Having nightmares and night terrors are two different things. The first is a highly unpleasant sensation of dread, or fear jolting you awake shortly before dawn, likely from a dream where you died. Night terrors are these same dream states, except where you’re trapped. Perpetual sufferers tend to draw comparisons between lucid dreaming and these horrifying dreams; a state that the protagonist enters once they fall to sleep in Bad Dream: Coma.
Without any dialogue, player prompts, jump scares or childish giggling, this first chapter (titled Bridge) can instantly set your teeth on edge. Maybe it’s the art style. Maybe it’s the lack of any friendly faces. Instantly though, the game manages to cement itself as a horror gem. As a point-and-click puzzle game as well, it draws you in, forces you to look through every unnerving piece of trash for anything that will help you progress.
The most profound thing about this opening is that the storytelling is nothing short of brilliant. Leaving clues all around the bridge in the form of newspaper clippings lets the player explore at their own pace, while not forcing exposition down their throats about the place, lore, situation and goings on. Every screen that this chapter presents you is packed with curiosities. Since most things are interactive, it’s up to you to decide whether or not you wish to touch it. Even creatures roaming in the distance can be disturbed by your almighty cursor.
But after some warranted exploring to get familiar with your surroundings, and after getting used to the ever-so creepy sound effects, you can start puzzling. Like many point-and-click games, it’s entirely possible to use the immortal ‘try everything with everything’ method, but Bad Dream: Coma’s puzzles aren’t so obscure that you can even need to do that.
The puzzles are less focused on trying to make you rip your hair out, and more hinged on the player thinking logically about the situation presented. The opening screens make you dart back and forth between them, trying to collect items to use in various ways. This leads to a miniature car being destroyed against a small rock. Naturally, you just caused a crash by trying to progress.
After marvelling at the, now deceased, tiny person in their car, you’re able to try get past the gap in the bridge. Shortly after, a blind man appears, and asks for your help reading some papers for him. These are the two hardest spot the difference pictures ever made. With details so minute between them, that you’ll not notice for what feels like days. From this point on the atmosphere decides to amp itself up, making players regret having ears. A baby begins to cry. When babies begin to cry in horror games, start to be concerned. Thankfully this one isn’t a mannequin, or a devil baby from Dante’s Inferno, instead it’s a doll. The obvious thing to do is to smash it with a crowbar, to get the wires from its head (which allows the gate to open).
Chapter one then ends with an oversized raven-creature taking three of your fingers from your right hand, and knocking you unconscious. This leads to the player staring at the haunting face of one of the hospital doctors looming over you. Chapter two builds perfectly upon the first, with even more intrigue into exactly what is going on here, and the game providing just enough answers to keep you hooked.
Hopefully the player has learned a thing or two about obscure puzzles from the prior area. Because every interaction here is now more convoluted, with more items being required in the overall chain of events. Meeting the doctor, and getting your missing digits back, is now the goal, so you naturally go exploring. Unlike on the bridge, there are a great many locked doors here because it’s a hospital ward after all. The general sense of unease, and of caution, is greater here too. Doors rattle on their own, locks shake violently and you get the sense that some of these patients aren’t here just for a pick-me-up.
The music and hand drawn art design really lend themselves to how the game comes across. It wouldn’t be anywhere near as creepy if this was done in unity, or with a traditional 2D sprite. Those ‘rough’ edges on the character models and indeed how minimalistic the animations are, is all part of the ambience. Bad Dream: Coma is equal parts haunting and thrilling. It invites you into this hideous world, and keeps you sequestered there until you find what’s behind every door, because you simply have to know.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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