Back in early 2016, one of my first reviews here on our site was Layers of Fear from Bloober Team. At the time I was a bit worried going into it because they were the same team that made that awful Bomberman clone called Brawl. I was happy to have my fears proven wrong though as Layers of Fears, while far from perfect, turned out pretty good. Now three years later and with a few more game releases to their name, Bloober Team has returned to give us the sequel, Layers of Fear 2. Does this address the problems I had with the first game and take this horror franchise forward in exciting ways?
The first Layers of Fear focused on you exploring the house of a painter who had gone mad. Layers of Fear 2 is similar but this time it takes place on a boat and the main character is a movie actor. The game draws a lot of inspiration from various films of the past and movie connoisseurs will get the most out of this game and better understand the references that it makes to those films. The game is still a first person adventure game so don’t expect any kind of combat here as you explore this eerie ship. Over the course of five different story acts, you’ll travel through the corridors of the ship, collect key items needed to progress, find collectibles, and witness events that are both real and unreal as this actor’s mind spirals out of control. If you didn’t like the gameplay of the first game then you won’t really find anything here to make you feel differently about this one.
In regards to the story, which I won’t touch on spoilers, the game was alright but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit lost at times with what was going on. It mainly focuses on you, the actor, doing things that are set before you by the director who brought you to this ship. There is also the story of two runaway children at play here who took refuge aboard. One of the cool things about it though is that it is narrated by Tony Todd (Candyman) who delivers a pretty good performance throughout. It took me probably around six hours to finish the game but there are reasons to return. For instance there are moments in the game where you can choose a different path for the story to go down and that leads to you getting one of the three different endings. There is also a New Game Plus where you keep the collectibles you found on your first run and can go back and pick up ones you missed. I also noticed some other differences in the game that didn’t happen the first time through so I highly recommend playing this more than once so long as you enjoyed it.
One of the things I liked about the first game was how the house’s layout and your surroundings would could change at the drop of a dime. Layers of Fear 2 employs this same mechanic with the ship as objects around you that were in one spot or position a moment ago will all of the sudden be somewhere else the next time you look. Some puzzles in the game require you to look at things from a certain angle to line things up in order to solve them. It’s all pretty simple stuff but it’s effective and once again helps put you in the mindset of this crazy person.
Unfortunately though this sequel still isn’t much scarier than the first game which was one of my complaints with it when I reviewed it. Layers of Fear 2 does have a good atmosphere about it and does at times make you feel uneasy but outside of some cheap jump scares there isn’t much here to terrify you. They even try to scare you with periodic chase sequences where you have to run and escape from a monster but these were more frustrating than fun or scary. This is because to pass these sequences you have to perform pretty much every action perfectly or else you’ll die and have to try again. It’s hard to be scared of something that you will likely be playing a few times over.
Visually, Layers of Fear 2 is a disturbing sight to behold. Built on the Unreal Engine 4 this time around, the game looks great and is full of details all throughout the ship. Objects, environments, lighting, you name it are all some of the best I’ve seen in a horror title on PS4 and what is also great is how well it performs. I reviewed the game on PlayStation 4 Pro and found this to run much better than the first game did whose technical issues hurt my experience. You can even choose to run the game at 30fps or 60fps which is what I went with. The audio is also great and I highly recommend playing with a pair of headphones like I did. I already mentioned that the voice acting is really good but so are all of the other subtle noises that you’ll pick up with a good pair of headphones. Those and the music really do a great job of contributing to the unnerving atmosphere of this game. Something else I was pleased with is that Bloober Team gave Layers of Fear 2 a Platinum trophy this time around to earn. There are 33 trophies in total that will have you getting all of the endings, all of the collectibles, and doing other specific actions to earn them all. It’s a very attainable Platinum but it will take you some time.
While Layers of Fear 2 addresses some of the issues I had with the first game it also fails to address some others and even introduces new problems. I wish the story was a bit more interesting, the scares are still mostly missing, and the chase sequences really didn’t need to be there at all. What it does have though is those same great twisting environments, some of the best visuals I’ve seen in a horror game, and a great audio package that helps set the unnerving atmosphere. This is still a good game that I recommend to anyone who is a fan of psychological horror titles but don’t go into it expecting to even come close to having your pants scared off.
*Layers of Fear 2 is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Reviewed on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
Layers of Fear 2$29.99
- Still has that fantastic level design that changes before your eyes
- One of the best horror titles I've ever seen
- Strong voice acting and great sound effects and music add to the tension
- Performance is far better than the first game
- Story wasn't as interesting as I hoped
- Still isn't very scary and relies on cheap jump scares
- Chase sequences are frustrating and add nothing to the experience