The Coma: Recut is a horror game from Devespresso Games. It is a remake of the 2015 title The Coma: Cutting Class offering improved controls, revamped mechanics, and upgraded visuals. The story centres on Youngho, a Korean high school student struggling with the pressures of exams.
The opening scenes of the game play out like a high school drama as we see how Youngho and his classmates cope (or fail to cope) with the stress of high expectations in their prestigious but flawed school Sehwa High. We are introduced to Youngho’s friends, the school bully, his teacher crush Ms Song, and a mysterious girl from another school who seems to know more about what is going on than the students of Sehwa High.
About 20 minutes in, the game takes a dark turn as Youngho appears to fall asleep in the middle of an exam (having crammed for the test all through the night before). He wakes up in a nightmarish version of the school, where horrors soon start to unfold. His aim from hereon is simple – find a way out alive.
The game becomes a mystery-horror adventure from this point. While searching for a way out of the building (with pitch-black darkness outside the windows and most doors locked or jammed), Youngho starts to find notes, items, and other students that all give clues about the mystery of what is going on in the school. There are some interesting details to find about the characters from the opening scenes of the story, the teachers, and the management of the school. Most of these are not essential to completing the game but serve the purpose of telling the background story. Key items that help Youngho move onto the next phase of the game are usually marked with a star so players can go straight for them if they wish.
The horror comes in the form of a terrifying killer, who appears in the image of Ms Song, who appears at random intervals to attack poor Youngho. The only options are to run or hide. If you are lucky, a quick dive up or down the stairwell will shake her off but at other times, she will viciously pursue you. You have the option to run but Youngho, described as not the most athletically gifted of students, can only keep going for a short burst. If she gets too close or traps you in a corner, you can roll to get by her. There is also the option to switch off your flashlight as soon as you hear her footsteps, wait in the shadows and hold your breath – fine if she gives up the chase before Youngho gasps for air…
Your best bet is to duck into cupboards or toilet cubicles, which almost always works to get rid of the murderous apparition. However, this is where one of the real nightmare-like moments of the game shines through. On some occasions, you may find a cupboard only to discover it is full of junk with nowhere to hide. On others, you may find that the cupboard or cubicle door is jammed as the killer bears down on you, ready to slash you to pieces. This adds an element of drama to the game. Even though you are forewarned of her being nearby through changes in the music and the sound of her footsteps, there is no guarantee you will find a place to hide in time.
That inevitably means there will be times when you get caught and it is game over. This is simply part of the game and it never feels like you are in an impossible situation. Wise use of the save points (the blackboards around the school) is necessary to avoid too much backtracking. If you have a narrow escape, health can be restored by eating snacks you find or buy from vending machines. One gripe I had here is that the replenishing refreshments are few and far between and you have to find enough coins to use the vending machines. Limited space in your backpack means stockpiling items is not possible either. You may find points where you are low on health, out of food and far from the cafeteria meaning one quick attack will be enough to finish you off. More items around the school and/or a larger inventory would have helped here.
There are other horrors as well – strange plant-like monsters with a poisonous bite, claws scratching at you from the shadows, and bodies dropping from above but these are usually much easier to deal with. Other characters appear at points to give clues about what to do next or where to find the key or item you are looking for. There is lot of back and forth to retrieve items and take them to the location where you can use them. The constant threat of the killer appearing as you walk the corridors and the fairly brief nature of the game (one playthrough will take about 5 hours) prevent this from becoming too repetitive, however. It is possible to get lost at some points, especially as you start to access different parts of the school and the tunnels under it. Important locations are usually marked on the map however, and a quick look through the log will remind you of what to do or where to go next.
Visually, the characters and locations are presented in a 2D side-scrolling manner. This does not sound like a great idea for a game in which you have to run and hide but it works. The roll option helps when you need to escape fast as hiding in a cupboard is as simple as pressing a key. The keyboard controls can get a little cramped (focused manly around the left-hand side) but there is full controller support, which makes survival and escape much easier. The game uses an appealing hand-drawn style that alludes to both visual novels and Korean animation. Small details like Youngho’s heavy breathing as he gets scared add to the tense atmosphere.
As mentioned earlier, music is employed to warn you of the killer’s presence and in classic horror style, the tempo and volume increases as the danger does. Sound effects also warn you of nearby poisonous plant-monsters and other dangers. This not only helps you keep Youngho alive but is also helps add to the drama.
The Coma: Recut is a fun game to play. Despite its simple appearance, it manages to deliver a few scares and tense moments. The background story and extra details that you learn about the school and its body of students and teachers are interesting and well-written and offer a glimpse into the pressures of life for Korean high schoolers. If you have a few hours to kill (but not get killed!) playing this game will be a very good way to fill them.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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