|Layers of Fear 2|
|release date||May 2019|
|Genre||Adventure game, horror|
The Bloober Team studio has already established itself as a team with an extraordinary look at story-driven narrative games, pushing the boundaries of perception of «walking simulators». The best example of their work is Observer, which skillfully combined surrealism, tension and deep plot. Recently, a new project Layers of Fear 2 was released, which became a continuation of the first game of the studio. In fact, this is an independent game with an independent plot.
If in Layers of Fear we studied the dark nooks and crannies of the artist’s soul, now in the center of the history of cinema and acting reality. At the same time, the game from the first seconds attacks us with vague visions and strange hints, without trying to build a coherent narrative. A certain hero finds himself on an empty liner. From the general environment and notes, it is clear that he is an actor on the set of the film. But beyond the scope of this synopsis, the essence of what is happening remains vague and unclear.
The game does not even try to be clear, quickly moving into the sphere of irrational narration, where different images replace each other. In essence, this is a journey through the corridors and interiors, which periodically lead us to strange places.
As with all Bloober Team games, we operate within a changing reality where the world is deceptive and fickle. Moving along the corridor between the cabins, you can go to the stage of the theater or to the hall with a strange cinematic entourage. There are duplicate rooms when you end up in the same place. Or you can run into a dead end, turn around — and you are already in another room.
All this is accompanied by a play with color, when the picture periodically loses color, plunging us into a black and white world. And this is successfully combined with the theatrical and cinematic surroundings of the early 20th century. This dark movie world is filled with noises, strange images and frightening silhouettes. Sometimes the world is transformed into irrational pictures, reminiscent of the incarnation of Silent Hill on black and white shabby film.
The problem is that behind the pretentious images and the strange irrational atmosphere, there is a meaningful emptiness. The plot is as difficult to distinguish as the essence of visual images. We follow the scenario path through terrible and not so visions, periodically collecting bits of information about the past and the present. And all this in the form of vague monologues of an invisible narrator or through dialogue-memories that can be vaguely correlated with the hero. There are surprisingly simple and laconic reports from the ship’s personnel, which only reinforces the sense of lost touch with reality.
Why are we moving forward? What are we trying to find and learn? Do not be distracted by stupid questions, we have metaphor and thoughtfulness here! And then there’s the monster. And the appearance of some material embodiment of darkness is absolutely understandable, because it gives at least some sense to our actions, giving rise to a simple motivation in the spirit of “run away and be saved.”
Interactivity comes down to opening doors, pressing levers and turning valves. Sometimes you have to close the doors, escaping from that same monster, and this, admittedly, gives the right tension. The reconstructed environment quickly ceases to amaze, although the excessive irrationally sometimes gives rise to a feeling of nervous discomfort. But for the most part, the game creates a sense of boredom. Instead of intrigue — a heap of images, where rare frightening moments do not make the difference.
In technical terms, Layers of Fear 2 is much stronger than most «walking simulators», as evidenced by the movements, work with the environment and the rare appearance of reliable figures of people. Although a number of moments suffer from an unnecessarily dark picture, when it is not clear where to go next. Perhaps this is one of the methods of forcing a sense of hopelessness, but it does not relieve the feeling of irritation.
Such games usually exploit the theme of searching for a missing person or investigating tragic events. And on such a frame, the construction of psychological images or mystical events is further built. Even the Observer, with its surrealism, was a story about people, a mysterious adventure in which one wanted to find answers. Layers of Fear 2 immediately pours a bucket of foul-smelling psychologism on you, where the meaning of what is happening is lost behind the flickering images. The developers were too carried away by metaphor and attempts to play «great art». Against such a background, even Close to the Sun begins to play with new colors — for all its roughness, the game has an interesting story, in Layers of Fear 2 there is only senseless pretentiousness and emptiness.