Each week we explore the wide and wondrous world of Early Access, attempting to unearth a hidden gem amidst the whirlpool of mediocrity, this time around its Layers Of Fear, a Psychedelic Horror game developed by Bloober Team SA. The game centres around one painter’s insane quest to finish his masterpiece.
Layers Of Fear immediately set about unnerving me, although the opening moments of explorative investigation pass without any notable incidents, I simply can’t escape the disturbed, eerie feeling that resides from within every inch of this nineteenth century themed house. As soon as I enter through the front door I feel an overwhelming sense of darkness. Subtle yet effective noises could often be heard as I trod carefully explored throughout the building, almost every step taken bringing with it a creak.
Layers Of Fear: PC [Early Access]
Developer: Bloober Team SA
Publisher: Bloober Team SA
Release Date: 27 August 2015
Price: £6.99 [Disclosure: Game copy supplied by Developer/Publisher]
The walls of the house are proudly filled with classical art from a more simpler time, Rembrandt’s 1635 iconic painting ‘The Abduction Of Ganymede’ and Francisco Goya’s ‘Portrait Of Tip Parquet’ to name but a few, it was overwhelmingly obvious that the painter had a particularly dark taste and it became more abundant as I progressed the building. Throughout the games opening moments, I expected a jump scare or two, sadly these moments passed with very little drama.
Throughout my investigation, I noticed that cupboards and drawers were accessible with the simple pull of a handle, though most of the drawers revealed nothing of worthy interest there were ones that contained items and notes which, when read gave me some insight into the protagonist and through these notes I began to unravel an unkind truth, a deep seeded evil to the painter. Upon a table inside the office lay morbid scribblings of the Red Riding Hood fable, next to them a note berating the painter for attempting to pass the sickening drawings off as being suitable for kids. Clearly, this was a man who had lost all sense of reality, trapped inside his own warped mind.
I eventually found a Key in the upstairs office which led to the unlocking of the somewhat mysterious art room downstairs, once inside I came face to face with your typical artist’s room. Positioned in the centre, sat an easel with cloth draped over it, drippings of colourful paint were splattered here and there while above the door in some form of black ichor read a sign “GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME”, at first I tried to make sense of the message, attempting to decipher if this was left for me to read or actually written by myself.
Although comparisons will more than likely be made with the highly successful yet untimely Silent Hills P.T, Layers Of Fear is surprisingly effective at what it does. The game hoists you up and out of your comfort zone, placing you ever so gently inside the mind of a man clearly suffering from the symptoms of schizophrenia – a form of mental illness whereupon the person can no longer differentiate between the normal and not so.
Layers Of Fear is great at blending elements of both P.T and H.P Lovecraft, it’s extremely dark, lethargic and Gothic in nature while unsettling for the most part. With one opened door the house is quickly turned inside out, this beautifully crafted game that once allowed me to stroll so freely around its rooms and halls is now luring and pushing me in the direction it wants me to go. Exploration had been replaced with a very sinister linear feel, although I appeared to have not left the house entirely, I am most certainly not where I once was.
With the sudden tilt of the camera, the aspect of any given room can drastically change, which can be rather confusing and unsettling. What was once there is no longer and where there once wasn’t a door, there now is – still with me?. It’s almost as if I’ve stepped out of the house and into the mind of David Lynch, I find myself being drawn in by every single noise and to every door, I come across. As I walk the hallways I can hear a woman crying in the dark, moments such as these usually lead to me frantically trying to escape, Layers Of Fear doesn’t want you to, it wants to draw on your fear, pulling and pushing you into uncertainty and further from the safety of sanity.
The game was now seemingly luring and teasing me into rooms that appeared to have no exit, turning around to find the door I had entered through now gone, although each room had to eventually let me leave, it would often terrorise me first, leaving me albeit a touch worse for wear. Random objects such as chairs casually moved by themselves in front of me, while paintings appeared to horribly distort and melt on the canvas right before my eyes, which would often have an effect on the surrounding room, leaving it with a rather murky appearance. In the basement, the furniture began levitating with the mere touch of a pianos keys.
The depressingly dark and eerie feeling I had felt from the beginning of the game had now been magnified significantly, layers of the protagonist’s sanity were beginning to slowly peel away with every room visited, unaided by the sudden psychedelic hallucinations I was now experiencing.
Although the game can feel slightly repetitive, Layers Of Fear does have some fine moments, befitting of a Horror title. Horror games are at their greatest when dealing with the unknown, the sheer fear of not knowing what awaits around each corner will keep players on their toes throughout the duration of the insane experience. When not being scared witless by the strange occurrences within the walls of the house there are some puzzles to keep players distracted, though they do not pose too much trouble they add a different aspect.
Bloober Team SA might have stumbled loosely onto somewhat covered ground, they also execute it exceedingly well. The game’s path may ultimately be a linear one, but there is no denying the morbid quality Layers Of Fear possesses. The layout and quality of design for the houses décor help to set the game up with a beautifully dark and Gothic atmosphere, which when combined with a delightfully eerie soundtrack oozes class.
Moments of terror within the game can sadly be missed all too easily while investigating let’s say, a chest of drawers, but there are more than enough frightening moments to ensure the hairs on the back of the neck stand to attention constantly, with the heart beating irregularly. Although the game still needs some polishing, from my hour and a half wandering the demented house I witnessed enough promise to show Layers Of Fear to be more than worth the current admission fee, although I would wait until the game is further developed and has an ending.