in something that mimicked reality. Like a bad film, it broke the suspension of disbelief.
That being said, Layers of Fear 2 still comes close to rivaling its predecessor in terms of creating a truly horrifying atmosphere. As you navigate down shadowy hallways you’ll see things shift in the distance and wonder if you’re heading towards something menacing. Sometimes, creepy mannequins will reach out to touch you as you squirm past their disturbing-looking limbs. The game also sports some really nice graphics and sound design.
Layers of Fear 2 is a hard game to review. On one hand, it has some genuinely scary moments where you feel terrified as to what will happen next. However, these are interspersed with tiresome and uninteresting puzzles which can break the immersion of the unsettling atmosphere.
Layers of Fear 2 has some pretty nice looking graphics that make its horror gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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