Title: Layers Of Fear 2
Developer: Bloober Team
Release Date: May 20, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Bloober Team
Genre: Adventure Horror
Layers Of Fear 2 has made its way onto the Nintendo Switch and aims to deliver a great psychological thriller-horror experience on the handheld console. While the game does deliver in some of these aspects, the experience is held back by a few design choices.
In Layers Of Fear 2, the player takes the role of an unnamed Hollywood actor who finds himself on a sinking ship, literally not metaphorically. He initially accepted a call from an enigmatic and mysterious director who provides instructions to become the leading role in one of their films. This all leads to the actor being lead down the rabbit hole and into a descent of madness as all sorts of unsettling and strange events occur. If that’s not bad enough, nightmares from the past about a brother and sister who were playing pirates on the ship unfold throughout the narrative. The writing here is well-done, but the pacing could have been better in certain spots, especially when it comes to the backstory of a few characters.
Graphically, Layers Of Fear 2 looks impressive on the Switch, which usually has games take a hit in the visual department. The various locations you’ll visit throughout the experience also look detailed and clean. On top of that, the game performs surprisingly well with an option to have it run at 30FPS or a “No Limit” mode which allows it to run at an uncapped framerate that may dip at certain moments but maintains a smooth performance overall. Sound-wise the voice acting is great for each character. The performance of the Director stands out with the chilling and haunting delivery of their dialogue. The sound design does its job of creating a foreboding and haunting atmosphere relatively well, aside from one particular thing I’ll get into a bit later.
When it comes to gameplay, players explore their surroundings, examine items and solve puzzles to progress through the cruise ship. Everything takes place in the first person, with controls taking a little getting used to when it comes to movement. Along the way, the game will play a good amount of mind games and tricks on the player during their exploration, from shutting doors to messing around with your current surroundings and even make you end up in surreal places that don’t even resemble the cruise ship. It’s a really cool part of the gameplay experience. Also, some places, items, and occurrences play homage to some of the best horror movies of all time, like The Shining.
On top of that, some moments you’ll have to run away from monsters whenever they rear their heads at you as the Actor is utterly defenseless against them and can die in one hit. Dying doesn’t set you back too far, thanks to auto-saves before the chases even occur. Still, there’s a Safe Mode difficulty that has the monsters spawn for a Jumpscare from time to time, but they will not chase or attempt to kill you. While I think the Safe Mode is a good thing for those who want to enjoy the story, it also kills the tension during these encounters since you can just walk off and do your thing without them getting in your way.
That brings me to the biggest downsides of the experience. While the game has a haunting, claustrophobic and tense atmosphere during interactions, it mostly aims to scare the player through jumpscares, whether from sounds or visually. Those did elicit a jump from me the first few times, but it ends up getting predictable, the game loses its most prominent feature, the scares.
There is a sense of repetition as you make your way through the game, guessing what will happen behind every corner. The tension is then removed, leaving the atmosphere to pick up the slack, which it never does. The marathon to the ending was fast, and halfway through, I felt little satisfaction from the experience. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time; I just wish more was here.
Layers Of Fear 2 on Switch is a well-developed port of a decent psychological thriller. The numerous puzzles and mind games thrown at the player add a layer of engagement that sets this title apart from others in the genre. However, the reused jumpscares and predictable plot remove the player from the haunting halls of this ship to remind them that this is just a game, and they might have a better time playing one of the more recent releases from Bloober Team.
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