Layers of Fear is not a game that requires a lot of skill, but it does require some intestinal fortitude. Gameplay is first person discovery, where the player walks around opening cabinets and finding items, reading bits of paper, and solving the occasional simple puzzle. It’s not a long game, it can be played in a few short sessions or one long one, but I would suggest breaking it up some, so you can feel the effects of the story over time as you think about, or your subconscious thinks about it. The story, and how it unfolds, is the real strength of Layers of Fear.
The main character, whose point of view the game revolves around, is an artist, a very troubled artist. The game takes place entirely in his home, or perhaps in his mind, it’s hard to say.
From clues around the house, it’s fairly clear the artist is not a nice guy. There are things he does that are truly horrible and other things that are just dick moves, for example, at one point you find out that his wife wanted a cat so he bought her a dog, stuff like that. But then there are other things, much worse things, and they creep up on you.
This is not a game where the player should skip anything. Pick up everything; open everything; read everything. All of it is important and all of it adds to the tension and the awful realization at the end of what this guy has done, what’s happened, and his sad and terrifying method of dealing with it.
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The soundtrack, as with most horror games, is critical to maintaining tension and the music and sound effects for Layers of Fear rise to the challenge. I played on the PlayStation 4 and the additional sound effects that come through the controller rather than through the speakers on my television definitely upped the creep factor. Mostly the horror in this game is of the creeping dread variety, but there are occasional jump moments when the game really gets you.
While I really enjoyed playing Layers of Fear, I did have some minor issues with it. There were some screen glitches on the PS4, no actual freezing, but just glitches and it did seem a little short for a game that’s priced at $19.99. Because it’s essentially story driven, I don’t see a lot of replay value. It’s not like there are alternate endings or levels of difficulty to make replay interesting. Something I did appreciate was the ability to turn off the head bob effect. I find that kind of effect nauseating. I know it doesn’t bother everyone, but it does bother a lot of people, so I was happy to be able to turn it off.
If you’re a horror fan, an art fan, or both, you should definitely check out Layers of Fear as it’s one of the best examples of both to come out in years. However, if you like happy endings, you should probably stay far away from it as nothing like that is going to get painted onto this canvass.
Layers of Fear earns 4.5 out of 5 GiN Gems for providing a creepy good time.