Layers of Fear 2 is an indie horror developed and published by Bloober Team. It launched back in 2019 for most platforms, but for this review, I played the newly launched Switch version. Layers of Fear 2 markets itself as a few things, the first is as a horror. I am honestly incredibly easy to scare, I am often even unable to play many horror games myself as I tend to panic. For example, the gameplay of Resident Evil 2 is way too intense for me, but I loved watching a playthrough of it. So going into Layers of Fear 2 I was pretty worried I wouldn’t be able to get far, but I still picked normal instead of safe mode.
I wanted to get the developer’s intended experience, and honestly, I was rarely spooked or nervous. A couple of loud sound effects out of silence made me jump a little once and a while, but they were usually pretty expected. I think what makes it fail as a horror atmosphere is the lack of intense music for a majority of the playthrough. You run around mostly in silence, with the occasional music and random loud sound effect coming out of nowhere. If there was ever a point where I was scared, it was when you encounter monsters who can chase you but these instances were few and far in between. These were also less impactful considering as a player all you can do is run and close doors to avoid these monsters, and when they do catch you the death screen is incredibly dull.
The second part of Layers of Fear 2’s marketed appeal is an intense psychological story. I’m glad to say on this front the plot isn’t generic or poorly written. The setting is a giant ocean liner from the 20th century, and you play as a Hollywood actor here to film for a movie. It was refreshing to have a horror setting that was unique and to play during a more historical time. The isolation of being alone on a gigantic boat in the middle of the ocean works as an unsettling backdrop for a horror story. The visuals of the game are also impressively realistic and at moments incredibly beautiful. Yet the surroundings get worn out and repetitive quickly, and the story is both easy to predict and hard to miss. If you don’t happen to find all the little plot notes and items sprinkled throughout the game, you will miss many details and cheapen your full understanding. On the other hand, once you get the gist of the story, it becomes quite predictable.
Considering a full playthrough of Layers of Fear 2 is 2-4 hours, it’s shocking how much everything seems to drag on. I don’t have a problem with short games, even incredibly short games if they are a quality well-crafted experience. You would think keeping the player’s attention for the short playtime on offer would be easy, but somehow the experience feels like it drags on and on at an agonizing pace. You could get as much out of playing this game as watching a full play-through on the internet. Even watching the plot play out over a 4-hour video is a slow unriveting crawl.
Overall, Layers of Fear 2 is not worth the price of admission. The identical 2019 version is 19.99 while this new version is 29.99. 30$ for a 3-4 hour game already seems a bit inflated, even for the most amazing of short games. The price seems more outrageous considering it’s an unchanged port, and it fails to deliver on its marketed strengths. It isn’t scary or intense as a plot or in its gameplay, and the atmosphere falls flat in more ways than one. A large amount of the time is spent in silence, the lack of atmospheric music and sound design making almost any suspense nonexistent. The deep well-written story it promises while original and unique is fairly predictable and unrivetting in both its plot and how it’s told. There is also the other issue of how short the entire game is, at the absolute most, it is a 4-hour playthrough. The switch port is even more egregious, it’s an unchanged port of a 2019 game that is 10$ more expensive than every other version and still is only a 4-hour experience.
My final verdict on Layers of Fear 2 is this, if you are a big fan of indie horror or enjoy unraveling a walking sim plot for an afternoon then you will find something here. Yet no matter who you are, spending 30 dollars on this short and average experience will put a bad taste in anybody’s mouth. Maybe wait till there is a major sale or discount if you want to play it for yourself.
Score: 5 out of 10
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch