Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
When Layers of Fear first came out, it was something of a divisive title. It relied heavily on jump scares and tension building, making excellent use of audio. However, it’s somewhat slow burn pacing and gameplay was not for everyone. If you were a fan of this title when it released, the good news is that Layers of Fear VR is the same game you enjoyed the first time around – it’s just getting a PSVR coat of paint that allows the game to pop in a new and interesting way. If you did not care for the title when it first came out? Odds are this new take on Layers of Fear won’t be what makes you a convert.
I enjoyed Layers of Fear when it came out. I was in the camp of gamers who could admit that while the game had some pacing issues at times, its overall atmosphere (which was ably assisted by excellent sound design) kept me engaged – despite a relatively short play time of a few hours. However, Layers of Fear is now nearly half a decade old, and it is showing its age a bit. It has had sequels. So the VR touch-up feels a bit late in getting here.
That being said, because the original “flat screen” game was handled from a first-person perspective, it is one of those titles I sometimes thought about as a potentially great fit for virtual reality. I can’t help it – I’m a sucker for horror games and their jump scares get magnified in VR.
For those who have not yet played the original game and are unaware of the story – it’s built around an artist looking to pain his masterpiece. Your character is exploring this house and essentially the gameplay starts to turn into something of a series of fetch quests, prompting you to explore the house to work through different ‘layers’ in the panting. However, as you trek through the house, what is real and what is not becomes an increasingly blurry line that builds up to most of the scares experienced.
The implementation however, is not completely perfect. This was not a game that was built with VR in mind. It is a title that is half a decade old with virtual reality bolted onto it. As such, the visuals are not always perfect. I really did appreciate how effectively the VR touch-up made the atmosphere and scares that much more palpable, but there were times where the interactions just felt a little janky and off, making it more challenging than it should have been to simply interact with an object in the environment. There is not a ton of actual gameplay to be had in either iteration of Layers of Fear – you mostly walk about and interact with things. But the VR implementation just feels clumsy at times and that hinders the experience.
I found Layers of Fear VR to be a comfortable game to play however, which kind of surprised me. Sometimes moving around in a slightly claustrophobic environment in virtual reality can cause a bit of VR sickness, but I never ran into that here. There’s some odd distortion effects that occur as well, and I was surprised that they did not disorient me more. I dare say – I just thought they looked really cool in VR. Really the only time I struggled was with the sometimes frustrating interactions / inability to move because I got hung up on something in the environment unseen while walking. Similar to other first-person horror games, Layers of Fear VR relies heavily on perspective. The devs do a nice job with lines of sight and angles to help pull off some of the game’s more notable scary moments.
I will say that from a quality standpoint, Layers of Fear started slowly for me and got better in the second half. Now, because I played it before, there were a few moments that were slightly diminished for me. It’s been a few years, so there were definitely cobwebs in places, but I had some moments where I could clearly recall what was coming as well.
Layers of Fear VR is targeting a very specific niche. It’s a horror game that is somewhat short in nature and relies heavily on jump scares. This plays into the VR medium, and to that end I still had fun with it – but the original game came out several years ago and the VR here is tacked onto to an already slightly older title. The end result is a somewhat mixed bag that is appropriately scarier than the original, but also suffers a bit in terms of gameplay. If you are a fan of first-person horror games and have a PSVR, Layers of Fear VR is worth a go. If this genre is not normally to your liking though, odds are the VR additions won’t convince you to overlook this game’s issues.Score: 7 / 10