26th May2021

‘Layers of Fear 2’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Alain Elliott

Reviewing video games has continued to help me play genres that I have rarely played before or not played at all. This time with Layers of Fear 2, I played a completely different type of horror game, an investigatory horror game.

For those that have read my reviews for Nerdly before, you will know that about eighty percent of them are for horror movies. Horror is a passion of mine, so it’s a little surprising that I hardly ever play horror games. Many years ago I loved the first Resident Evil game on the Playstation and I’ve always enjoyed the Project Zero series. But it’s not a genre of game that I am drawn to. A horror game with no weapons to speak of though, did peak my interest.

As there are no weapons I ended up doing what I would do in a real-life situation when faced with monsters and ghosts – run away as fast as I can. But thankfully there is more to this sequel that that.

Layers of Fear 2 is a first person, psychological horror game in which you play an actor who is playing the lead role in a film set upon an ocean liner. From there begins a whole story about two children aboard the ship and the terrible time they had on board.

In truth, I wasn’t as engaged in the story as much as I would have liked to have been. I’m not sure if this was because it just wasn’t interesting enough or because I was too involved in the gameplay to concentrate enough on the story. It is told throughout the game with voice-overs from the past of the two children, as well as objects you can interact with, such as old projectors and recordings to listen to and notes to read. It works well enough and you can an understanding of the basic outline of the story even if you’re not really taking it all in.

One of the key parts of a first person horror game is always going to be ‘is it scary?’. And I can confirm that Layers of Fear 2 has plenty of scary moments. There are quite a few easy jump scares (the ones film fans complain about) and they work well. An easy jump scare doesn’t have to be a bad thing and if I’m slowly walking through a dark area of the ship only for part of the ceiling to fall down in front of me, I’m going to jump. And I did, time and time again. It’s perhaps to simple to say it is just through those easy jump scares though because it’s the atmosphere that is built up before that that gets you on the edge of your seat. This atmosphere created by a decent musical score and the general darkness of much of the settings. You’ll be anxiously turning every corner. When the ‘monsters’ (I’ll call them monsters for now but they could be ghosts or demons or several other things) get on screen, they are at first terrifying. Not necessarily how they look but the music suddenly ramps up, I get all panicky and usually die pretty quickly. If you don’t stop and think about what you have to do, repeat scenes of this can become a little boring but that’s more the players fault – I learnt the hard way.

Mannequins are used to try and keep the creepiness up. For me, they don’t work for scares for much of the time but they do have their moments

I thought the design of the ‘levels’ was really clever at times. Often making you feel like you’re a bit lost and unsure what is going on but never in a way that you can’t continue. You’ll rarely become frustrated at what to do next. You might enter a room but when you leave it through the same door, what you enter is completely new. A flick of a switch or light makes things appear from nowhere or changes the room completely. Hidden doorways might appear at the touch of a button. There’s plenty going on to keep the players interest.

The difficulty level seemed just about right to me. There is an option at the start of the game to have the monsters to be able to kill you or not. I opted for them to be able to kill me simply because I thought without it there would be little challenge. The puzzles in the game are nicely levelled when it comes to difficulty. They got me thinking and a few times I was getting slightly frustrated and then I cracked it! They never felt like it was too difficult.

It’s a fairly short game but I was surprised by how involved I got into it and at times I really couldn’t put it down. I played in handheld and desktop mode with my Switch and both worked very well. The graphics are solid but the handheld mode had the bonus of headphones and if you get the right amount of light (or not, playing in the dark is great) then the scares are more fun. Some gamers wont enjoy the slow pace of the game, there’s times when the scares are at a minimum and you are simply walking around an empty ship but this didn’t bother me. As my introduction to a puzzle and exploration-based horror, Layers of Fear 2 is a good one. Perhaps I should check out the first game now!

*** 3/5

Layers of Fear 2 is available on the Nintendo Switch now.

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