I can’t break the cycle.
If anything, the cycle is breaking me.
(Spoilers for Layers of Fear follow.)
The first time I played this game, I found it pretty scary. Weird sounds everywhere. Shadows twitching, jerking, watching. Rooms repeating, endlessly, always the same, but always different, forcing me down paths I wasn’t meant to tread.
I got the Wife ending–the magnum opus, designed to look like The Artist’s perfect, unscarred wife, until it morphed, laughing, becoming disfigured, forcing him to throw the ‘defect’ in with the rest of his other failed works.
Naturally, I turned right around and found they were all perfect. A sad and haunting feeling overwhelmed me as I guided the poor soul back to his canvas to start again.
I played a second time to get all the collectibles. The Wife still terrified me, her apparition seeming to stalk every corner, but I pressed on. I got her ending a second time.
Then I decided, “As much as I hate using guides on a game like this, I want to see the other endings–and get that last trophy, of course.” So I went on YouTube, read some instructions, and replayed.
The Wife laughed at me a third time.
And a fourth.
I replayed half the game, starting from the middle, to change some decisions and see what might happen. The Wife happened. Her ending, again. By this point, I was throwing myself at The Wife at every turn. The game ceased to be scary.
After a few days of DMC, I invited a friend over so I could watch him play. He made similar decisions. He got fewer collectibles, but still the significant ones.
He got the Wife and Child ending on his first run, earning that elusive gold trophy and one of the two other endings. As The Artist threw himself into the fire, I felt the heat licking at my veins, The Wife’s laughter echoing in my ears.
But now I had an advantage, right? I’d seen it done–hell, I helped him do it! Surely I could do it again, right?
Fifth time: Wife.
It’s like she’s locked me in The Artist’s head, damned me to permanently loop through his nightmares. This isn’t a joke or euphemism.
I’ve been dreaming about that house. About the Wife. I see her shambling through new rooms of my own mind’s invention. I’ve walked hallways that are halfway between The Artist’s head and mine.
This game was heart-pounding at first. Then, dull–why be scared of something I could predict?
But I never predicted this. I never thought those ghosts would follow me from a fake dream world to a real one.
And I’m going to keep playing.
At this point, I think I have to.
…Kudos to you, Bloober Team. You broke reality. Or, at the very least, you broke mine.