Layers of Fear received some fairly mixed reviews on release in 2016, but it's one of my absolute favourite horror games in recent years. On the one hand, it's pure, pulpy haunted house silliness (which I'm admittedly a sucker for), and certainly not afraid to pile on the hoary old genre cliches, or the endless YouTube-baiting jump scares. But it's also handsomely produced, with a surprisingly intelligent, emotionally robust core, which tips the whole thing more heavily into gorgeous, gothic melodrama.
Its real strength though comes in Bloober's knack for a disorientating set-piece, and Layers of Fear features some wonderfully effective horror sequences, all built around the house's penchant for constant reconfiguration and confounding geography. It's the kind of game where walls and corridors shift into ever-more impossible arrangements while your back is turned, and perfectly well-proportioned spaces suddenly become 600 feet tall.
Layers of Fear's Inheritance expansion is equally interesting, if not quite so consistently well-realised, and mostly ditches the jump scares for a more stylised tale of childhood horrors. This one gets particularly bizarre, featuring ambitious set-pieces viewed from a toddler's perspective, and located in gaudy hand-drawn worlds, among others. Sadly it's not included in Humble's freebie, but you can get Inheritance at the discounted price of 79p.
Bloober Team's recent Layers of Fear follow-up, grimy sci-fi detective game Observer, is similarly visually inventive; its blend of carefully paced investigation work and dazzling hallucinatory horror earned it a Recommended badge in Eurogamer's review.
Layers of Fear's foregrounding of jump scares and walking sim stylings won't be to everyone's taste, but there's an exquisitely designed horror game beneath its noisy surface. And at zero pence until 6pm December 20th in the UK, it has to be worth a punt, eh?