When it comes to horror games, I have no problem dealing with hordes of zombies or twisted creatures ripped straight from someone’s nightmares. It’s the unseen terrors, those things that go bump in the night and lurk in the dark corners of the mind, that make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.
And that’s exactly the kind of horror you’ll find in “Layers of Fear,” the recent release from independent development studio Bloober Team.
In “Layers of Fear,” you play as a painter struggling maintain his sanity while attempting to complete his defining masterpiece. As someone who knows all too well how difficult it can be to create, this premise hits close to home. Thankfully I’ve never descended into madness while trying to finish a story (at least not yet).
“Layers of Fear” succeeds by toying with your perception of reality, twisting the environment in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that lead to some truly unsettling moments. And any brief moment of respite was often interrupted by a well-placed jump scare, a constant reminder that this is, indeed, a horror video game. Throughout the experience the tension was palpable and I spent the majority of my seven-hour play through on the edge of my seat and with sweaty palms.
Equally unsettling is the story at the heart of the game, which you slowly uncover by finding and reading notes and clues scattered about the creepy gothic mansion. As such, searching for the truth means subjecting yourself to even more heart-pounding and mind-bending moments, which is downright diabolical.
If there’s one criticism I have it’s that the game does begin to overstay its welcome toward the end, which led to some moments of repetition. It’s a small complaint, but one that’s worth mentioning. The game would have been just as satisfying at 4-5 hours instead of the 6-8 hours presented here. The framerate can also be problematic, but again that doesn’t take away from the overall experience.
“Layers of Fear” is a welcome addition to the horror genre and a breath of fresh air for those who have had their fill of zombies and monsters.
“Layers of Fear”
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Available for: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 ($20)
Rating: M for mature