Layers of Fear ReviewPrice:
Bloober Team SA
The developers of Layers of Fear claim it to have been inspired by the works of great artists like Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare, and Francisco Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son. While art is undoubtedly a central theme of the game, I also suspect that, if prodded, the developers would add the work of individuals like PewDiePie to that list of inspirations. Layers of Fear is prime Youtuber fodder, the equivalent of catnip for gibbering, squealing Internet tweens.
This doesn't make it a bad game. In fact, from a design perspective Layers of Fear is an impressive creation. Relying largely on a single mechanic, it messes with your perspective like a hall of mirrors, and there are some extraordinarily effective jump-scares in there. But it's also a shallow horror experience, much more Paranormal activity than The Shining. It might play your nervous system like a harp, but it never really gets into your head.
Here's the pitch. You play a painter, once a very successful painter if the hastily scribbled notes and newspaper clippings you encounter on your travels are anything to go by. But for various reasons you've fallen on hard times, and the struggle to create capital-A Art versus the need to make money has impacted on you psychologically. Layers of Fear begins with your character returning to their surprisingly luxurious home, to finally finish the masterwork that has been haunting their thoughts.
From here, spooky goings-on ensue, although not immediately. Layers of Fear first encourages you to explore the lavishly rendered house at your leisure, rummaging through drawers and reading liberally scattered letters while elegiac piano music tinkles in the background. This provides a little back-story in terms of who lives there and the nature of their relationships, but more importantly it lets you familiarise yourself with the house's layout. This forms an important frame of reference for what you encounter later on. Certain rooms have a special significance to your character, and Layers of Fear pins some of the horror on the anxieties these rooms represent.
Events only start to propel forward once you step into your studio, and reveal the unfinished painting that has proved such a blockage in your creative flow. Then the game reveals its hand. "Was that writing painted above the door before?" it whispers in your ear. "Perhaps you should check it out, maybe peek your head outside. Oh look, the corridor is different!" It gasps with faux sincerity. "I think this warrants further exploration."