I’ve been playing video games for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always gravitated towards horror games. It probably started with being terrified of that drowning music from Sonic to be honest, but I just love being scared. Over the years there’s been a ton of really great horror games (thanks for Resident Evil, Shinji Mikami!) and some not great ones (uhhh thanks for trying with Evil Within, Shinji Mikami!) and some really terrible ones (thanks for nothing, weird third party Dev teams that made the last two god awful Silent Hill games!!!)
A lot of Indie companies have recently thrown their hats in the horror ring and for the most part, its been a mess. There are hundreds of games available that feature an unnamed protagonist wandering around poorly rendered forests full of pre made assets going on a tedious quest to collect notes before getting one hit killed by whatever Slenderman clone was popular that month. So Layers of Fear is a breath of fresh air.
I’ve heard about this game for awhile and was really excited when I found out it was getting a PS4 port. So I downloaded it, got a 6 pack and started in. I assumed I could probably knock it out in one evening since a lot of indie games are quite a bit shorter than the AAA releases. I was totally wrong. I could only play it for 30 minute spurts because my hands started sweating too much. I don’t know if it was because it was super later at night or what, but I was terrified.
Layers of Fear takes heavy influence from the critically lauded P.T. released from my main man, Hideo Kojima (R.I.P. Silent Hills) and for a game with really no enemies and no fail states, it managed to scare me more than a lot of horror games in recent history.
You take control of a once acclaimed painter in Layers of Fear, and you’ve returned to your home to finally finish your masterpiece. The game lets you wander the empty house and in classic horror game style, most of the plot is derived from found objects, letters, and photos and each level concludes with another layer of paint being added to your masterpiece. The scares come in a mix of audio and visual cues, one of the scariest elements of the game is the ever changing lay out of the house. Doors appear and disappear, hallways shrink and grow seemingly at random, rooms themselves change constantly, all of which make you really feel crazy and helpless to whats occurring.
The game is essentially a walking simulator and leaves how much of the story you discover up to the player, depending on how many items, notes, photos and drawings you pick up throughout the game. For someone like me who is unhealthy obsessed with getting all the collectibles in a game this was a dream come true, but a lot of the times my love of exploring wasn’t as strong as my fear to get the eff out of the area as soon as possible.
My only complaint with the game would be how finicky the prompts could be at times, and some of the puzzles were a bit obscure in classic horror game tradition. But for the price point of 20 dollars I fully recommend this game, but maybe play it with the lights on.