Layers of Fear
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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