Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Gun Media
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Platform: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Genre: Horror, Supernatural
A Chilling Introduction to Layers of Fear 2
Layers of Fear 2 isn't just a video game. It's an experience. Bloober Team has created something that transcends what video games are and shows us what they could and should be, opening a window into a warped but dazzlingly captivating reality that goes beyond the outer reaches of the Twilight Zone. The game is found in the beyond, the unexplored territory between and outside of worlds, and it's yours to explore.
I daresay Layers of Fear 2 is a masterpiece.
Bloober Team has come very close to realizing the full potential of video games as an artistic medium. Every single scene of this game is a work of twisted, macabre art that taps the rich vein of the bizarre. It's one of the most supremely weird entertainment experiences I've ever had, and honestly, it goes beyond a game and even a film--it's somewhere in between, in that colorful limbo between worlds.
In many ways, Layers of Fear 2 is like a movie. It has a extremely high cinematic production value and an eerie, pervasive atmosphere. Every transition, every level, every hallway and sequence has its own little bit of horror magic. It's not necessarily outright scary, but more like a disturbing Lynch film with its weird body horror and startling imagery.
If David Lynch were to make a video game, it'd look just like this.
But it's also interactive like a game. You make decisions, solve puzzles, and move forward in a linear progression while unfolding the story. At the same time, Layers of Fear 2 breaks both of these molds by folding the two together in such an ingeniously clever way that you often forget you're playing a game. Its potent visuals and storyline have the same magnetic pull as a good book or film. Total immersion happens frequently with Bloober's latest project and it's a wonderful thing.
The best part about Layers of Fear 2 is how unpredictable it is. You absolutely never know what the game is going to throw at you next. There is suspense thick enough you could cut it with a knife. A cold dread permeates every level, but your curiosity pushes you forward. You have to know; you have to see. That's what really fueled my play: a desire for my psyche to soak up the strangeness like a sponge.
Layers of Fear 2 propels you with this kind of dire fascination where you try to anticipate what'll happen, but in reality, you have no clue. It's one curve-ball after another. And that's really the beauty of it because once you're immersed in the world-bending weirdness you can simply revel in it. It's almost like re-watching your favorite horror movie over and over to see that one perfect monstrous Cronenberg scene with its quivering flesh, or bask in the beautiful haunted vibrance of a Kubrick flick.
The visuals are what sells the experience, and there's a kind of instinctual familiarity with the game. As you play, there's always this itch in the back of your mind. You feel as if you've been here before, seen this before, but you can't say why. It's a strong feeling of deja vu that brings back memories of Konami's ill-fated P.T. demo infused with the raw power of the horror film genre.
Horror buffs will recognize the themes and influences. Although the game is set in the 1930s, Bloober has tapped decades of terror, suspense, and otherworldly strangeness to craft Layers of Fear 2.
There's Hitchcockian suspense lovingly crafted using the world as a centerpiece. There's the meaningful symbolism of Twilight Zone morphed with inter-dimensional Outer Limits lore. Kubrick's brilliant, sterile, and hallowed visuals ignite your screen. Eraserhead's cruel and bleak industrial shadow-city grounds us into a dismal setting. Twin Peaks' surreal world-behind-a-curtain feel and dark overtones bathe the ship in a thick blanket of shadow.
Bloober also has lots of throwbacks to Fritz Lang's Metropolis and George Melies films like A Trip to the Moon, creating stark eye candy that excites and tantalizes.
At the same time, the devs created their own unique style. Layers of Fear 2 is unlike anything I've seen or played and remains one of the best games I've experienced in the last few years. It feels like the game was made specifically just for me. Sure it's not a long game--it took me roughly 10 hours to beat--but in today's landscape of never-ending games, I'll take condensed magic over elongated tepidity any day.
I was so utterly enraptured by Layers of Fear 2's style that I took 230 screenshots will conducting the review. Every transition made me excited enough to want to permanently capture, the same way a director captures a scene on film.
Speaking of...the show's about to start and it's your line. Get ready, actor, it's your time to shine.