The Coma: Recut Review
The Coma: Recut is a side scrolling exploration game with horror elements from indie developer Devespresso. The Korean development house have crafted a game that is genuinely unnerving, and at times outright scary.
The Coma casts you in the shoes of Youngho, a student at Sehwa High School. He’s a normal teenager, dealing with the pressures of adolescent crushes and looming exams. On arrival at school on the morning of his final exams, he’s confronted with an ambulance and informed that one of his fellow students attempted suicide the night before, presumably due to the pressures of the Korean education system that are none-too-subtly alluded to throughout the game. Instead of postponing exams, the faculty plough on with them anyway – and it is in an exam that Youngho falls asleep and wakes up in a terrifying alternate version of the school. In this version, his favourite teacher is missing her eyes and pursues him with a box cutter, evidence of murder and teen suicide is everywhere, and strange tentacled monsters seem to have overrun the various science labs. It’s down to you to find out what’s going on.
The Coma: Recut looks fantastic. The hand-drawn art is in the Korean ‘manhwa’ style, which compares in some ways to Japanese manga. The animation is comparatively simple, but it all lends the game a really distinctive visual look and feel. The sound design also lends itself well to the creepy atmosphere of the game, with music being played slightly off-key and sound effects suitably muted. The story of the game reveals itself slowly through conversations with NPC’s which sometimes include dialogue trees, and lots of notes scattered throughout the school. It’s definitely worth taking a moment to read these – they really fill out the world well, and illustrate that sometimes the real world is stranger than the one you’ve found yourself in.
Gameplay wise, The Coma is about exploration and memorising a layout – mainly so that you know where to run to when you need to run away. Locked doors require keys or codes, all of which are hidden around the school and need to be found. Youngho has a health bar and a stamina bar – if the health bar drops to zero, he dies. If the stamina bar runs out, he can’t run until it refreshes. Fortunately, both of these can be replenished by buying items from the vending machines in the canteen, which acts as a rare area safe zone in the school. Youngho is also equipped with a torch, which provides the game’s main risk/reward mechanic. Using the torch allows you to spot items that you can interact with… but it also makes you more visible to the marauding Ms Song. She’s the teacher with the missing eyes and the box cutter – and the last thing you want is her attention.
You don’t want to attract her attention because she’s terrifying. Once Youngho’s teenage crush, she’s now an eyeless monster that prowls the halls relentlessly. You’ll hear her footsteps in the distance sometimes, but it’s when she lets rip with her bone-chilling banshee wail that you know you’ve been spotted – and when that happens you have two options. You can either run, or drop to your knees and hold your breath. Doing the latter drains your stamina bar, and it if runs out you won’t be able to run away. The alternative is running off down the corridors in the direction of the nearest hiding place. Fail to reach it and she’ll attack you, possibly killing you. If you don’t make it quickly enough, she might also attack you after pulling you out of it. If you do make it though (possibly stopping on the way to distract her using the school’s PA system!), she’ll give up looking for you and you’ll be free to carry on exploring for a little while.
The Coma: Recut is a good game then, but not without its flaws. You’ll occasionally find yourself with no markers on the map, leaving you to (literally) fumble in the dark until you figure out what you need to do next. It’s not the end of the world, but it can be frustrating until you manage to pick the thread back up and carry on. The seemingly random appearance of the creature that used to be Ms Song lends an air of unpredictability to the game – but you eventually begin to view her as more of an inconvenience than a threat. The scream that will stop you in your tracks at the beginning of the game does become less effective each time you’re exposed to it – wearing off as many jump-scares do. It’s also comparatively short with a first runthrough clocking in at 4 hours or so. However, it’s worth doing more than once, as you’re all but guaranteed to miss things on the first pass through.
The dark subject matter won’t be for everyone, and the jump scares do begin to wear thin toward the end, but nonetheless The Coma: Recut is a game that’s worth checking out if you’re into the scarier side of gaming. It tells a compelling tale, through the eyes of a character that a lot of us will be able to relate to.
The Coma: Recut is available now from the Xbox Store, priced £11.99.
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