In retrospect, Bloober Team’s house of horrors videogame Layers of Fear was a perfect fit for VR as this Oculus Quest encounter with the spooky mansion proves.
Arriving 3 months after the Rift version and some 4 years after the original PC Layers of Fear, the game retains its hallmark series of creaky doors, odd environmental puzzles and jump scares that made the original game so appealing. This gradually builds over the game into a true horror story with some pretty horrific images to match, but not before you’ve spent quite a while wondering the supposedly empty halls of your old mansion, piecing together your past relationship with your wife and daughter and haunted as much by memory as by the spirits that gradually make themselves known.
So, yes, Layers of Fear has a pretty slow build up but the way it starts to mess with your head over that time, slowly drip-feeding the dread in your mind, works really well for the most part. It’s something the original game did well anyway but in VR it’s right there in in your face. While this is great from a visual standpoint, there is a slight issue with those who don’t have great VR sea legs (and I count myself among these people, as you may know from previous reviews). The effects often distort the screen or move things about rapidly and this isn’t great for motion sickness. I managed roughly an hour each time before having to rest but it really depended on how many scenes there were with these effects in.
The rest of the game hasn’t differed greatly from its entertaining and spooky origins on PC, which is a good thing for fans but does raise a couple of interesting design issues as far as VR is concerned. A few of these have been fixed since the Rift release a few months back, a positive for having to wait for the native Quest port, but the main bugbear for me was opening and closing doors. Often handles would need precise manoeuvring in order to fully open or close them, something that doesn’t come naturally to this game. It’s not a game changer but it does break the immersion somewhat. There’s also a little clipping where the environment can’t quite cope with containing your character but it doesn’t happen often enough to be annoying.
The important thing, though, is that Layers of Fear in VR is immersive and really does provide a growing sense of unsease that sets it apart from many of the other horror VR games that just go for the jump scares. For those who like their horror a little more thoughtful, it’s well worth stepping in to this adventure, as long as you bring your VR sea legs.