Creation is inherently frightening.

It's one of the classic philosophical concepts. To make something is to put some of yourself into it. The more of a creative act it is, making your own decisions and hoping they can stand on their own, the more terrifying it is. To be an artist is to grapple with constant terror, every new piece another chance for it all to come crashing down when they judge you and find you lacking.

And that's the life of a reasonably well-adjusted artist. When you throw art into the framework of a horror game...Hoo boy.

So, Layers of Fear: Legacy does not fuck around. Let's hit on the basics first, so we can do some analysis. The game's a first-person exploration-horror type game. One of those walk around, poke all the interactive bits kind of things. The setting is in a mad artist's manor, where you have to piece together what happened to leave it in this state, and see through his magnum opus to the end...

The basic gameplay isn't too far off from how a lot of these work, but the Switch brings a few fun little touches to the table. The big one is that the Joy-Cons mean you have pretty decent motion control integrated into the game as an option; while by default to, say, open a door you grab it with ZR and swing the joystick to one side to swing the door open, with the motion controls you can grab with ZR and then just swing your hand. It's not quite full VR immersion, but it does add something despite being so simple.

Your actual core loop, moment to moment, is pretty simple in the game. There are some puzzles to solve, some scares to endure, but for the most part it's really about the exploration and interaction. There are lots of little adventure-gamey touches; drawers you can open where none of the things in them are relevant to the puzzles at hand, but are full of all the things that should be in them, just to make the place feel a little more real. That sort of thing.

And speaking of real, that does bring us to the other side of the game's loop. Because we're dealing with a mad artist type here, we've got some freaky visions delving into the core of his psyche kind of stuff. The metaphorical demons that haunt him get more literal, which also lets the game get some more variety in its environments than just all the parts of a spooky manor.

As an aside, if there's one place I feel the game stumbles creatively, it's honestly at the premise. While it's quite well executed in what it sets out to do, I've got to be honest, I'm a little exhausted of how, many, times, we come back to the broken-man mad-artist cliche. I know the disturbed-mind angle brings more of an edge of conflict to proceedings, which is why it's used so much, but I'd really like to see more examples of creatives in fiction who get their energy from something other than a terrible darkness nipping at their heels just waiting for them to stumble.

But, getting mad at the game for that is getting a bit too close to "you never meow" territory for me. Once we accept the premise, it does execute on it quite solidly from the creative perspective. Of course, between it being a horror game, an exploration game and a puzzle-solving game, we kind of end up in that situation we've been in before where talking about too many details means causing spoilers that ruin your fun, so I've got to be a bit vague here.

On the mechanical side, the game doesn't really do any major sins. There's nothing that had me just shaking my head, or wondering "why"...But the feel is just a tiny bit off. Something about the speed of the acceleration when you start to move or turn feels just sluggish enough that it's noticeable, and while you can turn that acceleration off, that always feels really awkward in console games on analog sticks.

Of course, the game's nature means this isn't a total gamebreaker. We're not exactly playing DOOM here, you know? You don't need very many twitch reflex responses. Someone could even make the argument that, much like the awkward tank controls of the early Resident Evil games, the extra resistance to movement and reaction adds to the feeling of helplessness intrinsic to horror games. It's not entirely an argument I'd personally make, but I can at least see a path where it holds to basic logic.

Oh, and I should mention that this is a definitive edition, too. Which means not only do you get the original game, but its story DLC, which tells a whole new chapter of the painter's daughter having to come to the manor herself to reclaim her past and legacy. I haven't delved very much into that side of things at all, but it does have some interesting mechanical threads to keep it from being just more of the same.

At the end of the day, the chiefmost problem that Layers of Fear: Legacy suffers is that it's hitting some niche beats. And while there's some definite overlap between the different concepts it's playing with, in terms of audience appeal, there's still some needle-threading you have to do here. This is not an action game, or the kind of game where you can solve all the problems. And how it handles some subjects, like the painter's wife, is gonna be...offputting to some folks, to say the least, so there's that whole trouble to grapple with.

So I'm not going to say you should get it, because all of these facts make it a very personal question. But given that it executes on what it's trying to be so effectively, this is one of those cases where I have to throw it back to you, dear reader. Go with your gut.