Genre:   Horror adventure               

Developer:  Bloober Team     

Publisher:    Aspyr Media              

Released:   February 2016             

Requirements (minimum):

    • OS: Windows 7

    • Processor: Intel Core2 Quad Q8400

    • Memory: 4 GB RAM

    • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 1GB / Radeon R7 250X 1GB

    • DirectX: Version 11

    • Storage: 5 GB available space

    • Additional Notes: Supported Gamepads: Microsoft Xbox 360 Games for Windows (Wired), Microsoft Xbox One Controller (Wired), Sony PS4 DualShock 4 controller (wired), Steam Controller




By flotsam


Layers of Fear

Aspyr Media

Note - there is a warning for photosensitive epilepsy when you start the game.

It was a dark and stormy night, or so said the purple prose, and the halls of a Victorian mansion are wandered by a one-time painter of renown, trying to finish his magnum opus. Clearly all is not well, in the house or with him. The absence of his wife and child is everywhere.

Begin by getting into the artistís room, and uncovering the canvas Ė there was a reason it was covered apparently. Then leave, and begin your meanderings.

Meander you will, but never has it been so visually interesting and such a compelling task in itself. It all takes place inside the mansion, but it is never dull.

Described one way it would be exactly that Ė walk around opening drawers and doors and cupboards until you find the item you need in order to return to the canvas and progress the painting. Do that six times and its game over. But that would be painting an completely inappropriate picture.

That is what you do, but the house itself twists and changes and plays tricks. Whole environments can be dilapidated one moment, then an action or a movement brings them to wholesome life. Doors open then close behind you. The way forward is never difficult, but going back is rare. Choose one door and not another and the way may be different.

It goes on. Enter a room and the doorway ahead of you opens onto a brick wall. Turn around and the entry door is gone.  Look around and two more doors appear, both leading to brick walls. Look up, or stand still, or open all the doors at once, or shut them all, and something might, and will inevitably, happen. Leave the room and continue on.

Rooms can be tiny or huge, there are corridors of light and labyrinths of dark. Walls disintegrate, items bleed into oily puddles, bookshelves explode, bits and pieces fall from the ceilings. Things go boo or bang, and you will jump, and some of the visual effects and scenarios are more than a little freaky (the jittery shuddery dolls for one).

It isnít hard, and you likely wonít get stuck, but there are some excellent self-contained environmental conundrums. It would be giving too much away to give examples. The puzzles at the end of the last two "chapters" are the most complex (by comparison) and the phone ringing puzzle in chapter five was probably my favourite. It was simple and frustrating all at the same time. 

There are some more out and out puzzles, such as codes to find and enter, but not all of these are required to complete the game. I found a Ouija board in one place which obviously required a sequence of some sort, but entered another room which locked behind me and that was that. No way back, so just push on. Some chests remained locked, a safe didnít get opened, but I got to the end.

Lots of things arenít locked, and rummaging through cupboards and drawers can reveal nothing or something. Some of those things are notes, or newspaper clippings, or scraps, which flesh out some of what has gone before. Other things are items which might trigger a memory, generally as a voice over. Others are items you take with you, very few of them though, and you donít access them as with a normal inventory.  Just having them will mean you can proceed.

And then there are photos, or drawings, or other bits and pieces, which end up on the wall of the artistís studio or in the little album on the desk. I had gaps in my album, probably more than I did items, so there are clearly things I didnít find.

It is a dark game in many ways. Visually at times, and in what has occurred. Madness is present, there are apparitions, violent events, and macabre images. The story was interesting, unsettling occasionally, but not nearly so much as the house itself.

I was attacked at times, and fell through the floor at others, and wasnít sure whether I died or not. However you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get on with it.

In my view this is a stunningly beautiful game. Art abounds, both mainstream and not mainstream. Look at it, appreciate it, be attracted to it and repulsed by it. Colours abound in some places, in others its grey rot. Some scenes are pretty, others dirty and grimy. The environment is as varied as art itself, and it is never boring.

Sound effects are what you would want in a creepy vista. Light and dark and shadow the same. The music will help the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

Layers of Fear plays in the first person, and saves when you exit. Just choose continue from the menu to pick up and keep going. It uses the keyboard although you can probably map everything you need to do to the mouse. Its free movement, 360 degree panning, with a perceptible ďgaitĒ as you move around. Interacting with the world is the same as in Amnesia and Soma Ė if you need to open a door, grasp with the little hand icon and pull the door open with the mouse. Turning a crank can sometimes be a little fiddly, but I confess I am warming to this type of interaction.

A little googling suggests I can go back and look for the things I didnít find. I canít confirm, but having finished, the menu now lets me access each chapter. There are steam achievements I havenít got as well, and while I generally donít care about those, some were worth the effort (the ocd award for cupboards opening being one).

It will take about five hours or so. It wouldnít let me stop, and I confess I loved it. Canít wait to do it again.

I played on:

OS: Windows 7

Processor: Intel i7-3820 4GHz

RAM: 12GB Ripjaw DDR3 2133 Mhz

Video card: AMD Radeon HD 7800 2048MB


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