A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Layers of Fear 2 is a downloadable survival horror game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game's a sequel to 2016's Layers of Fear, and casts players as a mentally disturbed actor suffering post-traumatic stress as a result of childhood abuse. Dialogue contains occasional profanity in the form of words like “bulls--t,” “g-ddamn,” bastards,” and “f--k." Players are exposed to disturbing voice over between an abusive father and his young son, and implied violence pervades the storyline. Players are asked to shoot human (or humanoid) targets, and frequently encounter mutilated and dismembered mannequins and hallways covered in blood In some sequences, players can be chased and killed by a monstrous demon-like entity. Beyond this, the general tone of the game ranges from low-grade tension to outright horror, with thick darkness, frightening imagery, and frequent jump scares.
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What's it about?
LAYERS OF FEAR 2 is a survival horror game intended for mature audiences. Players start on an abandoned cruise ship which serves as the setting for a new movie project. Having been hired to star in the film, players will explore the ship looking for clues to the rest of the crew's whereabouts in the form of telegrams, audio recordings, and film reels. Along the way, they'll uncover mysterious items, trigger memories, and unleash a monstrous evil. Most of the gameplay involves creeping slowly around in dark, atmospheric rooms (both real and surreal settings) and solving occasional logic puzzles. Exploration's broken up by occasional survival-horror action sequences where players need quick reflexes and nerves of steel to escape things that lurk in the dark. The changing environments and story can result in multiple endings, which can encourage multiple playthroughs.
Is it any good?
This survival-horror sequel does a fairly good job of walking the tightrope of familiarity and innovation, but lacking the surprise of its predecessor, could feel like “too much of the same.” There's something inherently spooky in Layers of Fear 2 about cruise ships, especially the Art Deco ships of the 1930's, and the claustrophobic hallways, moody lighting, and cage-style elevators set the stage for horror. As in the original Layers of Fear, the main character's got some issues that need working out. Clues to your outer and inner lives pop up in the form of messages from your agent and notes to yourself. The more doors you open and clues you find, the stranger things get. All too soon, it's hard to tell the difference between reality and nightmare.
While this kind of gameplay's expertly done, the problem is that scares aren't scary when you know they're coming. Fans of the first game will anticipate the jump scares fairly easily, and that lowers their impact. The story will feel like a bit of a re-tread too. Without spoiling anything, let's just say it involves a specific kind of disaster and the workings of a highly dysfunctional family. (Note: along with disturbing dialog, visuals suggest and show kids in serious peril. Add to that the prevalence of darkness, things jumping out from the dark, scary, sometimes moving mannequins, and sprays of blood, and this is not a game for younger kids.) Players on the Switch may also want to use the Pro controller instead of the analog nubs, which aren't the most precise when it comes to shooting sequences or the quick reflex moments were analog drift can result in restarting a section all over again. Still, despite covering some fairly familiar ground, horror fans will enjoy when the game makes them tip-toe. The prospect of being chased keeps tension high, dream sequences provide much-needed weirdness, and the gravelly narration by Tony Todd (of Candyman fame) is sure to get horror fans' hearts racing. These, along with references to classic horror movies and the use of all-too-adult themes regarding blame, regret, guilt, and shame make this a memorable psychological horror adventure that's well worth the experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $26.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Gun Media
- Release date: May 20, 2021
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Sexual Themes, Blood, Language, Intense Violence
- Last updated: May 20, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.