The best kind of horror game is the one that knows how to dig into you and never let go. The original Layers of Fear knew how to do this, with a story that knew how to leave you unnerved without going too far over the top.
Now, I’ll bet that the developers at Bloober Team had a mountain-size task ahead of them trying to live up to that with Layers of Fear 2, so I can’t blame them for trying something new, with following a completely new character this time around. That said, it’s apparent that they lost something along the way, though I still admire some of the ambition behind the game. That said, some folks may not feel the Layers just aren’t that deep this time around…
The character this time around is an actor. They appear to have a lot of trauma from the past that comes up quite often as they attempt to shoot a movie about an ocean liner. And, as you might expect, things aren’t always what they seem. The movie director, voiced ominously by legendary Candyman actor Tony Todd, is just about right in the role, but he may not be letting on what’s happening here. He gives a few commands here and there, but it’s not soon enough that the mannequins start showing up. And then there’s a weird shadow monster…
To give away anything else about the story would ruin the surprises that the game has in store. Layers of Fear 2 does have a decent amount of jump scares, and some of them do work quite effectively. But the story does meander, surprisingly enough, in a few spots, and actually loses some pacing. It does manage to pick back up a little bit later, but not always in the best way. This is due to a chase sequence or two that can be pretty unnerving, as you may have to keep repeating them until you get them just right. That’s because you end up dying until you complete them successfully. I just wish there was a way you could get through them the right way instead of, well, suffering…? I know this is a horror game, but you shouldn’t be thisunnerved, guys.
Other than that, Team Bloober does nail the atmosphere pretty nicely. The ocean liner looks fantastic over the course of the game, and some of the touches, like the blood effect and the creepy-as-hell mannequins, are excellent. And I like some of the golden age touches, as they look like they’re taken straight out of the golden age of cinema. Georges Melies would be proud if he played a game like this. (Or if he played games in general back in “the day,” we’re guessing.) There are times that it can take a bit to find some of the clues, and there are some things that jump out at you too much in some places.
As for the sound, as I mentioned, Todd’s acting is great, and the atmospheric touches are pretty cool. The little effects can also make a difference when it comes to some of the places on the liner as well. But sometimes it can take a bit getting to a few of the cooler areas, depending on the pacing of the game. I’m not sure if this was something new that the developer wanted to try or not, but it may not work with everyone.
What you get out of Layers of Fear 2 really depends on how much you’re willing to accept from the developer’s level of experimentation. The first game got a lot done, and the second game does have some stuff working for it. But it also lapses in a few places – several, in fact. Some more tightening – and forgiveness with the chase sequences – could’ve gone a long way here– And a little more cohesion with the story as well. That’s not to say it’s bad, as it does have its good moments with scares and design. It just feels like a step backward instead of a genuine layer in fear, as the title truly implies. 2.5/5 Layers In Fear.