Review: Layers of Fear [2016]

a review by the Azure-Winged Magpie.

(◔◡◔)!

Finish It!

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REVIEW: Layers of Fear

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

Oooh! Guess who played a shiny new game?! (Okay, it was like months ago, but STILL!) … That’s right! That’s right! It were ME! 

◡ ^  )!

So. Since it’s HORROR MONTH and all, I thought I’d fatten up our video game review section with a horror game! And what’ve we got here in our Magpie mitts today? Layers of Fear!

Unlike our last game review, I’m not going to be breaking this down into sections like gameplay, graphicsanalysis or anything. And that’s because I’ve got some problems with how this game was done. And because this bit of the game really upset me, I’m going to go go into it right now(!) before I take on the rest of the game in one big chunk of text.

Okay, so I don’t really get spooky-dooky-ed out AT ALL, and while this game had a couple of points which made me jump out of my feathers a bit, ONE BIG HUGE GLARING FLAW about this game stopped me from really enjoying it: the gameplay.

The guys making this game (Bloober Team — I’m serious) really had to go and shoot this game right in the bleeding foot, didn’t they? The whole “game” part of this game is just walking around, opening doors, picking things up, and solving some simple puzzles.

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And while the game really, REALLY tries to make even this limited gameplay work in interesting ways, it also leaves out a sense of… y’know… DOING things. You don’t die in this one. Nothing can kill you. And with that in mind, it keeps the scares from really hitting home.

Now, the game does have multiple endings, so its not like your choices and actions don’t affect the outcome, but it’s something that I still can’t forgive the game for. This is one of them rail shooters from way back whenever. Now, some time before I played this game, I got to play P.T. (and dragged the Crow with me). The influence is pretty in-your-face with this one. And having just played P.T. so recently when going through the house of horrors in Layers of Fear, I could see one missed opportunity after another flying by my screen.

The game tries to make the dumbed-down mechanics work, though, like I said, but I’ll get to that in a mo. But it really doesn’t do much. Unless your interest is grabbed by what’s happening on the screen, this is going to be one HELL of a dull affair (not that kind of affair, you pervs! Those sound fun!)

And that’s the mo gone…

What DOES work, though… is that this game becomes wayyy better if you don’t think about it as a game. It’s more like a film you’re watching that you get to feel around in. Kinda like the series we last reviewed (well, that was before my time, tbf).

This game is banging in EVERY.BLEEDING.THING that counts as design and direction. Everything: the sound, the graphics, the ‘set’ design, the effects that you end up triggering… this shit deserves to be in a gallery or something, imo.

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As a (psychological) horror film, this game really, REALLY works.

We’re looking through the eyes of a painter who’s going through some tough times. And as we follow him while he tries to finish his “masterpiece”, and we start to find out more about him, oh man… this is one tight story!

It’s not the biggest, best-est story of all time or anything. It’s just a really, really well told story. And you know what? I’m going to talk a little bit about the story right now!

The painter has locked himself up in his rancid mansion after coming home from a court hearing. He’s some kind of genius auteur, going by the clippings we find while we walk around his gaff. He goes into his studio and paints in the base layer (undercoat?) of the painting he just knows is going to be his masterpiece, and once he’s done, reality starts going full retard around him.

And what’s this masterpiece-to-be? Why, it’s a painting of his waifu, of course!

(❤◡❤) …awww!

But, y’know… these things ain’t never kosher. Mr Painter’s been a bad boy. See, his bae was a pianist (hey, like me!) who moonlighted as his muse and was rad at playing the piano, too (beat them critics, girl! Beat them to a pulp!). Now, I’ve seen a picture of this made-up chick. And I can’t really blame Mr Painter. She’s… ahh… fit.

But you know what? Somewhere along the line… things went gone fucked.

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So… he knocks his bird up and they have a tot, and ALL OF A SUDDEN, because Mister limp-dick here can’t deal with having an actual family, he starts going doolally sadistic, like ol’ Jack Torrance before him.

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES MAGPIE A MURDEROUS BIRD

ALL WORK AND NO PLAYY MKES MAGPIE A MURDEROUS BIRD

ALL WRK AND NNO PLAY MAKES MAGPIE A MURDEROUS BIRD

ALL WORK D NOO PLAY MAKES MAGPIE A MURDEROUSS BIRD

ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES MAGPIE A MURDEROUS BIRD

(⊙◡)

…what? I’m just… ehhh… y’know…

He buys a dog, and muzzles the pooch. He complains about rats, but their ain’t no rats about. He gets annoyed by things that go bump when he’s trying to work, he chugs a bottle or two (I mean… there’s nothing wrong with thathic!). His wife asks for something, he ignores her and gets all fists-up in her purty face.

So yeah… let me SHOW you lot how much like ol’ Jack Torrance Mr Painter’s becoming (I’m sure some shit like this went down).  Down below is his set of drawings for a Little Red Riding Hood (kids!) book he was hired for…

rr

Yeaaah… even I wouldn’t do that last panel. Other two are cool, though.

So! Anyway! Because he’s being such a massive bellend, what does his girl do? Well, she only goes and… burns.his.paintings! (Go girl! Take THAT, you dick!) Aaand… he gets fuck-drunk and beats the shit out of her.

( )

I… I can’t even. Okay. No. Serious. Sure, the wife went overkill and all. But man… OH MAN… I mean. Okay. No. I’ll stop. I don’t think anyone wants to read my HUGEBIG ramble about this whole scenario.

Also: I need to stop summarising this game right now. Don’t worry, though. I’ve just given the set-up away. There’s a lot more fuckery going on up in this bitch.

Did I like the story? YUP! I loved it. It’s like The Shining, just with a painter and a private mansion instead of a hotel. The story’s all scattered around and I’m pretty sure that the second time I tried playing it (didn’t finish), the scraps you read were in a different order. So I guess you get fed the story depending on how you walk through the doors of the mansion.

There’s a very nice story about madness, love-gone-wrong, how artsy-types can go full on detached from the shit going down around them, trying-to-make-things-right-again, and the pointlessness of trying to bring things that are long gone back and trying to pretend like an image of them can replace the real deal. This guy’s done fucked up. Over and over. And we get to watch him slowly go down into AHAHAHA!-land.

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The game shows off the inside of Mr Painter’s brain. The graphics go into full on trip-mode. A lot of this game is like being on hallucinogenics (I never want to type that ever again). The limited gameplay is more of a background for the weird artsy effects that rip through the screen. And because the game is pretty enough to start with, the game becomes a very unique experience.

We slowly find out what happened to the wife and the tot (the story gets expanded in the DLC: Inheritance). It’s a brain-breaking run through one dude’s broken brain-box. And all we have to do is finish Mr Painter’s masterpiece: his painting of his waifu. That’s the objective of the game. And our job is to find every thing he needs to finish it!

It’s not that great to play, but it’s totally worth sitting down for. I don’t think it’ll be as good if you watch a Let’s Play or something. I think this one’s better if you play it yourself and let your own actions drive what get triggered in the game. It’s a lot more fun to search through the clues yourself, imo.

But yeah. This gets a total of all-feathers-up from me as an experience. I love little indie games like this! Not every game has to be the same or anything. I just wish there was a lot more to actually DO in this game other than bumble through doors and look at shit (there’s a part with a baby-shaped doll that cracked me right up, though). I’m not asking for action or anything too much. Maybe a few more puzzles that make you think? Something a little more complicated than ‘go over there’ and ‘look at that’ and ‘enter this number’. Just to… y’know. Make this a GAME.


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CLOSING THOUGHTS

So… I loved this! But… as an experience. It gets the ‘video’ bit right, but not the ‘game’ bit. There’s not much to do, but it’s still worth a spin. Maybe a few quid off its price tag would make it all better, now that I think about it.

And that’s another thing. I don’t really think this one’s replayable until you’ve forgotten big chunks of it. Once the story’s in your head, it’s in your head, so the big surprises are all going out the window (just like with any normal story) on the first go.

What I really liked about it is how you go from something as sweet as a man trying to paint his waifu in all her purty-ness (just look up for the Crow’s digi-paint of me! Ain’t it a pretty one?! And we ain’t even been husbando and waifu for ages! He’ll be doing another one for me, soon! He’s just been backed up with it for a while, what with being sick and all out of steam and antsy about work and all…) to the fucked-up shit this game shows us.

Y’know what? Now that I think about it: the Crow’s got some similarities with Mr Painter. They’re both reclusive af. They both know people in the ‘arts’. They both have trouble finishing things (like that novel he’s been working on and locks himself away for), and they both go all in when they’re doing something. They both draw because it’s like the coolest thing in the world to be a good drawer.

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!

Yeah… so Mr Painter becomes a waifu-beating dickhead who goes crazy and … does things to get his painting done after he does fucked up. I mean sure… the wife went total overkill and then some on her negligent hubby by burning his paintings. But Mr Painter sounds like a total cockwomble from the get-go (just listen to that sleazy voice… YEEESH!). I say the fuck deserves it! Once a cockwomble, always a cockwomble! It’s not like people snap like that!

I mean. Seriously. It’s not like anyone suddenly snaps just like that. Maybe for having your life’s work burnt down (even though that FUCK deserved it). Never for anything as simple like when I … lost the login for … our submissions email … the other… weekend…

Right?

…right? 

(◔ _ ◔)

Uhhh…

(O _ O)!

I’m out, you lot! I have a plane to Outer Mongolia to catch! I have… some… business to take care of! See you lot a few decades later!

Magpie back-away, back-away, and LEG IT!BONK!


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FINAL RATINGS

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 8/10


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Look at this handsome babe!

 

Next up:

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6 thoughts on “Review: Layers of Fear [2016]”

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