The first part of Layers of Fear by the Polish Bloober Team studio is often compared to the unfortunate announcement of Silent Hills, the P.T. demo by Hideo Kojima. Actually, it was a bit of P.T. it's without Hollywood stars, but has a very spooky setting, with a dense atmosphere and gloomy story in the background. The tragic story about a painter turned out to be so good that today on Metacritic, the average player rating is even slightly higher than the scores of reviewers. I think Layers of Fear 2 will be a quite similar case.
The second part eliminates some of the problems of the first installment, but because its twice as long, you can also see its drawbacks. Some are known from the previous part and some newer ones. Some not very interesting escape sequences have been added and puzzles are still simple, but finally, the daft jump-scares have been abandoned. Instead, we got an atmosphere which is not that spooky or terrifying but... quite strange, disturbing, literally "creepy." Layers of Fear 2 is not the Polish P. T., but a Polish TP. T for Twin, and P for Peaks.
David Lynch meets Donnie Darko
- amazing setting and a thick, sticky atmosphere;
- a variety of locations, constantly shifting appearance;
- no simple jump scares;
- disturbing soundtrack adds to the atmosphere;
- surreal scenes can delight with an odd charm and symbolism...
- ...but for some, there could be a bit too much of this sort of thing;
- the finale of the story is not as good as the beginning;
- too easy environmental riddles, to which you get a lot of tips;
- unnecessary escape scenes.
Though sometimes some clumsy monster will sneak around, in Layers of Fear 2 you can see and feel the spirit of magnificent David Lynch. The whole game is practically a collection of increasingly bizarre and strange scenes. Surreal visions with disturbing music and mysterious monologues. Movies with running deer after burning mannequins on some enigmatic designs. If you put in the game every odd moment from the last season of Twin Peaks series, such as an atomic bomb explosion, a gold sphere or the return of Phillip Jeffries kettle, they would blend in with the atmosphere and gameplay offered by Layers of Fear 2 just perfectly.
Personally, I'm a little tired of such a big dose of surrealism. First of all, because the normal story hidden underneath it does not arouse any particularly great emotions at the end, and the degree of twisting of these visions has nothing to do with trivially simple riddles. It seems to me, however, that this is one of those elements which may be perceived as the main advantage of this title. If somebody likes such weird think-overs in the style of Donnie Darko or Twin Peaks, then in Layers of Fear 2 he or she will be delighted! And for the cherry on top, there is also the voice of the narrator, played by Tony Todd himself the Candyman.
As a storyteller, we hear the voice of Tony Todd himself. He's not as famous as Rutger Hauer, who played in the previous production of Bloober Team studio Observer, but every horror lover knows his achievements well.
Endowed with a distinctive voice, Tony Todd played the role of the title Candyman in a series based on a book by Clive Barker. We also remember him very well from the Final Destination series and such hits as Platoon, Night of the Living Dead or The Rock. Also, we could hear him in Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
A ship and a damned cruise
At the beginning, there is nothing to indicate that we have reached a place that will test our imagination. We play the part of a famous actor who makes a film on board a luxury transatlantic ship. We're just supposed to feel the part and give it our best shot. We find telegrams from our agent, announcements that part of the deck is not available for passengers, and the film crew has every freedom of action. We visit the cabins, pass luggage carts, filmmakers' equipment, crew rooms, we even go out on board to look at the endless ocean it's empty, but quite normal.
The ship, however, lives its own life, as did the house in the first part of Layers of Fear. Just take a step or look in a different direction and the corridor layout changes, some doors disappear and others start appearing. From narrow quarters we get to underground tunnels, labyrinth in the garden, and even blocks of flats with raw skyscrapers. Above all, we pass strange film sets with mannequins in various poses and situations. We initiate disturbing scenes, sometimes take part in them, and even make choices according to or against the director's or narrator's orders.
With each step it becomes more strange, more surreal. Mannequins are everywhere, but they are still only an addition to disturbing representations of light, sound and scenery. Although we sometimes recognize a reference to a popular film, the ingenuity and fantasy of the authors really do make an impression. Not only the scenes change and surprise all the time, but also the linearity of the gameplay and slightly claustrophobic levels have been cleverly designed. Once we are in the center of events, once we look at something from the right position or through a small hole, and the projects of omnipresent narrow corridors can be considered an absolute masterpiece. There is no issue of backtracking at all, although we sometimes have to visit places we already know.
SUCCESS IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS
The average rating of the first part of Layers of Fear was not too high, but the game defended itself in stores. On Steam alone, according to the SteamSpy website, over 3.5 million players have purchased it. We should also add that Layers of Fear are available on GOG, PS4, Xbox One and Switch. These are great results, placing the game at the forefront of the greatest successes of the Polish industry.