I like a good scare. I like a figure in the corner of your eye, a whisper by your shoulder, a groan in the dark , and a monster in the shadows. Horror games have always appealed to me, from the first Resident Evil and Silent Hill games to modern day psychological thrillers like The Park and Among the Sleep. Some horror games are more funny then scary, but when they get it right, it’s a brilliant thing to behold.
Layers of Fear has been out now for about a year on Xbox One and I played it about a month ago for the first time. I found the whole experience terrific and terrifying with some great level design, brilliant scares and inventive gameplay. The game is a first person exploration horror, whereby you walk around the level looking and examining objects, solving puzzles, opening doors and trying to work out the mysteries of the narrative. Throughout the original game, you are a tortured artist who is in his old house trying to figure out his past. The house quickly decays around you, as does your mind, as you piece together clues of what you did there and the reprisals on your sanity. The main USP of the game is how it reacts within the realms of paintings, imagination and the blurring of both worlds. In the base game, there’s a scene in a kitchen with a famous painting of fruit and food. As you go into the room the fruit begins to decay and then it falls out of the picture into the world you are inhabiting. It’s freaky stuff, but intelligent freaky stuff that’s well thought out and implemented.
But we’re not here to talk about that game, we’re here to talk about the DLC add-on, Inheritance. Set after the events of the first game we journey back to the same house, but this time with the daughter of the main protagonist from the original game. She is bitter, resentful of her parents and her horrific time in the house. She is looking for answers and a kind of atonement. The gameplay follows the same rules as its main product. Exploration is the name of the game and you walk around a section of the same house, which has decayed more as time has passed, as you try to discover clues to your past. The first bit of the DLC is very familiar in both setting and gameplay, and then you’re whipped back to being a child. Here the camera angle changes and you appear as a four or five year old with a different perspective and height on the house. It reminds me straight away of Among the Sleep with its movement and themes attached to dysfunctional parenting and childhood terror.
There are some nice touches by this very bright developer in playing with fear and shadows. There’s a section with a toy train, and a long corridor that I won’t spoil here, but it made me jump so much, I spilt a glass of beer onto my laptop. There’s some basic puzzle solving to been done, that isn’t too taxing on the mind. The actual exploration element, if you’re a completest is good fun. You can breeze through the content, if you’re going from start to finish, in about an hour. That would be a shame though as there are rooms, clues and plot devices to find that help build the overall narrative and discover more about the horrific past of the family.
The graphical detail in the main game and the DLC is really special. The fonts and style of the documents you find are really well researched and crafted. The rooms and objects inside are greatly realised so when they distort or become very creepy in the horror world, the contrast works well. The actual artworks are a mixture of real life pieces and those created for the game. Sometimes certain creatures like the pet dog don’t look so hot and spoil the effect a bit, but overall the standard is high.
Now horror and sound are bound together like… apples and pears, Batman and Robin…you get the idea. Without immersive sound there is no horror. The score, effects and noises that make you jump are as brilliant as they are in the main game. Every bump, breath and creak is expertly produced and placed into the game to put the shivers down your spine. The voiceover from the main character is a bit annoying this time around and feels a bit rushed in places, but it’s not enough to ruin the experience.
So is it worth going back into the art house of horrors once more? Overall I would say a big yes. The developers for Layers of Fear are very clever and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do next, but they know this world very well and deliver some great scares once more. It is a short experience, but for the price it does give a different insight into the original game with a different perspective.
I would recommend delving back in if you’re a fan of the main game and if you’re new to the experience, add another star to the review and grab the masterpiece edition. You’ll never sleep again.