What happens when a student is so stressed out about exams that he kills himself? This is the dark opening of The Coma: Recut, a Korean game that is inspired by the plight of the overworked Korean students… at least according to the game blurb.
What follows on from this point is a 2D, side scrolling survival horror game, where our hero, Youngho, must escape his nightmares after falling asleep in the middle of his final exams.
When Youngho awakens, he finds the school has changed in subtle ways. Even looking out of the windows doesn’t reveal anything of what’s going on inside, and the doors to the outside world are all locked tight. There’s a clear nod to the Silent Hill games here, with Youngho being trapped in a changed world with no idea as to why or what to do. Even worse is the fact that his teacher, Ms. Song, seems to have mutated into a crazed killer and will now pursue Youngho whenever she spots him, slashing at him with a knife.
The game plays out like a 2D Resident Evil, almost, with Youngho having to search rooms to find keys or codes, which then enable him to open further rooms and try to get to the bottom of the mystery. He has a torch, which helps when he is looking for things, but if his light is seen it can cause all kinds of issues, with Ms Song putting in an appearance. The only way to escape her is to hide, as he has no weapons or defences against her. She’s reasonably intelligent too, as if you hop into a cupboard or toilet cubicle in front of her, she’ll turn you into so much filet mignon…
Instead, you have to break line of sight, either by entering a room and hiding before she bursts in, or by running up some stairs and doing the same. While Ms. Song is hunting you, the music changes to a threatening, drum heavy tune, encouraging you to get into cover. Once she loses your track, the music abates, and it’s safe to come out again and try exploring.
Youngho can run, albeit only for a limited time before he runs out of stamina, but there are items that can restore stamina or prevent it from decreasing all together, however these are rare. He can also collect coins as he searches the school which can be spent in vending machines, letting him buy health increasing products like crisps!
Graphically the game is all done in a Korean manhwa style, with hand-illustrated graphics throughout. What this translates to is almost Manga style for the characters, although without the exaggerated eyes of the Japanese style. The “appreciation” of the female form is all present and correct however, and it was a constant source of amazement to me that Ms. Song could run without toppling over! With the pervading darkness and only a torch to light the rooms, the style is oppressive and creates a real sense of tension, helping the survival horror aspects of the game come to the fore. The sound is deliberately kept low-key, just the sound of doors opening and footsteps until the killer spots you, which again helps to ramp the tension of the game right up.
There are a couple of niggles with The Coma: Recut, but nothing that is ever game breaking. There seems to be a strange delay between pressing the interact button and anything happening on screen, just long enough to make me think I haven’t pressed it. This really becomes an issue when Ms. Song is breathing down your neck and you want to go into a room, leading to some rather panicky button presses! The other issue, and I accept this is because of my advancing years, is that the text is really tiny when playing out of the dock. As the story and conversations with various characters are carried out via this text, it makes playing that little bit tougher. The only other thing that grates is Youngho’s running animation, which is quite the weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time. You have to see it in motion to appreciate it!
All in all though and The Coma: Recut is a welcome diversion for the Switch. It’s tense, creepy and interesting, with implied violence and death only ever a step away. Obviously this isn’t one for the kids, but after they are tucked in bed, The Coma: Recut can keep adults entertained as they try to get to the bottom of the events at Sehwa High.
Massive thanks to: Digerati
Release date: December 2017
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review), Xbox One, PS4