God, this weeks been awful. And it’s only Tuesday, at time of writing.
Trying to find something to fill the gap of game releases was a pain. First there was Mystik Belle, an experience akin to using barbed wire for toilet paper… until I realized that I had missed a crucial element in the options menu to make the game that much better and so, I’m replaying the entire thing. And now there’s The Coma: Recut, and I don’t think a search through the options menu could fix the problems I had.
The Coma comes to us from DevEspresso Games, a S. Korea-based studio who came into the field in 2015, with the original cut of The Coma: Cutting Class. Whether or not content has been removed or added in this revision is something I wouldn’t know about, since it’s been a year since I played the original, and my computer cannot be bothered to work anymore.
You play as Youngho, terrible name for a female rapper, but perfect name for a schoolboy with night terrors. He runs to school to notice that a student attempted suicide at said school, and it’s possible he did it because of exams week currently taking place. None of this bothers Youngho as he thinks with his penis, and he’s got a hard-on for his teacher, Ms. Song. But that hard-on better hide as now he’s in a nightmare world, with the terror taking the form OF Ms. Song, and with Youngho by himself, it’s all to play for.
Normally, I wouldn’t touch Korean horror with a ten foot barge pole held by somebody in another dimension. Aside from Thirst, A Tale of Two Sisters and I Saw The Devil, every Korean horror piece of media has been a jumpscare-fest involving little girls, and it becomes annoying after a while. Imagine my surprise that The Coma doesn’t follow the trend of its country’s history at all, and instead, goes for a more Western vibe.
Yes, it’s a slasher flick with the typical cast, with almost every archetype you’ve seen in films set out in full display. You’ve got the amoral dickhead bully, the stout virgin girl with her mind set on escape, the fat nerd, who’s constant utterance of “duder” made me want to shove a chisel up my nostril, and you, the chaotic neutral wannabe Chad. In all seriousness however, DevEspresso have done their hardest to mist up the archetypical characters somewhat, and whether or not you care depends on how sick you are, of the stereotypes in question.
The school itself is a great setting for a horror flick, considering the endless nature of it, and the tone DevEspresso practices throughout gameplay is superbly executed. When night hits, the building isn’t exactly decimated, but it makes for a janitors nightmare, and you can imagine the chairs and tables clattering as you scramble for escape from the killer.
The gameplay can be best described as Mark of The Ninja meets Resident Evil. On the Ninja side, you have special dodge attacks and stealth manoeuvres that you can use in order the flee the psychopathic Double-D killer. And on the Resident Evil side, you have the unbelievably small inventory storage, and a slightly camp tone. While that was not DevEspresso’s objective, at least I hope to the Great Green Giant sweetcorn mascot it wasn’t, The Coma still manages to be terrifying, even moreso than it’s inspirations.
When the killer apparition of Ms. Song comes chasing after you, ready to use Youngho’s penis as a flute, there’s no sharp violin screech, it’s a mild trumpet that leads to horror. And the chase that follows is fun, its realistic and the game doesn’t break rules in order to get a cheap scare out of you. You have ways to avoid her, and you have ways to run away, it’s great.
What’s the problem then? Well, everything else on a technical and narrative standpoint. The characters that populate The Coma are all unfathomable bellends, with the exception of the elegant Ms. Song, who is only put on the negative spotlight because Youngho is a pubescent tosser. The no-nonsense chick, Yaesol, also gets a shout out since DevEspresso plays her cards like every other no-nonsense chick in video gaming since the dawn of time, and maybe before the big bang.
There are other characters who deserve to be strung up for stoning. The fat nerd Seho, who I’ve mentioned before, is a giant tit who sets the “Unlikable Dick” scale up to 12, and the bully Myung-gil is obviously an unlikable dick who manages to be more interesting than all of them. Given the background text Youngho provides about him during exploration of these shifty halls, it’d make sense really.
It’s commonplace to have these types of idiots in slasher ficks so you gain a sense of relief when they’re finally culled and put up on display, with the paint being their own blood. But you still need that ONE guy you like so you can hope to the director he survives, and the closest candidate is the one who is obviously going to be set up for execution. Mind you, I don’t actually know what happens as my reasoning is about to be explained.
The Coma is very… selective when it comes to whether it wants its controls to work or not. When it comes to picking up useless fluff text items and healing items you’ll NEVER need, the game smiles and allows you to pick it up with relative ease. However, when you want that quest item which is necessary for the game to continue? It’s like you need to do a twelve gun salute to Freddy Krueger himself in order to pick it up, meaning you have to fanny about the room until you’re in the exact pixel position for you to be able to grab it.
With this, the game follows a frustrating pattern of fannying about trying to pick up the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and before you get it, the killer jumps out, looking to use your body as a guitar. You run away, hide in a corner, and run back, and it doesn’t work, BOOM KILLER. And because you forget to save, you get to do it all over again, along with all of the other objectives you did after your last save.
I seriously don’t understand why it does this. After a while I figured out that you have to turn on your flashlight in order to identify items and pick them up, but even that seems like a silly design choice. Theoretically, yes, I understand it, but come on man, after I turn off the flashlight to avoid death, I’m sure Youngho can pick it up in the slight-darkness.
In the end, The Coma got a bit too frustrating to play through and after a point near the halfway point, DevEspresso decided to make the game more “interesting” by spawning the bastard killer behind you every 64 nanoseconds. Thanks for breaking the rules, DevEspresso, I was starting to become scared for a second there. Then, after getting culled in a compromising position, the game crashed and the only save that existed was one I made 90 minutes ago. Thanks for glitching, The Coma, I guess this is my fault for loving the indie scene more than a child of my own.
With that, my time with the game ended for the meantime. What ideas The Coma conjures concisely, carry clarity and clear conscience, and despite the stereotypes throughout, it’s still a spooky romp through Grange Hill. Me, on the other hand? I got a bad hand, which might primarily be my fault. Go nuts, and just watch your back.
This review of Coma is based on the PS4 version of the game.
A spooky romp through the same scenarios, with an Eastern vibe, and Western tropes dampening the mood.
Owner of the largest collection of indie games in the Western Hemisphere, and TimeSplitters’ biggest fanboy.