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Video Game / Layers of Fear

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Layers of Fear is a horror Environmental Narrative Game created by the Bloober Team. The player takes on the role of an insane painter slowly making his way through an ever-shifting house. A DLC, Inheritance, was released on August 2, 2016, starring his daughter.

A sequel called Layers Of Fear 2 has been annouced for release in 2019.

This game provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Possibly done deliberately. You never truly learn what happened to the wife or daughter (outside of suggestions and hints), and there's a few other things that are given a lot of set-up (like "too many apples", or the repeated room with books frozen in mid-fall) but ultimately go nowhere. However, the Inheritance DLC does follow up on some of these questions, great and small. It is revealed that his daughter survived and was taken by social services. And the apples turn up in a setpiece. Yes, there are way too many of them.
  • The Alcoholic: Bottles of beer and wine are scattered throughout the house, and a receipt that turns up early on shows, among its items, "30 booze". Flashbacks reveal that the artist drinks heavily because he thinks it helps him work.
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  • Alien Geometries: The house appears to be this. In the prologue and one of the epilogues it appears to be a normal house if poorly maintained. However, once the game proper begins, if you walk through one door and then attempt to leave through it, you may find yourself in a completely different room than where you had started - assuming, of course, that it didn't lock behind you. Sometimes the mere act of turning around changes details of the room, including making doorways vanish or appear elsewhere.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: The Artist is implied to have PTSD induced schizophrenia, hallucinations and psychosis. You can find several medals tucked away in drawers early on as well a drawer full of them in the office with the phone puzzle and "Babyface."
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Seems to be set somewhere in the early-to-mid 20th century, but the language used in the notes and letters scattered throughout the house seems much more modern. (Complicating matters is that Mr. Scooter, a toy that features heavily in Inheritance, is a real and very modern toy, being released in 1999)
  • Ambiguous Situation: There are several notes about the artist being on trial for something and conversing with his lawyer, but what it is about isn't all clear:
    • It could be a custody battle/some other legal trouble involving the artist and his wife, considering one of the memory items is a whiskey bottle that implies the artist hit his daughter.
    • There are a few hostile notes from the wife, where she explains that she has thoughts about murdering the Artist, so he could have killed her in self-defense.
    • One of the notes from the lawyer is about not having the Artist plead insanity and lay low. And the memories the body parts call up can be seen as him confessing at a murder trial, which means he could have killed her due to his mental issues.
    • The daughter could be alive and well, but authorities took her away from her dad due to his alcoholism and lack of a wife. Since he has no idea what happened to her, she's dead to him, in a sense. Considering the reputation parents often face when authorities seize children and the likely guilt he still has over the incident, he may feel that he failed her.
  • And I Must Scream: The fate of the three kids in the bonus level; see Be Careful What You Wish For. Also the fate of the artist in one ending, as he is trapped in a cycle of obsessive mental degradation alone in his ruined house. And, for that matter, the atrocities he likely committed in his quest for the ultimate masterpiece.
  • The Atoner: Implied that this is what the Artist is trying to do, hoping that painting one more beautiful picture of his wife will somehow fix everything. Then subverted in that the only ending that turns out well is the one where he paints a picture of himself instead, moving on through sheer selfishness rather than atonement (or, more generously, through focusing on his painting rather than on a past he cannot change).
  • Bathos: In the Inheritance DLC, watching Mr. Scooter (the toy cat) go off with its... children? It's a weird moment, but a very different sort of "weird" than the rest of the game.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The Halloween level has scattered pages about three kids using a Ouija Board. The first one, a girl, wishes to be beautiful and is turned into a porcelain doll. The second wishes to escape after not being able to fit out a window, and rats gnaw off his limbs. The final one wishes that none of this is real and is trapped in a painting.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In one ending, the artist decides not to paint yet another portrait of his wife and child, successfully completing a self-portrait instead; the artist seems satisfied with it, enough to move on from the tragedy, and the portrait ends up framed and displayed in a gallery, indicating that it was received well enough to revive the artist's career. However, the artist is still no closer to being reunited with his daughter, nor does he appear to have any desire to do so - a possible indication that his recovery was only achieved by embracing his selfishness. A more optimistic approach to this ending is that he realizes that he will never get his family back no matter how much he repents and struggles. By focusing on the present and what he can do now, he moves on and returns to his career, the only part of his past that he can possibly return to.
    • In the DLC, one ending has the now grown daughter apparently experiencing the beginnings of the same instability and obsession over perfection that her father showed, now directed at her own daughter's art.
  • Bonus Stage: A limited level was released for Halloween that was only available for a month.
  • Camera Screw: Limited and actually relevant. When the Artist walks, the camera moves like he is limping and on several occasions, the camera starts rotating like if he is having vertigo.
  • Child Prodigy: If you follow the directions of her parents in the DLC, the daughter could be considered this, of both music and art.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The game is full of them.
  • Creepy Doll: Features prominently throughout the game. At one point the screen is filled with them. Sometimes they seem to move on their own...
  • Downer Ending: In the most common ending, the artist completes the painting of his wife's pre-accident face, only to watch her beauty deform and burn up into a skeletal horror. Enraged, he picks up the painting and tosses it into a room filled with identical paintings, revealing that the game was but one of his many attempts. After this, he walks through his house as the trashed wreck it really is, locks himself up in his painting room again, and pulls the tarp off a new blank painting. But the player can walk around the house before going to the studio, and if you look in the real version of the room where the "reject" paintings are, you can see what they really look like: he's actually succeeded every time (or, at worst, drawn her with a relatively small scar), but his own madness will only let him see the skeletal failure.
    • In another ending, the artist completes a portrait of his wife and child, only to realize that his artistic efforts can't bring back either of them and instead he burns himself alive along with his many failures rather than go on living a lie.
    • In the Too Little, Too Late ending of the DLC, his daughter ends up most-likely dying as she accidentally sets the house ablaze in her anger at her father, and is trapped inside under some rubble.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Distantly throughout much of the game, but it also is used to punctuate some of the set pieces, particularly ones taking place in hallways with windows.
  • Driven to Suicide: Flashbacks in the final section indicate that the artist's wife slit her wrists in the bathtub. If he didn't kill her himself, that is.
    • In the "Wife and Daughter" ending, the artist realizes that his attempts at capturing the past through art are pointless; so, he sets both his finished masterpiece (which is, of course, of his wife and daughter) and his many rejects on fire, pausing just long enough to embrace the portrait before he burns alive.
  • Expy: The twitching phantom that stalks the artist in later levels is a clear send-up of Lisa from Silent Hills. Both are the spirits of the protagonists' deceased wives, both move in a surreal manner, and both kill you with protracted and disturbing jump scares while holding you close to their faces. The only difference is that the artist's wife is possibly a hallucination, while Lisa was almost certainly real given the setting.
  • Humanoid Abomination: A rippling, twitching figure starts stalking you around the game's midpoint and is the only proper enemy in the proceedings. It's all-but outright stated to be what remains of the protagonist's deceased wife, but whether it's truly her vengeful spirit or the artist's hallucination is up for debate.
  • In the Blood: The daughter seems to carry the same possibility for insanity and rage that her father had, shown in both the DLC's good and bad endings. She does say that insanity runs in her family.
  • Jump Scare: The game is full of them. Some are caused by the enemy detailed above and lead to a Non-Standard Game Over, but most of them are used to cap off long scenes of tension building.
  • Kick the Dog: Or rather burn the poor thing alive.
    • The DLC seems to imply that the Artist chopped the dog up. In any event, the DLC makes it even more evident that the Artist hated the dog, and the daughter didn't seem to care for it much, either.
  • Mad Artist: The protagonist is making a painting out of flesh, blood, and other bodily components. Maybe. For good measure, it's never established where he's getting these particular items: either he's mutilating himself for the sake of his art, his wife and child have been cannibalized to make way for his masterpiece, or he's just hallucinating the whole thing.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The game gives plenty of evidence to suggest three things. One, the Artist is hallucinating everything, and that the twisted mansion is brought on by a combination of guilt, stress, alcohol, and mental illness. Two, he's genuinely being tormented by the spirit of his dead wife (and maybe the daughter, if you subscribe to the theory that he killed her), and forced to endure a repeating cycle of horror. Or three, it's a mixture of both. His mind is playing tricks, but supernatural forces as represented by his wife's ghost are clearly at work.
  • Mind Screw: The whole game is full of it.
  • Minor Injury Overreaction: The extent of the wife's scarring may have been this, with the Artist being the one doing the overreacting. In the endings, when you're back in the real version of the house, you can see what all the demonic paintings from the Wife ending really looked like. Some of them are his wife from before the accident, while some of them show her with only a little scarring on the side of her face. It's implied that in his madness, the Artist instead could only see his wife as if she'd had all her skin burnt off, even in his own paintings of her.
  • Multiple Endings: Three of them, though none of them are really good. The DLC also has three endings.
  • No Name Given: The artist's name is never revealed. Newspaper clippings that presumably reveal it are scratched out.
    • In the ending of the DLC, some blocks in the father's shrine to his daughter spell 'REGINA', hinting that it might be her name.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The game keeps the creepy pressure on even when nothing is happening by keeping you unsure whether something is going to happen. Frequently, nothing continues to happen.
  • Off with His Head!: Implied through the many, many appearances of random disembodied baby heads throughout the house. There's also at least once where we see a creepy kid's drawing of this happening to Little Red Riding Hood, of all people.
  • Psychological Horror: The game does not use much of standard scares of other horror games, such as scarce supply, strong enemies, and hiding tactics. The jumpscares through the game are ultimately harmless and 'embracing death' does not set back the game and in fact is a part of gameplay. However, the atmosphere and Mind Screw make the gameplay genuinely creepy, and the story revealed through the game clearly shows a man slowly descending into madness and a woman driven to suicide.
  • Public Domain Paintings: All of the paintings seen throughout the house are implied to have been painted by the Artist, but many of them are actually famous paintings in the real world (though some are distorted in some way, most notably "Lady with an Ermine", which is twisted into "Rat-Lady With a Snarling Rat").
  • Real Fake Door: Some doors will lead to nothing more than a brick wall.
  • Rule of Three: The third time you have to use the elevator, the power goes out and it plummets to the bottom of the elevator shaft.
  • Schmuck Bait: "DON'T LOOK BEHIND YOU"
  • Swarm of Rats: The protagonist believes that his house is infested with rats. No one else can see them. Except maybe the wife, if the rat picture that talks about "poisoning the paint" is by her.
  • Spiritual Successor: Bears many similarities, both in atmosphere and story, to Silent Hills (with some nods to PT in particular), albeit with a visual style more reminiscent of Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: One of the DLC's endings is the daughter embracing both the talent and the madness she inherited from her father, becoming an artist on her own: "I was once told that insanity runs in my family. Let it run!"
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The game is (presumably) this due to the artist's mental issues.
  • Villain Protagonist: It's heavily implied that the artist emotionally abused his wife after her disfigurement (and possibly cheated on her, though that may have been the wife's paranoia) and did the same to his daughter - and that he might have gone so far as to murder one or both of them - though like most of the game, this is up for interpretation.
  • Whispering Ghosts: On the PS4, at least, your controller starts whispering when near a "memory" item, which gives snatches of one-sided dialogue related to the item.

Example of: