Mechanics and Environment - Ghost Ship
The real magic of Layers of Fear 2 lies in how it's willing to consistently break the rules to deliver a visual feast.
Exploration feels rewarding because the game is always changing. Every new area feels fresh and unique, bringing a real sense of progress. The ship is fading in and out of reality, transporting you to unholy fanes of strange gods, monstrously dark corners of a lunatic's twisted mind, and then back to a normal oceanic cruise liner from the 1930s.
It's actually quite jarring, and it messes with your head real fast. I actually love it though. I love it when I play a game for an hour, and it feels more like ten minutes have gone by because I'm so deeply immersed. Time has no meaning here; the laws of nature and physics are just notions. All the rules are thrown out the window. The ship is a vortex of the bizarre, a black hole of the weird and is constantly spitting you in random places like a gateway into the Twilight Zone.
Just when you think you have a handle on things, the game goes upside down--sometimes literally. Everything shifts and is always changing, morphing to recreate a pivotal moment in the player character's life or psyche, twisting the very world around them into a bloody massacre or a dismal steam-powered city.
You open a door, and suddenly there's a black and white M.C. Escher painting waiting for you to fall into. Creepy stunt mannequins stalk the shadows. You're hunted by a formless monster who bends the very fabric of the world around you. The ship itself isn't bound by any rules and Bloober quickly reminds you that they're firmly in control...and you're just a pawn.
Turn around and suddenly that wall is a passageway into some strange overgrowth as you literally walk into one of your memories. It's like some clever trickster is constantly molding the environment just for kicks. Layers of Fear 2 has a way of absolutely throwing you off kilter at every turn and when you actually start adapting, it changes up the rules again.
One of the best parts of the game is the puzzles. There are all sorts of small interactive sequences you have to solve before moving on, and many of them are actually quite unique. I found myself looking forward to these oddities because they not only gave more exposition in the story, brilliantly melding into the lore with Bloober's masterful symbolism, but they're actually quite fun. They keep things interactive and serve as small setpieces to the world.
Since these puzzles are the mainstay of progression we won't delve too far into them, but let's just say they're always strange and have a surprising effect on the game's ending.