Are you looking for a survival horror that jeopardizes the coronaries? Do you want to test the shock absorber of the new gaming chair with exaggerated jumps of fear? Have you stocked up on toilet paper? Whatever category you belong to, you have opened the wrong page: Layers of Fear 2, a continuation of an indie released at the end of 2016 which, thanks also to the complicity of a generous Humble Bundle giveaway, has entered the arthouse players circuit, it is not at all the kind of game you expect, although the title can draw on hoax. The layers of the fear they are those of an artist who, due to a difficult past, risks losing his mind. We are therefore faced with a psychological thriller that puts the cards on the script, on a scenography that recalls the dioramas and on the sound effects which, as per tradition, represent the most important pillar of the third game of the Polish Bloober Team. Follow us as we explain in detail what are the main elements of this sequel in ours review.
If in the first Layers of Fear the player played the role of a painter on the verge of madness, in this sequel the point of view is that of a famous actor who embarked on the Icarus liner to shoot a Hollywood blockbuster in the middle of the ocean. The idea of spending several days on a ship does not thrill him, but his agent is convinced that the game is worth the candle and persuades him to embark on the journey unaware of the consequences it may bring. L'adventure begins in a booth, where you return at the end of each of the five acts that make up the game. A projector, initially empty, will be used to display the frames collected during the chapters, while the walls will be enriched with film posters in turn scattered in the most disparate corners. All pieces of a puzzle that allow you to get a clearer idea of the reasons that cause the protagonist so much pain. The first minutes are spent wandering through the corridors and deserted rooms of this relative of the Titanic, collecting some objects, newspaper clippings, notes that tell the parts of a story. Often voiceovers will help to understand what happened; at other times there will be apparently motionless mechanical automata crudely reproducing scenes from James' past or emotional states.
Although it is set exclusively on board the Icarus (where the progenitor took place inside a villa), Layers of Fear 2 boasts a remarkable variety of locations, all united by the narrow and claustrophobic spaces characteristic of a cruise ship of the early twentieth century. It will soon be discovered that the structure of the boat only acts as a trigger to plumb the innermost meanders of the human mind, in a sort of Dante's descent into hell, where the first levels are the most similar, in terms of architecture and color tones, to the everyday reality, to become more and more twisted and monochromatic. The designers used the historical setting (between the thirties and forties) to draw inspiration from the timeless classics of stars and stripes cinema. The gifts are present at every turn; we found references to 2001: A Space Odyssey; The Wizard of Oz; Journey to the Moon; Alice in Wonderland, but we are sure that film lovers will be able to find others.
From the point of view of the actual gameplay Layers of Fear 2 does not make substantial improvements compared to the predecessor that had earned the unenviable name of door simulator: in practice, the main activity remains precisely that of opening the doors. To make the exploration a little more lively, thus also raising the level of suspense, the developers have included some very successful technical tricks. One of the typical examples is the following: you reach the door at the end of a corridor; trying to open it you discover that it is closed, but looking back you realize that the setting has changed and that there are new ways out to go. The imaginary line that leads to the next level is intuitive and you hardly ever run the risk of getting lost, but there are some "secret" rooms (or rather not very highlighted), which deserve to be found because they contain clues that make the story more intelligible.
Fortunately in this thriller psychological not only do the doors open: certain passages require you to escape from a shadow that haunts us from the first minutes (these are the sequences where the voltage reaches its maximum peaks, without becoming unbearable), or to avoid beams of light which, hitting the player, force him to repeat the sequence. There are also some very simple puzzles; after all, much more could not be expected from a title that decides to deprive itself of the inventory (which in the mapping of the keys should be consulted, even if in practice it does not work) and which, by its very nature, develops all interior of rooms with ridiculous sizes. There are also "sliding doors" (forgive the pun): circumstantial situations in which to choose between two paths - the second of which is not always intuitive - thus directing the final outcome.
- Sistema Operativo: Windows 10 Pro 64 bit
- Processor: AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
- Video card: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2800
- Memory: 16 GB of RAM
- Operating system: Windows 7 64 bit
- Processore: Intel Core i5-3470 (3.2 GHz) o AMD A8-7600 (3.1 GHz)
- Memory: 5 GB of RAM
- Scheda video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti o AMD Radeon R7 265
- DirectX: 11 version
- Memory: 14 GB of available space
- Sound Card: DirectX 11.0 compatible
- Operating system: Windows 10 64 bit
- Processore: Intel Core i5-6500 (3.2 GHz) o AMD Ryzen 5 1600
- Memory: 8 GB of RAM
- Scheda video: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 o AMD Radeon RX 590
Technically the work of the boys of Bloober Team it is well made. For this sequel the bar has been raised thanks to the use of Unreal Engine 4, which has taken the place of the Unity of the first title and which has allowed the creation of even more detailed environments, although always not very interactive. To be fair, however, we would have expected to see something more from the change in technology. More than the technical quality, the skill of the designers in knowing how to reproduce very evocative scenarios, able to project effective images even with few elements and in limited environments in three dimensions, is to be appreciated. It is a trademark of the Polish software house, which we had already had the opportunity to appreciate even in the valid Observer.
It goes without saying that the lion's share is played by the soundtrack and above all by the environmental effects: hearing a door close behind you, moving with the anxiety of the noises coming from some adjacent cabin, running like hell with the enemy always approaching moreover, they are all situations that, although they cannot be defined as original, work well by preventing the journey inside the Icarus from turning into a carefree Sunday outing. The dubbing, despite being entrusted among others to Tony Todd (one who is at home on Broadway), did not convince us at all, ultimately resulting almost out of place. In the press kit, the developers announced a longer duration of the adventure compared to the first Layers of Fear: a promise not kept, since it took us just over three hours to complete our first game. Once finished, the plus mode is unlocked, to be tried also to be able to view an alternative ending, but we remain on rather low longevity levels, also in relation to the proposed price.
A winning formula cannot be changed: this is what the Bloober guys must have thought who, after the excellent commercial success of the first Layers of Fear, slavishly replicated the structure by simply changing location and adding a few more touches of interactivity. The result is pleasant and will not fail to find the consensus of those who had appreciated the first chapter, but it is a product that remains destined for a very specific niche of the market and beyond the reach of anyone who expects something more from a videogame. to open a door.
- Well presented story
- Distressing atmosphere
- Sound effects in the right place
- Interactivity at the minimum terms
- Disappointing dubbing
- Low longevity