In 2016, Bloober Team delved into the psychological horror game genre with its release of Layers of Fear. Telling the complicated story of an artist seeking to finish his magnum opus, Layers of Fear is pretty highly regarded in the horror community. It was definitely the first game to put Bloober Team on the map as far as horror goes, which led to the release of other equally creepy games like Observer and Blair Witch.
As for its debut horror game, Layers of Fear was actually based on the notorious PT, aptly named because it was a playable teaser for the cancelled Silent Hills title. In the gameplay, it’s obvious the effect PT had on the development of the game, from its eerie atmosphere to the truly haunting story told. There’s also a certain character (maybe better referred to as an entity) in Layers of Fear that looks familiar to those who played PT, but their aesthetics aren’t the only similarity they share.
Unlike the ghost in Layers of Fear, the hostile apparition in PT has a name—Lisa. As players make their way through the teaser, completing loop after loop in the same hallway and solving puzzles, they’ll encounter the visage of Lisa. If players were paying attention to the radio message being broadcast as they initially walked around the home, they’d know that Lisa was one of the victims of the family homicide described in the message.
Design-wise, Lisa is definitely terrifying. She’s a towering figure with blood-soaked clothing, gunk near her mouth, and what seems to be one eye missing while another almost pops out. Context clues from the game may explain that her eye is missing because she was shot and killed—one of the many ever-changing clues in the hallway also shows Lisa’s picture getting what seems to be a burn through the eye which may indicate where she was shot.
Layers of Fear does an excellent job characterizing its primary characters, the wife and painter/husband, despite never mentioning their names. Clues found throughout the ever-changing house will sometimes trigger audio memories, revealing to players the tumultuous life the wife had during her time with the artist. The wife in Layers of Fear, despite her scary appearance, isn’t as hostile as Lisa in PT.
While it’s true the wife’s ghost can “attack” players, it’s the memory of the wife that haunts the artist, not a tangible ghost like Lisa. The wife and artist had a challenging relationship that started out well, but eventually devolved due to his alcoholism and possible schizophrenia. She’d even left him, taking their child with her, but after getting caught in a fire, he took the wife and child back home to care for them. The wife eventually dies by suicide, and the artist must wrangle with his guilt about his role in her death.
Aesthetically, though, the wife and Lisa are very similar. Both of them have deformed faces, tattered clothing, and a presence as ominous as it is terrifying. Though it’s eventually revealed that the wife isn’t as deadly as she seems, she’s still horrifying to encounter during Layers of Fear, especially when players haven’t learned much about her story yet. While Lisa is splattered with blood, the wife actually has a tattered dress that’s covered with paint.
Both the wife and Lisa ended up in tragic situations that cost them their lives, which is probably what they have in common the most. Though no one knows what PT would have been if it were fully fleshed out, it’s safe to say that Layers of Fear is an equally distressing horror game to play in its absence.
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