Release Date: Out Now
Price as of Article: $19,99, £17,99
The Coma is a wild mix of genres, making it very difficult to pigeonhole, but on the other hand it makes it a very unique experience that you really can’t get elsewhere. I’d personally describe Coma as a survival horror adventure game with stealth elements. Let’s begin with talking about the story. Set in a Korean high school and somewhat inspired by the high pressure education system the country is known for, The Coma stars Youngho, a student at Sehwa High. After long gruelling studying sessions, he only goes and makes the rookie error of falling asleep in the final exam. After already receiving signs of things not being quite as they seem, what with the attempted suicide of a schoolmate and a mysterious new student hanging around, Youngho wakes up at his desk in the early hours of the morning. Alone. Or so he thinks.
Audio should play a massive part in any horror themed game. It should build tension and fear in the player with subtle noises and creeks, and that’s exactly what’s done here. The audio design is very creepy, with random noises, violin shrills and of course the unmistakeable sound of your stalker charging at you, her footsteps banging with high tension music. The sound design is top notch in my opinion and one of the standout parts of the game.
Visually the game is mixed bag in my opinion. I think the art style is nice, the hand drawn anime style is pretty good. The characters are well drawn and visually appealing but I’m not entirely sure the overall style of the game suits the horror theme.
As stated, the gameplay is a mix of survival horror with adventure games and stealth elements thrown in. You walk on a 2D plane left and right around the malevolent high school corridors, entering classrooms, staff rooms and toilets avoiding the deadly stalker who can strike at anytime.
You have a few abilities to stave off the attacks but you cannot defend yourself. You have a dodge roll though, which can avoid knife swipes pretty well. While this will save you losing health, it won’t help lose your assailant. In order for you to effectively get her away from you, you need to hide. Enter a classroom, bathroom, whatever; find the nearest hiding place such as a cupboard or cubical and then wait. As long as the crazed stalker didn’t see you enter the hiding place, you will be safe and she will eventually get bored and search elsewhere.
Hiding places aren’t always available and so you do have a technique where you can hold your breath and crouch down in the dark. Again, as long as she wasn’t in the room when you began doing that, she won’t notice you. It sounds great, right? Well, life’s not that easy. Youngho has a stamina metre which will deplete while holding his breath meaning you can only do it for a handful of seconds. Couple that with sprinting and door opening both taking your stamina too, it means that there’s very little room for error for this technique to work. I’ll give the game some credit. When this works, it’s incredibly tense. To be honest, the unnerving suspense of when the predator will pounce soon wore off. It wasn’t long until the curtains behind the game fell down and the facade was shown off. It’s just random. You exit a room, there’s a chance the killer will appear, there’s a chance they won’t. The persistence and frequency of their appearance makes it completely lose its effectiveness. I found my patience with the game left when I had to exit and re-enter the medical room eight times as the killer spawned every time I left. It wasn’t scary or tense by this point, but annoying and time wasting.
The game’s balance is all wrong. Because of how frequent she turns up, and how infrequent hiding places can be, you’re going to die a lot. After you die, you can only begin again from when you last saved the game. Yes, no autosaves. To save your game you use blackboards in classrooms or occasionally in corridors. I actually like this idea, reminiscent of games where you used to write in diaries or typewriters. On the other hand, it can make the game rather brutal. If you’re careless or unlucky to be too far away from blackboards, you can lose a fair bit of progress if you get hacked to death. While I personally don’t mind the lack of autosaves, I think many modern gamers may be frustrated. I found the controls to be quite troublesome if I’m honest, puzzlingly so.
I don’t know why but button pressing seemed to be very unresponsive. I often had to press a button multiple times just for it to register. I mostly noticed this with text boxes, usually having to press it three times to get it to notice. That’s not a huge deal, despite being annoying, it’s when it interferes with the main gameplay that it becomes a big issue; can’t open doors quick enough, having to press it three or four times to open your flashlight, it just became a mystifying chore. How did this happen? It’s not my controller since I tried multiple ones just to make sure. I’m sure this can be patched, and hopefully will
As you may have guessed from the rather clever subtitle, this is actually the “Director’s Cut” version of the original game titled The Coma: Cutting Class which was released a few years ago. While I’ve never played that game and can’t vouch for what I’m told, apparently this Recut has added to the visuals, animation and also gameplay mechanics. Considering my criticism of the game so far, it’s fair to say I’m a little perplexed as to how a seemingly unpolished game, is actually a remaster. You do have to question the value The Coma: Recut presents. With a hefty price tag currently sitting at £17.99, it’s definitely at the higher end of the eShop spectrum. Is it worth that hard earned money of yours? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to this review, you already know the answer to that. The only thing I could say about The Coma that would justify your hard earned cash is the unique and highly promising premise. It’s a fantastic concept for a game and more things like this need to be done. But the level of polish and lack of gameplay balance just don’t match the price. Knock a tenner off that and you may get a maybe from me.