Its been a couple of years since Bloober Team brought us Layers of Fear, and I really got a kick from this title. The eerie portraits of weird baby faced people and two fanged beasts was enough to keep you up at night. Now, here we are with Layers of Fear 2, sequel to the aforementioned psychological horror game, but, does it carry on the feel from the original title? Unfortunately, not as well as I would have hoped.
Layers of Fear 2 is a first-person psychological horror with an emphasis on exploration and story. Players control a Hollywood actor who heeds the call of an enigmatic director to take on the lead role in a film shot aboard an ocean liner. Darkness surrounds as you stand silently in the spotlight, the only sounds to be heard over your heartbeat are the distant breaking of waves against the hull, and the sound of cameras pointed in your direction preserving this moment for eternity.
A deep and commanding voice rises from the distance. Act. What part will you play? Layers of Fear 2, like it says, has layers of story entwined within a single plot-line. The first noticeable story that becomes apparent is the story of two siblings and their adventure acted out as pirates on the high seas. This factor definitely brings most of the emotional side to the game, as they scurry around a ship being chased by some alternate being, leaving notes and traces of evidence that triggers certain voice cues; progressing the story. As you venture forth it becomes apparent that you need to make choices for yourself and piece it all together.
These are presented in the form of moral choices that let you decide the outcome of certain scenarios. These decisions can greatly change the outcome of the game as LOF2 does contain multiple endings. Not much is known on how to obtain each ending but I’m sure it wont be long until people work it out; choices in-game are few then many. The downfall with this story is I didn’t feel massively engaged, and with no great effort, it was easy to complete. I found myself just charging through the layers and just waiting for the next attack or obstacle to tackle. I also found that around the center of the story, some layers were extremely repetitive, but in saying this, the little changes which did occur were creative and fun.
Bloober Team have done a great job with the visual aspects of this sequel. Everything looks a lot smoother, not as gradient looking, and it all plays well. The scenery and stages look amazing with some great effort going into the detail. The creativeness shines with some layers showing blackened rooms that ring out with a voice and light, making you stand to attention. Though, these moments are rare. The use of mannequins provides a nice, freaky touch, they seem to chase you like a bad mime artist for most of the game. But, they sooner become laughable than scary, adding to that unfortunate repetitive scenario that I pointed out earlier. The main ghost-like creature which chases you around the ship also seems to feel a bit monotonous over the course of the game, with random occurrences that seem fairly predictable at times, usually with picking up an item or finishing a certain objective.
The voice acting isn’t to shabby in LOF2 with some well scripted pieces written to play with your mind; the pirate story of kids, the struggling actor’s demise, and stories deeper embedded within. However, in this we come to a big downfall in the storytelling. I often found myself, even while reading all of the notes and finding all the information, still very confused. With such a fun and creative, yet not very informative story, I found myself lost in thought without a lot of clarity; basically just leading to me running or just looking for the next objective to progress, while simply outrunning a specter every once and a while.
Note, Layers of Fear 2 isn’t meant to be a gory horror, but instead, a twist in imagination and a play on your mind. Many obstacles in this game use the same method as the first, making the player feel weird or disoriented. Things like walking into a room with no doors to then having to go back through the same door which then leads to a new location. These simple yet effective tricks always amaze me, and kept me on my toes for some parts of the game. Other events include the likes of the previously alluded to choice-making, which decides the ending of the game. It’s here in which you chose to be moral or immoral in your stance, thus changing the threads as you move ahead.
I like the idea of this ghost ship but It feels like things are missing from the game. Ultimately making for an experience that seems somewhat rushed. With the first Layers of Fear, I think the fact that it was a spooky old mansion made the title feel more at home, so to speak. Here it feels like horror has gone on holiday and away from tradition. This may be a good thing in the future and open up more avenues for horror games to thrive, but just at the moment, I’m not sure it fits all that well. The shock value is lower here too, the only real shock value is being chased, and that sort of concept wears off after a few attempts and doesn’t really feel that petrifying.
Layers of Fear 2 is fairly hit and miss for a sequel. Whilst it manages to hold its own, it doesn’t quite meet the quality nor the ambition found in its predecessor. The gameplay may be considered to be too easy for its own good, and certain elements do feel somewhat rushed. Though, that being said, one has to commend its level of polish and its psychological approach, ultimately putting forward an experience that’s both unique, and provocative.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.