The more things change the more they stay the same. That much is true of Layers of Fear 2, the first person horror adventure developed by Bloober Team and published by Gun Media.
If Gun Media sounds familiar, they are the folks behind 2017’s Friday the 13th: The Game which turned out to be a launch nightmare but one of the best horror games ever produced.
As expected Friday the 13th: The Game had virtually no story. Like the movies it didn’t need any. That is not what Friday fans need or want from the game or the film franchise.
As psychological, exploratory thriller, Layers of Fear 2 is the utter opposite. The story is the central hub upon which everything revolves. The story is the hook. The tale and structure of Layers of Fear 2 though is far too reminiscent of the original.
In first game, you are a painter with psychological issues exploring a house which transforms into a nightmarish landscape. In Layers of Fear 2, you are a disturbed actor wandering around a ship that transforms into a nightmarish landscape.
See what I mean?
Both titles require you to travel through what at first glance seems to be an everyday, unexceptional setting that changes though as the paranoia and mental collapse of your character takes over. If you have played them before, memories of Alone in the Dark and Silent Hill will come flooding back as Layers of Fear 2’s environment begins to morph around you. As if you are stuck in some stage play, crates will slide out of your way, entire rooms will shift and change. The effect is very cool but no matter what, you are still in a controlled, cramped, restricted environment made up of hallway after hallway, small room after small room. In that way, Layers of Fear 2 is more tiresome than claustrophobic.
As you roam around you will encounter more puzzles than howling spectres and none of them are particularly demanding at all. Find a film reel, play it in the projector. Remember a combination to open a vault. Use a key to unlock a door. Shoot a mannequin with a revolver. These are tasks even a headless zombie could complete without breaking a sweat. Layers of Fear 2 walks the fine line between being a cinematic experience and a video game. If you are looking for a mental or perhaps a technical workout, Layers of Fear 2 will disappoint.
Since the puzzles are as challenging as reciting the alphabet, it all comes down to the exploration and the story to keep you playing as opening doors, meandering down hallways, exploring small rooms becomes a sluggish process as the ship itself is so linear. Revealed in brief fragments the story is erratic and confusing which is probably a purposeful thing by the developers to keep you playing in order to figure it all out. Having played everything from The 7th Guest to Alone in the Dark to Uninvited, I found Layers of Fear 2’s narrative to be derivative and predictable. A past tragedy still haunting the living is nothing particularly inventive especially the way it is presented and concluded.
There are some chase portions that liven up Layers of Fear 2 up, you have to backtrack carefully as a sinister spirit or creature shambles after you. They aren’t enough though to keep casual horror fans from blundering around despite the game having some really creepy audio that is enhanced with headphones and a dark gaming room.
Nailing the lid shut on Layers of Fear 2 for casual fans is the fact that the pay-off is not worth the journey. There are some creepy set-pieces, however, the happenings and eventual conclusion are expected and anticipated well in advance. Die-hard horror fans like myself will naturally have more patience with Layers of Fear 2 than casual fans of the genre and after all that is who the game appears to be made for. Anyone else will feel like they bought a ticket to a cheesy carnival haunted house ride complete with rail cars, plastic spiders, cotton ball webs, pop-up scares and all.
- THE GOOD
- Creepy atmosphere.
- Eerie audio.
- Some good jump scares.
- THE BAD
- Wafer-thin, predictable story.
- Cramped environment, gameplay.
- A disappointing finale.
Another in a long line of exploratory horror games, Layers of 2 doesn’t bring anything new to the party.