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Under the Layers of Fear: Touch

If you’ve been following this little series and have been paying attention to the odd titles, I assure you that they are not without reason or an underlying connection.

If you’ve played the game, you’ll notice that each chapter is titled as such: Prologue; Canvas; Paint; Undercoat; Brush; Touch; and Witness. Because there is so much in this game to be found, I decided to break up all of the information into digestible chunks. Titling each part as a different chapter name from the game felt like the best way to pay homage to this project and Layers of Fear.

So here we are at Part 6: Touch, and incidentally, this part is all about anatomy, baby.


There are a lot of spoilers in this article, so please read at your own risk if you haven’t played Layers of Fear. Also, the views and opinions in this article are all my own. I will be offering my own interpretations and they are, by no means, concrete, canon, or confirmed by the Bloober Team.

At the end of each chapter, you are gifted with some piece of anatomy: human skin; a vial of blood; a bone; a lock of hair; a finger; and lastly, an eyeball. Yucky. And as mentioned various times throughout the game, the Painter needs these to complete his painting somehow?

Man, this guy really jumped off the deep end.

To shift the tone of this to a more serious one, let’s look at this all from a different point of view and topic: vanity vs sacrifice. Human skin, which serves to house and protect everything in our bodies. Blood, which is our very life force essential to stay alive. Bones, which serve as a structural purpose and protect major organs. Hair, which ties in with our vanity and beauty. Fingers, which we use as tools to accomplish tasks. And eyes, which allow us to see. All of which would be crippling to lose.

I speak of these mainly from the point of view of vanity. While it is possible to live without some of these things, the crippling weight it leaves on our pride is devastating. I think we can all admit that, if we were to lose our sight or the use of our hands, if we lost the hair on our heads or had to amputate our legs, if our skin was horrifically deformed or the blood in our bodies threatened our very quality of life, the vain part in all of us wouldn’t know how to move on.

I think this is something that the Wife felt heavily during her time after her accident. From a rising talented pianist to the shambling screeching body in a bed, I can’t imagine how hard that must be. And having her own husband draw back in disgust or avoid looking at her as if she was a monster, that pain drove her to that horrific suicide.

I’m going to drop some mind bombs here now.

As hinted from the Inheritance DLC, I can only imagine that the Painter is long gone after the events of Layers of Fear. Or… was he dead the whole time during Layers of Fear? Was this game about one man’s journey in purgatory, repeating the same loops and hallways, painting the same painting over and over until he eventually got it right to earn his passage to salvation?

If that’s the case… how many times has he done this?

"Get it right this time."
“Get it right this time.”

When thinking about it from the perspective of the Painter’s own version of hell and his repentance, each of the endings reflect the topics mentioned above: vanity vs sacrifice.

In the Painter ending, the portrait is of you, the Painter, hung up in a gallery for all to see. Purgatory repeats, as you must find all of the items again to complete the painting. The items are used for a vain purpose.

In the Wife ending, the portrait is of your Wife, and with those items, it doesn’t matter how beautiful you paint her. In the end, her image mocks your feeble and horrifically vain efforts. Again, the items are used for a vain purpose. The game ends, and purgatory repeats.

But in the Wife and Child ending, the portrait is of your family, and the memories flood back. The missed birthdays, the missed opportunities to appreciate your family, and all of the things in our lives that actually make us alive become clear. The items are used not for a vain purpose, but by this point, it is already too late. But as they say, better late than never to realize your mistakes.

"Finally someone to bear witness."
“Finally someone to bear witness.”

Congratulations. You finally got it right.

I’ve had many theories as to what I feel this whole game is about. I admit, my feelings about it all have changed throughout this project the more I think of it — and really, that’s wonderful. There are not enough games out there that get you really f*cked up thinking about what it all means in the grand scheme of things.

This is the final written piece of this series and I admit, it’s been amazing writing this. So much love and reading has gone into this and I truly hope you got a lot out of it. And of course, if you have theories of your own, please feel free to write in the comments below!

But this isn’t the last part of the series yet! I have one more piece — a gallery of sorts — for some of the other art pieces in the game. And I would love to hear your thoughts and observations as to their purpose in the game!

Check out the previous installments of this series: Prologue (Part 1); Canvas (Part 2); Paint (Part 3); Undercoat (Part 4); and Brush (Part 5).

Kate Rhiannon is a Contributing Editor-at-Large and Graphics Artist for Her opinions are her own. Feel free to follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she posts updates about her creative projects!

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