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Layers of Fear Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Layers of Fear starts strong, but ultimately wears thin. It's a good looking roller coaster ride through a haunted mansion that offers a few genuine frights. Unfortunately, Bloober Team repeats many of the same scares, robbing this first-person thriller of its impact. But even with these problems, Layers of Fear is a ghoulishly exciting mystery you'll want to see to the end. Rating: 71%
Layers of Fear
Layers of Fear Layers of Fear Layers of Fear Layers of Fear
  • Review Score:

  • B
Of all the games I played in 2015, Layers of Fear left the best first impression. From the moment I loaded up the Early Access version all the way back in September, I immediately knew I was in store for something special. I loved the creepy atmosphere and way the game kept coming up with clever new scares. Intrigued by the premise, I eagerly anticipated the day when the final product would launch and I could experience the full story. As it turns out, some things are better kept to small doses.

Beyond the polished look and the creepy theme, what impressed me the most about Layers of Fear was that it was coming from Bloober Team. This is a company best known for releasing Basement Crawl, arguably the single worst game on PlayStation 4. The game was so bad that the company ended up pulling it from PSN and making a completely new version called Brawl, which they gave away for free to anybody unlucky enough to buy the first game.

Given their track record, I went into Layers of Fear with absolutely no expectations. I figured it would be a huge step up from Basement Crawl, but had no clue it would dredge up many of the same feelings I had about P.T., the playable demo for the ill-fated Silent Hills. Now that the game is complete and available for purchase, I'll confess to being a little disappointed. This is a game that starts better than it ends. It's a fun roller coaster ride full of scares, though not all of them are earned.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: You play a guy stuck in a creepy old mansion filled with paintings. But this isn't any old mansion; it's a haunted house that can seemingly alter its layout at any moment. There's no consistency here, every time you walk through a door the design shifts. This sends us on an adventure where we never know where we'll end up next. And the game does a good job of subverting our expectations.

The layers in question refer to paint, as much of the story revolves around a crazy artist. The house is littered with old paintings and the remnants of an artist's life. Layers of Fear begins with an empty canvas, but as our hero hunts down the six important art supplies, our masterpiece fills in with gruesome detail. This sends us through six separate vignettes, each with a slightly different theme.

Layers of Fear (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

We poke around the different rooms looking for clues to unravel the mystery, as well as solve obtuse puzzles as a means to progressing deeper into the maze. The path itself may be linear, but each level offers a lot of area to explore, including drawers and cabinets to dig through. From angry letters to artwork that hints at better times, those genuinely interested in the lore will have a lot to uncover.

The important part is that Layers of Fear is genuinely frightening, at least for a while. Every room and hallway offers some sort of fright, from ghostly apparitions to the walls melting. There are a lot of great scares, especially early on. But the game begins to run out of ideas the longer it goes. You'll see a lot of the same events happen multiple times, and I found myself predicting what would happen from room to room. What's more, the later stages rely too heavily on jump scares that immediately cut to a new area. This happens a lot towards the end, and it feels cheap each and every time.

Layers of Fear (Steam)Click For the Full Picture Archive

But even as I rolled my eyes at the recycled scares, I was immediately drawn back in by some inventive set pieces and story hooks. Every time I felt like the game was spinning its wheels, it quickly righted the course and offered us something new. The minor missteps were never enough to keep me from having a good time, but it's clear that the experience would be significantly better with a little trimming.

While it doesn't live up to the expectations I had after playing the Early Access version last year, Layers of Fear still delivers a fun and frightening roller coaster ride through a haunted house. The story is genuinely engaging and Bloober Team has done an excellent job of capturing a spooky atmosphere. It's not without problems, but that shouldn't keep you from uncovering the many layers of ghoulish mystery in this brand new horror game.
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