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The Coma: Recut

Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Developer: Devespresso Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Survival Horror/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

The Coma: Recut is a horror game, but unlike most in the genre, it is a 2D side-scroller. At first glance, if no one told you what type of game this was, The Coma looks like it could be a dating sim or visual novel game at certain points. It might be a cruel prank to boot the game past the rather creepy opening and let someone play through the beginning without warning them. But that would be totally wrong and I donít know anyone who would do that, of course.

If youíve played other Korean games such as Ragnarok, you might recognize a hint of the style. There are animation loops that are just perfect for stealing gifs from - very creepy gifs, but great gifs nonetheless. Everything is done in a neat, hand-drawn, semi-realistic manga style. The colors are rich when the lights are on, and just a bit less saturated and blue when the lights go out. There are also tons of tiny details to pick up on in the background. For example, there are Windows computers with login screens everywhere, but there are also some with blue screens of death. The detail level is so intricate, itís sort of the feeling you get if you look into a tiny diorama, like a really well done, haunted dollhouse.

None of that matters to the person coming in there asking, "But is it scary, tho?" Yes, indeed, yes, it is scary. This game is all about being pursued by a relentless, demon-like figure. When the pursuit begins, the music starts up, and your pursuer screeches. Thereís intense drumbeats, the screen shakes, and you see in tunnel vision. When the pursuit ends, itís still a background of eerie, lonely woodwind notes, and the unshaking feeling that something is lurking in the corners. In summary, itís basic, but classic horror.


Gameplay:

You start The Coma as a student named Youngho. On his way to exams at school, he sees a student being taken away in an ambulance - an apparent suicide attempt. The school continues with exams anyway, and Youngho continues on to his classroom. Youngho has had some problems with his grades, and is (gently) confronted by the sweet Ms. Song, who asks him to stay after school. All of this makes a strange start to an already stressful day, but it only gets worse. Somehow, Youngho manages to fall asleep during his exam, and wakes to an empty, dark school. Is it night time? Did he really sleep through all the tests and no one woke him? Before he can figure out what happened, Ms. Song shows up. The problem is, she pulls out a knife, starts running after Youngho, and from there, itís all you can do to try to survive.

Youíll find that there is more going on than just a simple nightmare, and the story is rather intriguing. Youíll meet other people in this nightmare world such as the abrupt, but intriguing Yaesol. And while she may be a rather uncooperative guide, she gives you the vital information that there is a reason why you are trapped in this hellish world. You need to find that reason - the key to allow you to leave. But why does Yaesol know so much about this place? And for what terrible reason would anyone be trapped here?

The basics of this game are running from Ms. Song and hiding, but The Coma: Recut has a lot more going on. Maybe it has a little too much going on, in fact. Youíve got a flashlight that you can turn on or off, but you can probably guess that leaving it on is not beneficial to your stealthiness. You can attempt to crouch and be very still and quiet, but that takes stamina. Mess up, and youíll get stabbed and lose health. What restores stamina and health? Itís water and various drinks and food, but if you can guess, thereís a short supply of such items. You can also be affected by status effects such as poison and bleeding. So in addition to the stress of finding a hiding place, managing stamina, health, and status effects, and moving through the school, youíll also have to budget your money, manage your small inventory, and scavenge. Youíll need to do this all while being under the stress of running from a murderous, demented shell of your teacher.

Youíll explore the school, looking for clues and a way out, all the while keeping an eye out for Ms. Song. Not all hiding spots (cabinets, bathroom stalls, etc.) are real hiding spots. Some doors are broken and some lockers are stuffed with no room left for you, for example. Some doors take time to unlock. Since you never know when the crazed teacher will find you and start chasing, youíll want to scout out hiding spots in advance.

If I had a main criticism, itís that itís quite hard to tell the difference between the endless similar classrooms. And some doors can lead to completely new areas, so this will throw off any sense of direction you might have had. I get that is part of the challenge, and it takes some practice to learn, but it still seems needlessly hard and memorization-heavy. As a second criticism, one could say that the main scare gets a little stale after a while. After all, you are always being pursued by your teacher. However, I think those pursuits are intense enough that it remains frightening until the end.

The main draw of this game is the mystery. Why is this happening? Am I a ghost or am I still alive? Yaesol tells you that this world is connected to the real one and may affect what happens there. What will the effects be? And who are the other strange people here? Why is there a person obsessed with taking notes about this place? There are also multiple endings to achieve, so there is replay value as well.


Difficulty:

The Coma: Recut is probably not the most difficult game, it just might take a while to learn where to go and what to do. If you forget where to run back to, youíre done for. If you get caught in an unfamiliar area, you are probably done for again. Youíll need to try and try again, learning the gameís routines, unless youíre particularly good at remembering details in repetitive environments. If you like such challenges, then youíll really get a kick out of The Coma.

For all the confusion in the beginning of the game, however, thereís nothing particularly unfamiliar once you get used to it. Gamers will know about status effects, hiding mechanics, and random pursuing enemies that canít be defeated from plenty of other games. It just feels like it takes a while before you know the limits of The Coma, and it doesnít do a lot of hand-holding to make sure you know one concept before moving to the next.


Game Mechanics:

The Coma: Recut is a simple game, but can be frustrating for a first-timer. Since there can be extended gaps between the action sequences, it can be difficult to repeat the controls enough to really learn them. Your experience might go a little bit like this: "What was dodge again? What was hide? No, thatís not what I wanted! How does hide even work? Should I unlock all these doors?"

Once you get the hang of it, of course the game will feel like a healthy challenge. But until then, it can feel like a lesson in unfairness. What it does do well is give you plenty of save points and allow you to move quickly through the game once you pick up the mechanics.

The Coma is a pretty good scare, with a story that will draw you in. Why are you trapped and who are these other people trapped with you? Like the classic Silent Hill, you start to wonder if you did something terrible to earn your way into this hell. Though it may be a 2D side-scroller, itís timeless in the sense that horror games will always make you want to leave the lights on.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

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