★★★★★ 4.5 Stars
Genre: Psychological Horror
Platform: PC, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Publisher: Aspyr / Bloober Team
Summary – Layers of Fear focuses on a painter who is determined to finish his Magnum Opus, no matter what. The painter walks throughout his enormous, deserted house collecting strange “ingredients” to add to his masterpiece, all the while tormented by the horrors within his own paintings.
Behold, the devil’s art project! If you’ve always wanted to see the worst of a creative mind’s obsessive nature, this is the best way to do it without actually going insane.
I love classical art – impressionism, gothic art, surreal art – whatever its nature, I love beautiful art, and I’m sorry if I accidentally jump-scared anyone with the title image! She’s beautiful too, in her… um, decomposing, meaty, salmonella sort of way. This is a project focused on the dark, cruel side of classical art.
Developed by an indie team from Poland, every inch of Layers of Fear is hellish yet impossible to look away from simultaneously. It’s too appealing to the eye, and the dark secrets that you can find (or cause yourself) are too appealing to the mind. There’s so much to explore, and it seems like every corner hides some fresh derangement flourishing in the dark, or in bright, Argento-esque bursts of light, paint and blood. The hauntings and delusions are so realistic, too, that it could be a movie.
Layers of Fear is a potent, actually scary experience that makes use of psychedelic horror effects and the unexpected to infiltrate your waking nightmares. It’s not like other horror “games”, in that there are no real enemies or game mechanics, it’s just you and your eyes trapped in the head of a mad painter who’s possibly a murderer, or even a serial killer. One of the most creative parts I found, was watching the “Magnum Opus” unfold as he collects the parts to make it (which are body parts, by the by). Depending on the route you take morally during the course of exploring the mansion, the Magnum Opus could appear grotesque, as it does above, or beautiful. It can even appear neither, but ordinary and with a scathing expression on the woman’s face.
While it has a more vibrant, grotesque character than a lot of horror games I’ve seen before, it gets the psychological horror the medium is known for down to a T. Silent Hill 2 is known for its somber depiction of depression, and I think this one is comparable to like, the schizophrenia and ADHD spectrum.
I found some of the weirder imagery to be familiar, as intrusive thoughts (common with ADHD, anxiety and OCD, among other conditions) tend to have that horrible sort of flavour to them. I wouldn’t call it a relatable game, per se, like Silent Hill – unless of course, you prefer to paint with human blood! – but the comparison to mental illness is interesting to consider.
Would It Make a Good Novel?
Yes. Layers of Fear seems to take heavy inspiration from classics, not solely paintings, but novels as well, notably The Picture of Dorian Gray, where a man’s self-portrait becomes grotesque and horrifying as he becomes a more horrible person.
Story and Characters – 4.5
Art and Design – 5
Gameplay and Entertainment Factor – 4.5
Fear Factor – 5
Music and Sound – 4
General Score – 4.5 out of 5
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