Layers of Fear Review (PC)

Take a deep breath. Layers of Fear (LoF) is a psychological and psychedelic adventure horror game. LoF puts you in control of a painter that has appeared to take a great fall from grace. A series of life tragedies has sent you spiralling into a world of madness. You've lost your wife and child and all you have left is your last great piece of work. Play the game to learn the true meaning of why you are how you are and what you've done to get there.

You are plonked head first into a 20th Century Victorian mansion that somewhat resembles the dark, sadistic and failed world of Silent Hills (or the PT demo). LoF is a Single Player game made using Unity 5, utilizing to the fullest the engine’s potential. A first person perspective makes the game more immersive and the dark and thick atmosphere will keep you on-edge for the reminder of the game.
LoF was first released as an early access game back in August of 2015 and has just recently made its way into a full release. It's refreshing to see at least some early access games make it this far. You can play LoF on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. This review is based on the PC version of the game.

The game play style is one that will just continually try its best to scare the pants off you so if you're susceptible to pooping your pants at scary games, you better wear your brown pants. Although LoF is pitched as a horror game, it's attempts at being scary are a little bit counter intuitive by the way the game almost trains you into expecting what is coming next. In the game's opening 90 minutes you start to get a feel for how the game will play out. LoF uses "jump scares" to get reactions from its players but it ends up using these scares over and over again which in turn starts to lose its effect.

I wouldn't say that I am hard as nails by anyone's measure, but I didn't really find any of the game particularly scary. This might sound like I wasn't happy with this aspect of the game but I felt quite the contrary. I loved LoF from start to finish. It's a short game which only took me about five hours to complete. Although the scare factor scores about a 3/10 in my eyes, the freaky, creepy and weird factors were off the charts. The beautifully designed mansion is filled with amazing paintings and depictions of some of the most freaked out scenes that I have seen in a video game for the last 15 years. The level design for the mansion rooms, corridors and doorways is absolutely second to none. There are fantastic scenes within this game that will have you second guessing what you just saw. The scenes within the game continually change and evolve as you progress and a lot of the time things will change without you even realising for a moment or two. This seamless design is absolutely impressive to say the least and left me unable to stop playing even when I really needed to.

Games of this calibre are generally easy to get lost in which can cause lulls in gameplay progression when you simply cannot find your way. LoF is designed in a way that even though you aren't sure what way you're going you will eventually be sent in the right direction which gives the feeling that you've nailed your decisions. Somehow I can't really claim that I am the master of puzzles and discovery, more so the game has been built in a way that it made me feel like I was just good at it. This helps the game to continue and flow from start to finish without really every being stuck not knowing what to do. This being said, there isn't too much of a challenge to play LoF, with exception of maybe two puzzles that will make you stop, gather your thoughts and slowly nut out the solution. 

There isn't a lot of variety to experience in the whole game but this never became a massive issue due to the game's relatively short length. Should this game have been twice the length then I would have likely grown tired of the repeated antics and experiences. However when the credits rolled I was left feeling like the game delivered just enough for the time that it delivered it for.

If you like horror games and loathe puzzle games then this is where you should spend your next spare five hours. It's worth the play through definitely and if you care to explore more than I usually do there are a lot of notes and letters scattered around the place which add further to the story and make it easier to fathom what is actually going on. 

If I had to rag on something in this game, I would have to complain about the darkness. Yes, I know it's a horror game and it's meant to be dark so it can scare the pants off you. The thing is, I think it was just a little too dark for its own good. Often it would be hard to find doors to progress just because I just couldn't see. I adjusted the brightness to the level that the game suggested and then even raised it a little but this didn't really make much of a change. It's a small gripe but this still didn't break the game for me.

LoF didn't succeed in scaring the pants of me, or making my white pants brown, but it did keep me intrigued and showed me some wonderfully messed up images that I won't forget in a hurry. The story isn't deep and there's unlikely going to be something that you've never seen done before in the movies but the interaction along the way makes it worth the while.

Thanks everyone for checking out my review on Layers of Fear and I hope this assists you in working out whether or not you should shell out your hard earned for this well designed pants filler.

If you want to hear more about my opinion on this game, subscribe to the Aussie Gamers Express Video Game Podcast and check out episode 115 where I will be discussing it further (not available until the 28th Feb 2016). Links below:

Lucas Aurelius (LewkOne) 

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