When I first saw the trailer for Layers of Fear, I was intrigued by its striking concept – while still being a bit scared, as I’m not really a horror person.
At the start of the game, we’re told that our actions will determine the story, which is always a grabbing game mechanic. From what I can tell at this stage, we’re playing as a struggling painter of sorts. You start in the lobby of what I assume is your house, and already I’m apprehensive to go through the doors in front of me after watching the trailer.
Psychological horror here we come.
As I walked into the first room (which appears to be a dining room), I see a letter on the table in front of me. It tells me that we have been writing to the Pesky Pests Pacification Company, and that they are asking you to stop or the next letter will be from their lawyers.
I can’t help but feel like Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap; trying to figure out who I am and what I’m doing here.
I find a note in the kitchen which tells me that I have a wife or girlfriend somewhere in the house. As I walk around, I can feel every step. I even feel as though my character may have a limp, though I can’t be sure.
Oddly, to open a door you have to hold the RT button and move the door with the right thumb stick. It sounds a bit of a hassle, but the suspense and anticipation just for moving between rooms is absoluteness worth it. It’s a very clever way of making an otherwise innocuous task all the more thrilling.
Indeed once I had found the entrance to the basement, I could barley bring myself to go down the stairs. Already the psychology part is kicking in.
To the left of the basement door is what I believe is the artist’s studio, but the door is locked and a note indicates that the key is upstairs in the office.
Graphically, the scene is a work of art. The lighting from the storm raging outside feels absolutely real. So too do the sound effects and music, which are best appreciated when playing the game with a decent headset.
I finally get the nerve to go upstairs, at the top I see some furniture and a glass bottle on the table. Just I start to get somewhat comfortable in this environment, off to my right I hear a loud bang like something has fallen and I nearly jumped out of my seat.
I head towards where I hear the noise. I know, rookie move.
At the end of a little hallway I see a door, at foot of which is what I’m hoping is red paint.
I decided not to go through that door yet and instead I turn around and go through the door to my left, which appears to be a bedroom.
As I walk in a record player begins playing, making me jump a little. On further exploration I see the mirror is broken on the dressing table and the draws seem to be empty. I also find a note (which I think is to the other person in the house) that verifies that my character has a bad leg.
I also find a newspaper clipping which tells us about a fire at a newly built shop.
I’m barley 10 minutes into this and I don’t like where it’s heading. All the signs are pointing to there being someone else in this house – but who, and where?
I head back out of this room and I walk to the door where there seems to blood or red paint on the floor. I finally go to open it, but it’s locked. I head back to the stairs and I get to the other end of the house and find the office, there is a ladder on the floor and the office is generally a mess. I find another note that says, “I’m sick of talking through these notes come talk to me before you go to bed” – our wife/partner perhaps?
On the desk I find a key, but it’s not for the room with blood under the door.
So once again I head back to the stairs and notice a room on the same floor just off to the right – I approach it slowly as I’m waiting for the scare.
But nothing happens. I find a child’s room with not much to look at, so I decide to head back down stairs as I we know the key is for the art studio part of the house, so I head down the stairs back into the main dining area and turn right to go to the door.
I unlock the door and go through the area is covered in art work, right in front of me is a easel stand with a canvass and cover on it. I approach the easel and decide to take off the cover, expecting to see a gruesome image of some kind. But the canvass is pretty much blank apart from a bit of green and red at the bottom.
At this point most of the scares are in my head – and apart from a bang upstairs – nothing too much has happened. That’s the power of atmosphere, folks. Though I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something, so I head back out of the room.
As I approach the door to head back out, I notice something painted above the door.
It reads “GET IT RIGHT THIS TIME”.
Is that aimed at me, or is it a motivational phrase for the artist? As I open the door my head cannot take what is behind it, instead of the dining room being there like it should be, it is now a corridor with another door at the other end!
Layers of Fear – based on the 30 minutes of play I have put in – is a mind bender and I feel things have only just begun.
You could reach this point very quickly in the game but I spent some time looking around for clues to what is going on and I feel that this a must as there is no backstory at the beginning, at this point I have no idea what is going on, but here is the best part I want to know more, I want to find out what’s going on.
This game is available for all Gold Members on Xbox One right now until the 31st of March. I’ll be playing, will You?