Bloober Team’s disturbing take on one artist’s descent into utter madness with Layers of Fear proved to be somewhat of a success when it first launched into Early Access and Game Preview for PC and Xbox One respectively back in 2015. While Layers of Fear offered no more than a couple hours worth of gameplay, it provided enough thrills, jumps and gut-wrenchingly shocking moments to worry most. Moments of sheer terror that could so easily leave those that dared to enter through its front door psychologically scarred for life. With the release of its first and possibly only piece of downloadable content – Inheritance, its creators once again seek to drag players kicking and screaming back to the painter’s quaint, gothic mansion, only this time, there is a twist.
Layers Of Fear: Inheritance: PlayStation 4 [Reviewed], Xbox One, PC
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Aspyr Media
Release Date: 2 August 2016
Price: £3.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Inheritance puts players in the shoes of the unnamed painter’s daughter, who, as the name indicates, has inherited her unstable father’s beautifully decorated gothic home, a home the woman had grown up in as a small child. Despite its short playtime, Layers of Fear achieved so much. Its constant labyrinth of forever changing hallways, black ichor filled rooms and alarming tendency to frighten players out of their minds at every conceivable moment made the game an indie success with many players wanting more. Although Inheritance takes place inside the same house, the experience is a somewhat more sombre one.
Stepping through the front door for a second helping, you could easily be mistaken in getting that “been there, done that” feeling, I can assure you, that this is far from the case with Inheritance. While the setting remains the same, gone are its twisted, manipulative hallways, like something derived from Vincenzo Natali’s 2007 sci-fi, horror masterpiece Cube. Instead of wandering into a variety of rooms, only to depart moments later into a brand new hallway with a different set of problems, Inheritance takes players on an altogether different journey, a trip into the mindset of a small child, told through her eyes, but not without its scares or horrors.
For all the positive things Layers of Fear offered I often felt slightly detached from its criminally insane protagonist, something Inheritance rightly corrects. As with TV shows, movies and the like, I need to feel something for the character in order to completely immerse myself in the story being told. With Inheritance, I felt closer to the painter’s daughter than I ever was with the perfectionist himself. Essentially, Inheritance still contains many of Layers traits. It is still a walking simulator at heart but instead focuses on childhood memories, triggered by the woman as she walks each room and interacts with various household items.
It’s through these interactions that Inheritance‘s story is ultimately told, as the daughter recalls various moments from her childhood, albeit with Bloober Teams somewhat twisted interpretational spin placed upon each one. Each flashback or memory is played out through a child’s eyes, as players control the character throughout various locations within the house. Seemingly unable to walk, players are restricted to crawling throughout each sequence, ala Among The Sleep. Layers of Fear allowed us to feel very little for the painter as he drifted between the bizarre and macabre. And while Inheritance doesn’t necessarily depict the man in the brightest of lights, it does, however, allow players to feel a trickle of empathy for his plight. Demanding, demeaning and often mean, despite his obvious flaws the protagonist cares deeply for his daughter and it echoes throughout her memories.
Devoid of the jump-scares that helped make Layers such a success, Inheritance isn’t without its eerie or frightening moments, with a rather morbid retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and death still imminent if players happen to wander into a darkened area or slip and fall from a height, there is enough here to keep players on the edge of their seat. A young child’s life is often one of vulnerability, that feeling is portrayed incredibly well throughout the brief period of time spent with the story, as players venture carefully throughout the dark lit rooms and hallways of an 18th-century house to locate an escape route. Much like Layers, puzzles exist within Inheritance but are all too few and far between to even make the slightest difference to the story and are even less likely to restrict player progression.
Bloober Team has built on the strong success of Layers of Fear with Inheritance. The short story expansion is an intriguing blend of fear, curiosity and innocence; allowing players to view the painter from the perspective of his small daughter and journey through her memories of the protagonist as a father. Even without the jump-scares, never-ending corridors and rotting fruit, flying light and dripping paintings, Inheritance does enough during its short stint to keep the player’s attention. At such a great price Inheritance is full value for money, a good addition to a great game and too enticing to resist.