The Phantom Paint & Silent Hills: Layers Of Fear

You may have noticed that Metal Gear Solid V is happening today and, if you’re anything like me, all of this Kojima talk might bring Silent Hills to mind. The cancelled horror game was to combine the talents and imaginations of Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro, and its “playable teaser”, P.T., caused a heck of a stir when it landed on PS4. It’s gone now, cast into the void of unbeing by Konami. but worry not (or ‘worry a great deal’, I guess) because Layers of Fear [official site] is a splendid replacement. It’s an Early Access horror game that feels polished, complete and is so frightening that when I started playing last night, I had to wait until morning to play more.

You play a painter and he’s rather an obnoxious chap. He’s so determined to create a masterpiece, after suffering a bout of creative block, that he thinks it’s absolutely to treat everyone around him like crap. Other people, it seems, exist to be sacrificed on the altar of his greatness.

No matter though because he himself is now bound and naked upon that altar. Metaphorically. Remember how Gone Home felt like it might turn into a horror game? Layers of Fear is the horror game that never was, set within that familiar space as it becomes unfamiliar. The P.T. comparison relates to the jump scares and corridors. As in the Silent Hill teaser, you’ll spend a lot of time walking down corridors waiting for terrible things to happen.

Now, I hate jump scares. Can’t stand them. Partly that’s because I’m prone to panicking when loud noises happen and partly it’s because I like my horror to be a little more than bumps in the night. Layers of Fear earns its jump scares. They’re artfully crafted, relying on tension, creative direction and manipulation of line of sight. It helps that the game is strikingly attractive, not just in the fidelity of its environments – although it wins the Ratatouille award for best foodstuffs I’ve ever seen in a game – but in the use of paintings to create a sense of dread. Faces watching from the walls. Crying in the dark. Things lurking in the corner of your vision.

I expect Early Access horror games to lean on a gimmick and fall over when it fails to support their weight. Layers of Fear just goes straight for the jugular, using every trick in the book to put the frighteners into you. It’s not particularly inventive and it’s far from subtle, but it’s beautifully put together and startlingly effective.

The Early Access version ends rather abruptly but I’d have been perfectly happy if it were a release candidate. The developers plan to add more rooms and more terrifying trickery. Highly recommended.

It’s £5.94 on Steam Early Access right now.


  1. Synesthesia says:

    There’s a Silent Hills shaped hole in my soul. It will never be gone.

    What kind of idiot red lights a Kojima / Del Toro work? For fuck’s sake.

    • Nereus says:

      There was a hole here. It’s gone now.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Once the industry-wide mourning for what used to be, and for what might have been, runs its course, maybe “Konamis” can be a new unit of measurement for bungling or something.

      • Nereus says:

        Unfortunately if we want it to become an SI unit we would need a physical copy of P.T. and the cancelation notice rubber stamped by Konami suits that we can keep in a European university somewhere so that it is preserved for future generations to measure by.

  2. dethtoll says:

    Awesome, another Amnesia clone. We don’t have enough of those.

    • The_invalid says:

      No, we really don’t have. Or at least ones that clone the good parts.

      • dethtoll says:

        You’d think there’d have been no good parts in Amnesia to begin with!

  3. Wedge says:

    I don’t understand why you would want in on a horror game in early access, since one of the least replayable genres out there. Be something to keep an eye on if it ever get’s finished though.

  4. ensor says:

    So, a few weeks ago I finally resigned myself to the truth that I will never get to play either PT or Silent Hills. So to YouTube I went to find some Let’s Plays. Unfortunately, it seemed nigh-impossible to uncover a genuinely thoughtful LP of the demo – despite trying at least a dozen, not one of them ever thinks to stop for a second to observe all the little details in what is clearly a meticulously arranged environment. (Besides, I’m the kind of person walking sims are made for – I love nothing better than to pore over virtual minutiae.) Anyone out there know of a good, thorough playthrough?

    • Crossing says:

      Jesse Cox has a pretty decent one. It’s not every detail, but many of them. Plus there’s the Grate Debate videos. Those together have me set.

    • WitchBitch says:

      I highly recommend HarshlyCritical for his P.T. playthrough and really all his playthroughs. He plays a ton of horror games (both the good and the super awful so you can get a good laugh and don’t have to suffer through them yourself) and doesn’t fake being scared and obnoxiously scream and freak out through entire playthroughs. His reviews are critical, as his name suggests, thoughtful, and he does his best to be thorough. He’s also very smart and often throws in random facts and such that pertain to what he is playing. He’s also pretty good at voice acting so it’s even enjoyable when he reads in-game text aloud. In any case, check him out. He’s really the only LPer I’ll watch nowadays.

      Also sidenote: P.T. was designed to be played multiple times so it’ll be difficult to find a single playthrough that covers every single thing in the demo. You’ll probably end up having to watch a few if you’re trying to see it all. But HC’s has a lot in it.

    • Razumen says:

      There’s a few attempts to remake it out there, one of them is called Punity. There’s no complete remake yet, but I think that’s only a matter of time.

  5. PancakeWizard says:

    The game seems cool, but also exactly the wrong kind of game to be on Early Access.

  6. Jalan says:

    Seems like a lot of hype-pumping for something that’s technically not even finished. Not to say it isn’t deserving (I have yet to buy it, but with all the coverage about how allegedly terrifying it is I feel like it won’t live up to the legend puffed up through word of mouth marketing by the time I do get around to it) though.

    • Universal Quitter says:

      “Seems like a lot of hype-pumping for something that’s technically not even finished.”

      Have you been stranded on a desert island for the past few years of something? What state do you expect an Early Access title to be in?

      I can sympathize with people who prefer to buy finished products, even if they seem to have an idiotic tendency to buy EA and bitch about it anyway, but it seems a little late in the game to be questioning the very concept of paid alpha.

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