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For me, scary games have really come into their own over the past few years.
With games like Outlast and Amnesia doing the rounds, it was only natural that P.T. would take a little inspiration from these titles and twist it into the world of Silent Hill. Sadly, as we all know, it would never be. P.T. made such a lasting impression that people wanted to see more, and a number of games inspired by the demo began production, most notably Allison Road and Layers of Fear.
Layers of Fear isn’t entirely inspired by P.T – in fact, on a number of occasions, I felt this game shared more with Gone Home than it did P.T.
Advances with lighting, scripting and graphics have really made this genre come alive in a new way. In the past games like Silent Hill relied heavily on the graphical limitations of the day to secure its scares. Layers of Fear uses multiple techniques to secure its atmosphere, but easily the most scary thing in Layers is a bus; we’ll go over that later.
Despite the fact that P.T wasn’t the only influence on this game, it’s an impossible influence to ignore. The techniques that P.T used were very cinematic and Layers followed suit. Utilising some of the old favourites like the jump scare, the build scare (a long period of tension building followed by a horrific scare to break the tension) and my favourite technique of all, the Lewton Bus.
The 1942 movie Cat People featured a scene which came from the mind of it’s producer Val Lewton, it involved the breaking of tension by a bus screeching up next to the main character on a quiet, eerie park road. To describe the scene it doesn’t sound scary at all, but it’s the jumpiest moment in the movie. The technique can be used in many ways, but the tension is always broken by a sudden, unthreatening scare. This technique is known universally as a ‘Lewton Bus’. Layers uses that technique frequently and unlike jump scares which can get old, the Lewton Bus can be deployed in various different ways and use various different methods. I recall being made to jump by crockery falling out of a cupboard.
Layers of Fear is a ghost train. No more and no less. You travel around the house, discover the story, build tension and get scared. That’s about it. And that’s the beauty of Layers, it only does one thing and it does it well. Take it for what it is and you’re going to have a good time.