Horror on the Go
Another port makes its way to the Nintendo Switch eShop as more and more developers seek to get their titles on the booming system, Layers of Fear: Legacy is the title in question this time. First released a couple of years ago, this iteration of the title now adds the “Legacy” to its name as it also includes the DLC “Inheritance.”
Described as a psychological horror, you take control of a painter who for lack of a better word is going coconuts. Early on you are confronted with a blank canvas and after interacting with it the main game begins as the opening 5-10 minutes are just getting the player familiar with the controls. Those controls being pretty simple to pick up, thankfully. Layers of Fear is another walking simulator where the player can walk, hold ZR to inspect an object, and then use the control stick to interact with certain objects whilst holding ZR. The game does add in some token joy con controls and they work perfectly fine. Instead of opening doors and cupboards the previously mentioned way, the player can inspect and then give a little flick of the wrist to simulate using their own hand to open the door. It’s a perfectly fine little addition, neither here nor there.
After learning the controls and inspecting the canvas the real journey begins. Set entirely in a mansion that seems to be straight out of the 17th century, the unnamed painter traverses the halls and rooms searching for something that the game never really makes abundantly clear. The best way to describe the experience is that it seems like the mansion is playing a game with its captive on what could be called a horror roller-coaster. The pacing of the scares is quite frantic as room after room will have all kinds of tricks to play on the player. Knives being flung at you, rats popping out, books flying across rooms, cries heard in the distance, and so many more. The devs do a good job of toying with the player even more as instead of bombarding the player with scares they let the anticipation of the next one get to you as you are positive something is just around that corner, but find simply nothing.
The scares I mentioned previously may come across as a bit generic and that is an issue I found with Layers of Fear. The title for me does rely a bit too much on jump scares. It’s not the longest of games, sitting at about 4-5 hours and after sitting down with it for two hours you become almost numb to its attempts to frighten you. As I stated it does play with your expectations, but it conditions you to the point to expect something all the time to the point where there’s only so much something spooky behind a door or jumping in your face can actually scare you.
There are generic parts, but I must admit I was seriously impressed with how the team handled the scares involving paintings and actual layout of rooms themselves. The mansion is littered with paintings which are quite spooky just sitting on the walls. One springs to mind and the in-game description of the “work of art” fits it perfectly as it was disgusting, horrifying, and hilarious. That painting being “babyface,” but the actual craftsmanship that went into the scares involving paintings I found to be great. Another aspect I loved about the game was how the rooms would just change instantly with you in them. They are designed perfectly with something in a corner to catch your attention, as you go to inspect the object you turn around and find that the entire rooms has changed with no warning. It was handled excellently and it felt like as a player my mind was slipping.
The graphics are exceptional with the aesthetic design of the mansion helping out with the scares. The sound design works perfectly as well: cries in the distance, lightning and thunder outside, stomps in the distance, and the actual background music itself all combine to put the player on edge. It’s also worth mentioning that other versions of the game supposedly had framerate issues, whereas on the Switch version these seem to all be cleared up, but the Inheritance DLC did have some minor hiccups.
It’s not all great though and one of my major complaints with LoF:L is the actual gameplay. There aren’t any enemies, which is perfectly fine. However there are puzzles, but just not that many nor ones that are all that inspired. So ultimately the game just boils down to walk around, look at this object, turn around, BOO! — rinse and repeat. The story being told didn’t feel all that great either, it just felt good enough to get me through. I must admit I did get the worst ending, so the other could very well be more satisfying.
The game is short, but as stated has three endings. A lot of collectibles that are very easy to miss, I believe I only found one or two of the photographs scattered throughout the game. I found a key, but accidentally progressed through the story so I couldn’t go back to use it, so there is a reason to go back and play if you enjoyed your first walk-through. There isn’t much to say about the DLC except it is more of the same and shorter instead of the painter you now play as someone else visiting the mansion and go through the Hellish-scape.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Layers of Fear: Legacy was provided by Bloober Team.