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It seems the trend with horror games lately has been directly inspired by the teaser of the cancelled Silent Hills, P.T., and that’s very visible in Layers Of Fear. From psychological, mind-numbing tricks to puzzles driven by exploration, Layers Of Fear delivered in jump-scares, but was it enough as a whole?
The first thing that stood out to me immediately when I started playing Layers Of Fear was how troubling the audio was at times. To me, one of the most important aspects of a horror game like this will be the audio and how well the audio sets the mood. For example, the audio of the creepy whispering that would come out of the PlayStation 4 controller would cut off suddenly just because I moved to a different side of the room or someone started talking. It was janky-feeling. This also happened sometimes with the dialogue of the characters or sound effects in-game. Also, the volumes of the sound effects were mismatched with some sounding way louder than others. In one level, there is a rat scurrying around the hallway and it was the same exact rat sound effect every single time and it was dreadfully louder than other sound effects. I was pretty disappointed with most of the audio experience, especially since audio is the one thing you don’t want to slack on in a horror game. It’s almost like everything else came before the audio, and it’s too bad that it seemed that way.
Another thing that drove me absolutely nuts was the cursor in the game that you control with your analog stick. It seems like it’d be easy enough to move it around and click things, but a majority of your clicking in-game is clicking and pulling open doors and drawers, so it’s a combination of clicking and moving the analog stick back to pull. The cursor was absolutely terrible. When trying to open drawers, which were usually stacked on top of each other, two to four at a time, the cursor had a very hard time settling on the drawer you wanted it to. So it was this senseless, constant battle with trying to get your cursor to land on the drawer you wanted. Another problem with the cursor was when I walked into the creepy elevator with the sliding gate and I clicked the gate and went to slide it shut, moving my stick in the direction to slide it, and it wouldn’t move. I spent a good 15 minutes fussing with it until I finally figured out you had to press up on the stick to slide it shut, which made absolutely no sense. Another time near the end of the game, I was trying to open a door by pulling it open towards me and it kept bumping me and shutting on me. I dunno if that was a bug or what. You can check out the trailer below to get an idea of the gameplay.
Another quarrell I had with the game was some doors, maybe like five in the whole game, had sliding bolt locks on them. All you had to do was click on them and slide them to unlock them, yet another thing to click and drag. And those locks made no sense being in the game or indicated any reason why they were there other than to add an extra step in opening doors.
One thing I liked about the game was the psychological effects and not knowing what was behind every door. It would take me a few times to figure out exactly what was happening and where I was supposed to go, but I saw that as part of the beauty of the psychological horror game. It was almost too much like P.T. in those regards, like at the beginning of P.T. when you have to go down the same hallway like seven times—Layers Of Fear had almost the same scene. An homage, maybe? Not sure.
I took about five hours to finish playing the game, but about halfway through I kind of found myself feeling...bored? I didn’t feel as afraid as I had felt when I started the game. Many of the in-game events had occurred before and I started to get sick of the repetitive gameplay—always having to open one door after another after another, opening shelves and cabinets and drawers, over and over and over. I was pretty interested in the story, but I never got to find out what exactly happened.
I’m not sure if I didn’t find all of the notes in the game to reveal the story, but I didn’t really understand the narrative. It felt disjointed and like pieces were missing. There were a lot of questions left unanswered, and as someone who pays attention strongly to the narrative in a video game, I wasn’t too satisfied with it.
Layers Of Fear was a fantastic attempt at creating a horror game along the same lines of the psychological mind-boggler, P.T., but it just did not live up to its greatness. I enjoyed many of the jump-scares in the game when I played it in the middle of the dark with the surround sound system on, and found myself feeling jumpy the rest of the night. I just wish the developers would’ve paid closer attention to the audio, made the controls smoother and ironed out the details in the story so it felt like a full experience.
This game is being reviewed on the PS4.
Platforms:PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team