Video Game Back Alley: Not Many Layers to “Layers of Fear”

An extreme way to experience cabin fever.

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This summer, I participated in an event that can only be defined as “Boys Night.” Three friends (Calvin, Petey, and Owen) and I stayed up until four in the morning messing around on my Xbox, eating extremely spicy food, and overall having fun in my garage. We has spent the first portion of the night eating and playing games, but as we approached midnight, the group decided to buy and play a horror game that could keep us up later. As we scoured the game store, all four of us crammed in one futon bed, the title “Layers of Fear” caught my eye. This was an indie game I had only played once, several years ago, and not for very long. We turned off the lights, got our pillows, and settled in for the long haul. 

The game begins with a limping man entering a large ornate home, which looks a tad run down and decrepit. A note on the nearby table tells the player that the keys to the art studio are on your desk, and welcomes the player back from an unknown court hearing. The mysterious artist you play goes into his office, reads a letter rejecting his art application for a children’s book, and enters his art studio to work on a piece of art he believes is his “magnum opus.” As soon as you paint the first layer onto the canvas, the title of the game begins to make sense. You turn to leave the room only to discover that the hall has completely changed, and the room you left is now locked behind you. As you continue through the now reshuffled house, you also trudge through the backstory of the protagonist and what this painting you’re gathering components for represents. 

The painting Babyface, which tormented our gameplay experience (via gameskinny.com)

The pacing is very well executed, and the scares are good at subverting your expectations. The ambience in this constantly shifting house is broken only when it needs to be, often the moments of terror come from a room or item that is making an unsettling noise, or a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it figure walking somewhere in front of you. The background music is usually a calm, somber piano that is efficient at creating a tense atmosphere. Multiple times during the night one of the four boys had to hand the controller over to someone else because they didn’t want to walk into a scare that was approaching.  

I think that this game is well done, but the fact that the boys and I completed it in around four hours is a little underwhelming. Although we were exhausted by the time that we defeated this game, if it hadn’t been so early in the morning we would have definitely seemed lacking in content. I don’t think it is worth the price of $20, and this is excluding the additional paid content that the studio has released afterwards. I would argue it is worth closer to $15 dollars instead. Overall, I think that this is a great game, if only a little more expensive than I preferred. For anyone who wants to get scared as a group, I highly recommend this title. 

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