Developed and Published By: Bloober Team Categories: Horror, First Person Release Date: 05.20.21
Allow me to preface this review. I have a rather strong distaste for first person horror games like Layers of Fear. I grew up in the golden age of Japanese Survival Horror. It wasn’t just about being scared, but surviving, planning out how you use your gear, and fighting back! First person horror often becomes a hide and seek game with a narrow field of view. However, I found this to be a perfect opportunity to see if a game like Layers of Fear 2 could perhaps change my opinions on the genre.
In Layers of Fear 2, you control The Actor, who’s taking a roll from an eccentric director upon a large vessel on the sea. During this journey in the boat to please the director, there’s a bit of an internal journey as well, with The Actor recalling memories from their past. Examining your surroundings and items often speak to the player, voices in the now and in their younger years, upon a similar boat. I was invested in seeing where the story would go and learning more about The Actor and especially the weird director.
First things first with gameplay, Layers of Fear 2 gives you an option to play standard or in “Safe Mode”. Being a horror game, there’s monsters that appear at times and can chase and kill you. In Safe Mode, the monsters still exist, but are harmless and just there to spook you. Horror games can be disorientating and the monster sections of Layers of Fear 2 can be especially, so giving a more accessible option to players newer to the genre or who like to take things a bit slower is fantastic. This isn’t the way the game was really designed or supposed to be played, but it’s still leaves for a creepy game, regardless of consequences or the fear of failure.
There is no combat, very much in line with the genre. I’m not a fan of this approach to most horror games. The idea that there’s no way of fighting back, just instant death from any source of opposition. Thankfully, even with some bigger rooms, LoF2 is rather linear. The linearity comes with rooms changing or even doors leading to new places. While I dislike points of no returns in games, especially with autosaves, it’s a creative way to do so instead of just locking behind you. You will run into puzzles, but the answers aren’t usually too far out of your grasp. There’s a choice given in each Act as well, who’s to say what they really mean until you complete the game.
While this is a port to the Switch, for a Switch game, Layers of Fear 2 looks fantastic. Lighting in particular is great, which is a must for horror. You’re given a 30FPS or unlocked option, but it almost seemed a bit slow at times at 30, so experiment to what is more comfortable for you. I personally would rather the unlocked option as it’s MOSTLY a smoother experience.
I feel aesthetically, there’s a lot that Layers of Fear 2 has to offer. I love horror games or just game period that are set on a boat. While the setting is on a boat, in each act outside of your room, it changes constantly, almost becoming unnatural, it’s interesting, and really makes for great setpieces at times. A small detail I adore is the titlecards. Each act has their own title card to look like an old timey film, infact they have multiples and I love that!
Lets touch on some things I dislike. Yes, it’s in line with a horror game to be dark, but LoF2 can be far too dark at times. The game goes from beautiful environments full of color to drab black and white filtered areas with in any remote sense of danger. In some of these black and white segments, it can be rather difficult to see certain places, especially when you’re being chased, which is ultimately frustrating. There’s very little in terms of punishment, as you’ll just restart before the sequence, but it could have been avoided. Yes, I turned brightness up, this hardly helped.
Outside of that, I had a great time with Layers of Fear 2. Despite being in a genre I have no fondness towards, I was invested the entire time and wanted to keep playing. Perhaps it was due to how structured and railroaded the game was and didn’t delve into just playing hide and seek going back and forth. As someone who values portability over performance as long as it isn’t detrimental, I’d be more inclined to play the Switch version, but if you’re not like that, give it a try on PC.