The Coma: Cutting Class PC Review
While the gaming world continues to mourn the abrupt passing of Silent Hills, which by all accounts would have been the single most ambitious triple-A horror game of our generation, Indie horror games continue to shamble about in massive, undying droves throughout the digital streets and alleyways. Confusing metaphors aside, there is no shortage of horror titles populating Steam and other videogame vendors, though that also means sifting through waves of putrid garbage in order to find the shiny gold nugget of pure terror. That metaphor was even more confusing than the last.
Japanese horror is commonly known these days, both in videogames and film, but Korean horror is still a rare sight among the latter category. The most well-known videogame effort, which is to say that it isn’t that well known, is White Day: A Labrynth Named School, an amusingly named Korean horror title on PC that nonetheless gained a cult following that is bound to increase substantially thanks to an upcoming remake for Playstation VR. While it will be interesting to see how that concept turns out, developer Devespresso Games sticks to the more familiar 2nd dimension with their title The Coma: Cutting Class.
The Coma has players take on the role of Youngho, a Korean high school student with the same wants (attractive high school girls in addition to teachers) and worries (midterms and bullies) as most high schoolers in horror settings. As Youngho takes a few moments to rest his eyes in class, he awakes inside a nightmarish version of his school filled with dead bodies, bloodstained walls, and a twisted, murderous version of his teacher pursuing him. It is up to Youngho to find a way out of
Silent Hill Heavenly Host Sehwa High while receiving partial assistance from enigmatic entities like Yaesol, a young girl claiming to be a paranormal investigator, in addition to other less-human acquaintances.
Despite its Korean origins, The Coma plays like an amalgamation of the last decade or so of Western and Japanese horror titles. Taking place entirely in a 2D side-scrolling perspective, The Coma borrows much from horror games with an emphasis on exploration and investigation, such as Lone Survivor and Clock Tower. Players can move left or right, up or down in order to explore the dark hallways of Sehwa High, picking up items and notes off the ground, opening doors and unlocking other doors, the usual stuff. Even more familiar is the use of flashlights to get an extra bit of light, while also avoiding the murderous enemies patrolling in the distance. Should the enemy lock find players within viewing distance, a chase begins until they can find one of several conveniently-placed lockers to hide in until the monster leaves.
Gameplay-wise, this is a by-the-books horror game: functional, yet also familiar…and when it comes to a genre that is intended to terrify its audience, familiar can be one of the worst things. You will find cryptic notes, key cards to unlock doors, the occasional dead body dropping from the ceiling, all things that have been done in many other games prior. Nothing in The Coma feels particularly unique, save for its art style. While serviceable and with some decent vaguely-Anime designs, the presentation looks like something better suited on a handheld or mobile device, with characters appearing as sub-super deformed and animating with sweeping comic book speed lines.
The writing also attempts to punch up the original translation with a somewhat self-aware script (which at the very least features a better translation than most games originating from Korea or Hong Kong, though there are occasional grammar and punctuation issues), but overall it seems that The Coma can’t decide if it wants to be campy or dead serious. Either way, it’s still a much-preferred alternative to a horror game built on plagiarized Unity assets.
In the end there is nothing inherently wrong or bad about The Coma, which in itself may be considered bad news for anyone hoping for a campy LP. The premise of a haunted high school mixed in with Visual Novel-type artwork is an interesting one, but the game never moves past mediocrity to make good use of it. An average experience is still better than a bad one, but anyone hoping for a better high school horror experience should consider checking out Corpse Party or shell out however much a Playstation VR will cost for the remake of White Day.