Drawers, Doors, and Tropes
The actual act of wandering the house is the first place the experience starts to fall apart, though. Like Amnesia before it, this is a drawer-and-door game. You’ll end up going through every cabinet and drawer trying to find a newspaper clipping, handwritten note, or something else to either get out of the room you’re stuck in or to just complete collectibles. It becomes tedious pretty early on.
Meanwhile, the game is throwing every jump scare at you that it can think of. Some of them are really effective. I jumped and made noises more than a few times during my playthrough. But a lot of them feel more like something out of a Tool video from the 1990s (warning, explicit lyrics). Kids, ask your parents about Tool.
Twitching dolls litter scenes in inappropriate places, imagery of the handicapped – wheelchairs, etc – is meant to make the house feel a bit more like an insane asylum despite not really adding anything to the story (even if it does tie in just fine). Other times, things just slam open or shut or whatever else.
There are some non-jump scares, too, though I’m hesitant to spoil them for those that move ahead with the game, as they’re some of the more memorable moments provided by Layers of Fear.
There’s definitely neat stuff to find within Layers of Fear, but so much of it is done more effectively by its predecessors. Bloober Team did a good job of bringing things together and making a stunning Unity title, and that alone is worth commendation, but it doesn’t make for a better game.
What Layers of Fear makes me want, ultimately, is to see what Bloober Team could be capable of with a better story and less beaten-in subject matter.
With its short playtime – just about 3 hours for my playthough – It’s worth checking out on a Steam sale, but, in general you’ll want to hang back on this one.
Disclaimer: We received a copy of Layers of Fear for Steam/PC from the publisher. We completed the story before writing this review.