After having a wonderful time, making new friends, and exploring Seattle last October, I decided to once again make the trek back this year for the second Geek Girl Con. I wasn’t the only one returning to GGC, the delightful ladies of Bioware joined me as well. This year there were two panels, the first of which was a presentation on the life cycle of a level. Moderated by Jessica Merizan, panelists included, Mary Kirby (writer), Raylene Deck (level designer), Sarah Hayward (cinematic designer), Karin Weekes (senior editor), and Melanie Fleming (localization producer).
Getting the $h!t scared out of your has never been so good.
Lets get one thing right. Blooper Team knows psychological horror. The hyper-realistic environments, uncomfortable situations, and sensory magic result in a game that keeps players in a constant state of heightened stress and anticipation of what lies beyond each door.
Layers of Fear 2 is a first-person exploration game (affectionately also known as a walking simulator) set aboard an old timey ocean liner. If that is not creepy enough, you play as a hollywood actor with a seemingly sordid past who is brought on as the lead in a film. However, things quickly go sideways as a mysterious director beckons you onward through the game.
I’ve found Layers of Fear 2 to be every bit as good as the original as well as >observer_ which followed after. While you don’t have to play the first one to understand the second (totally different story), you might already have a sense of the crazy shit that the game will do to you to keep your heart rate high and skin crawling. The least of which goes something like this… you walk down a hallway and try to open a door, the door is locked and so you turn around, only to find the hall is gone and replaced with a completely different room. It only gets worse from there…
The original Layers of Fear offered brief respites as you returned to an art studio in the main characters mansion, but the game seemed to continue to flow right along. Given that LoF2 is set around a film, this one as a bit more structure to the various “acts” of the game, however I always somehow felt less safe from scares even in my cabin aboard the ship. I would argue that both games are somewhat linear, but the setting and story makes this one more so, though no less terrifying than the original.
In fact, Layers of Fear 2 takes much of the horror of the original and makes it better, as the environment often changes around you in subtle, sometimes impossible ways. Also, I found that (on Xbox One X at least) there is a setting to go to 60 FPS, which I found makes the game even more immersive. I almost get a sort of 7th Guest vibe in Layers of Fear 2, which is ironic considering the original Layers of Fear took place in a mansion. Either way, it’s high praise.
This game offers more… how should I say… interaction with um… mannequins, or maybe they are automatons to be more precise. The original game was mostly the main character and his thoughts. Here, a random body part on the ground might be a humanoid arm… or maybe its not 😉 So, if you are one susceptible to discomfort resulting from the uncanny valley, well consider this your warning, Layers of Fear 2 is insane(ly clever).
I don’t want to give away too much, because at its core, this game is not unlike walking through a haunted house-style attraction (like Halloween Horror Nights); you know you are going to be scared, and even that anticipation makes you more frightened. Plus, a game allows for so much more to be possible than in real life. Personally, I recommend playing it alone, at night, in a darkened room for full effect. Doing that, I only played in small doses because it is stressful… in a good way, of course.
There are also some light puzzle elements, and collecting to do, if you care about that sort of thing. Ultimately, it all adds to the story, so its worth your time to go and find everything, and see as much of the game as possible. I also understand that there are multiple endings. If it is anything like the original, the differences are not earth shattering, but I do find it interesting to go back and make different choices, and also be amazed at how I am still scared of things I already know are going to happen. That, in my opinion, is the mark of a good game.
With that I recommend that you (ahem) grab Layers of Fear 2, which is currently available on Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4. Happy Gaming.