Layers of Fear 2

If you’re into horror movies, chances are you’ve heard the term “elevated horror.” Personally, I’m not a huge fan of using that descriptor — partially because I think it’s dumb, but also because it essentially communicates that all other horror movies are beneath these so-called elevated horror flicks.

As much as I dislike the term, I still get it. These are movies that go beyond the basic scares of the traditional haunted house or slasher flick. They make you think a little deeper, and more often than not, they mess with your head.

Layers of Fear 2 from developer Bloober Team could probably be classified as an elevated horror game. But I’m not going to do that. Instead, what I will do is say that it’s a smart, beautifully paced, and genuinely chilling experience — and the Switch version is a horror lover’s dream come true. This definitely belongs in your Switch horror game collection.

While playing Layers of Fear 2, I mostly played it in the dark. I was alone in bed with the lights off. At one point I even set my alarm for 4 in the morning just so I could enjoy the game’s scares in complete darkness. Okay, okay, so I hit the snooze button a few times — hey, it’s hard to wake up that early! Whatever. The point is that I was able to wake up around 4(ish) in the morning — way before the roosters around here, mind you — to play Layers of Fear 2, and it was legit scary.

Layers of Fear 2

It almost feels like playing Layers of Fear 2 on Switch is the way that game was intended to be experienced. Don’t get me wrong — I know playing on a big HD set with surround sound is cool and sets a certain cinematic mood. Hell, that’s the best way to enjoy a horror movie! But for me, holding my Switch Lite up to my face, with the screen’s display being the only light around me — while wearing earbuds to hear every creaky door and ghost whisper in the game — just made it that much more unsettling.

Ultimately, you’ll play Layers of Fear 2 however you like, but I recommend the more personalized method I used.

Now, if you’ve never played this game, what the heck is it and why is it scary? Where the original Layers of Fear had more of a fine art theme going on, this sequel puts you in the shoes of an actor on a huge passenger ship. The ship is empty for the most part, save for your memories, the echoes of past passengers, and the creepy things that go bump in the night.

Layers of Fear 2

The reason Layers of Fear 2 works so well — and why so many would likely classify it as elevated horror — is the way it distorts your perception of reality. You’ll pick up a flashlight, half-eaten fruit, or other artifact, and you’ll hear the voices of children playing pretend ship captain — the lost memories of the ocean liner’s previous passengers. You’ll find movie posters and hear the words of your director. You’ll find ship logs written by the boat’s crew where they talk about investigating strange noises and not finding anything — those darn ghosts!

All of this stuff is pretty self-explanatory and helps create an intriguing back story for you to follow along.

But then, the game will shift moods. As you explore, you’ll find yourself switching between black-and-white sequences and full-color ones — what’s the reality here? Are you going mad? What’s happening in real time, and what’s just a memory? To that end, are these your memories, or those of an ill-fated passenger? Hell, are you that ill-fated passenger?

Layers of Fear 2 succeeds as true horror because it forces you to actively ask yourself these questions as you play. It bends the player character’s reality, memories, and hallucinations to the point where you may not always know what’s what.

Layers of Fear 2

While all this is happening, you’ll hear whispers and objects being moved around you. Make no mistake about it: Something messed up is definitely going on here, and it all becomes apparent when inanimate stage dummies begin to morph into hulking, grotesque monsters that give chase. These run-and-hide moments are genuinely terrifying, and they’re used sparingly so as to not expose the game’s scary tricks too much. Not to mention, they’re the perfect culmination to the ever-growing tension and dread you feel as you move around the mysterious ship and witness moving silhouettes and eerie sounds.

Of course, as great of a payoff of these encounters may be, they can lose a bit of that horror luster that makes them so scary. If you’re grabbed by one of these malevolent spirits, you’ll be sent back to a checkpoint to do the section over. That’s fine because, well, that’s how video games work! The problem is that retrying any given sequence a second, third, or fourth time makes it feel less scary and more like your typical get-through-this-obstacle video-game moment.

There’s an option in Layers of Fear 2 that won’t let enemies kill you, too. So if being chased by spirits is a bit too much for you but you still want to enjoy the game’s eerie atmosphere, that’s a great option to have handy. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this option for most players, but it’s there in case you get too much anxiety while running from the enemies.

Regardless of which play option you choose, there’s nothing quite like walking through a cargo room and seeing a human-shaped specter staring at you before walking out of your line of sight. Not to mention, the way the ship actually morphs as you walk through is both distorting and fascinating. You’ll walk into a room, hear the door close behind you, do a thing, and then turn around, only to see that the layout has changed — the door you went through is now a long passage for you to investiagte.

Layers of Fear 2

There are a few puzzles that you’ll have to solve to progress. A lot of these are fairly straightforward, but there are also a few head-scratchers, as well as some puzzles that are just kind of obtuse. I probably could’ve gone without any puzzles, only because as a story-driven and story-building horror experience, Layers of Fear 2 would’ve worked even better completely uninterrupted.

While playing Layers of Fear 2, I constantly thought about the religious horror film Saint Maud. That movie also plays with the viewers’ sense of reality and messes with what you think might be real and what’s in the protagonist’s head. And without spoiling anything, it culminates with one of the hardest hitting endings I’ve ever seen in a horror movie.

In a lot of ways, Layers of Fear 2 is more like a horror movie than a horror game, which is probably why it didn’t need any puzzles. Even with the puzzles, the game is just so smart about how it presents nearly every scenario that it’s worth a look by anyone who’s into any facet of horror. And if you fancy yourself a fan of horror movies specifically, you’ll be delighted by voice over work from Tony Todd of Candyman fame. Not to mention all the references to horror films like The Shining!

This is a legitimately terrifying game that will scare the hell out of you — especially if you play it at a weird hour like 3 or 4 in the morning. Just don’t blame me if you start hearing noises in your house.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x