The Coma: Recut
Developer: Devespresso Games
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, Steam, GOG
Price: $14.99 USD
For fans of: Claire: Extended Cut, White Day: A Labyrinth Named School
The Coma: Recut is a “definitive edition” re-release of the original game, The Coma: Cutting Class, from 2015, as well as the Korean horror title’s console debut. According to the press release, the original game’s animations, mechanics, cutscenes, and art have been updated, and the Recut version is available on PC as a free update for those of you who already own Cutting Class.
Having no prior knowledge of The Coma’s existence prior to its recent console release, I approached the 2D horror game with a general understanding of its gameplay and tone thanks to its PS4 launch trailer. The premise of being trapped inside of a high school, scouring every nook and cranny for useful items and puzzle solutions while avoiding a menacing stalker, immediately drew comparison to 2001’s White Day: A Labyrinth Named School (which I ultimately didn’t care for). However, its hand-drawn, almost comic book visual flair and 2D presentation caught my attention and I was willing to give it a fair shake.
Unfortunately, I left The Coma: Recut feeling equally unsatisfied. What exists here is a mostly forgettable horror experience that’s far more cumbersome than it is terrifying.
In The Coma: Recut, you play as Youngho; a high school student who just spent the last 24-hours cramming for finals and then proceeded to oversleep. Upon arriving fashionably late at the gates of Sehwa High, a bittersweet tragedy delays testing times in the form of an attempted suicide by a fellow student. It’s not uncommon for finals week to stress the living hell out of students and teachers alike, since they can make or break a potentially bright future, so rather than sending the students home the faculty decides instead to just move along with the day as if nothing happened. Priorities!
Youngho strolls along to homeroom and is immediately greeted by his favorite teacher Ms. Song (because boobs), who wants to meet with him after class to discuss his declining GPA. Who cares about the reprimanding? Youngho is hot for teacher and his day just got a whole lot better! That is, until he goes into panic mode during the exam because he can’t seem to recall a single thing he studied the night before. Between the stress of finals and sheer exhaustion, Youngho passes out at his desk and wakes up in a dark, empty version of Sehwa High. At first, he’s pissed that his fellow classmates let him sleep through the entire school day, but thankfully the beautiful Ms. Song is there to greet him once again — a violently possessed Ms. Song who happens to be clenching a blood-soaked box cutter and wants to rip him open like an Amazon package.
Time to get to running!
The entirety of The Coma is spent exploring three separate school buildings in a 2D space, while avoiding Ms. Song and a handful of potential hazards. You’ve a map, a backpack, a notebook, and a flashlight at your disposal, but no way of fending off your now demonic homeroom teacher’s murderous advances. The map, as expected, highlights plot points and rooms of interest, while your backpack stores key items and foodstuffs used to replenish health and stamina or remove status ailments, like poison.
While scavenging your way through rooms and hallways, you’ll come across various notes left behind by Youngho’s classmates. These detail mysterious events that (to his knowledge) never occurred, like a deadly explosion, or serve as journal entries on love, obsession, and students receiving disturbing crank calls while out on dates. These interesting tidbits are stored within your notebook, of course, and provide more insight to the mystery at hand.
With a gameplay flow I’ve already experienced in countless other titles — scour for key items and use them to progress the story — it was largely up to The Coma’s horror elements to deliver a unique experience. Ms. Song’s random appearances were often met with frantic escapes into bathrooms and hallways in search of a place to hide, but the game also offers the ability to avoid her attacks via a dodge-roll button, or quietly hunkering down in the dark by holding L2 (LT on Xbox, I’d imagine). While evading her swipes proved to be a reliable method of avoiding being sliced to pieces, rarely (if ever) did holding in the “quiet” button. Actions like sprinting, dodging, and hunkering down require stamina, which drains at a respectable pace and can be replenished (or outright ignored) with food items.
Like other “stalker” style horror games, Ms. Song eventually became more of an annoyance than anything beneficial to the overall experience. I constantly felt like I was taking one step forward, but three steps back, since she’d hinder my progress by lurking near stairwells or appearing far too frequently. It’s a proven method of eliciting scares throughout the game’s opening hour, but didn’t warrant more than an eye-roll from that moment on. As I mentioned earlier, there are hazards within the game that can afflict Youngho with status ailments, like poison, but the murderer is the clear focal point and they gradually become more annoying than scary. This is exacerbated by the game’s inventory system, which doesn’t actually pause the game. In theory, this should make the frantic chase sequences all that more terrifying, but I’m unsure how I’m supposed to access my backpack, select an item that replenishes health or stamina, use it, and exit the menu in real-time while the crazy woman swinging a box cutter at my face is merely 5-feet away. All of the consumable items share similar, chunky white icons and there is no way to sort them by their given function, so I typically just mashed on whatever was available — usually to no avail.
While I died often enough, The Coma: Recut is pretty forgiving. Food sources are commonplace and additional consumables can be purchased at various vending machines around the campus. Progress can be saved at chalkboards, which can be found in just about every room in the game. Its difficulty was mostly inflated by the inventory system’s cumbersome functionality, the randomness of enemy appearances, and the unreliable defense mechanisms at Youngho’s disposal. Horror games are notoriously clunky and The Coma fails to untether itself from the genre’s known shortcomings.
While the overall gameplay hook isn’t very enjoyable, or, at the very least, no worse than passable, The Coma: Recut excels in its visual presentation. The game is entirely hand-drawn with admirable character models, storyboard dialogue screens, and well-designed environments that give it an almost comic book stylization.
Sehwa High is clearly desolate and abandoned, with piles of books, papers, and overturned tables littering the environment. To further the horror motif, the designers peppered in bloody trails, shrill ambiance, and incredibly dark lighting to great effect. Where the gameplay falters or fails to remain engaging, the distinguished visuals have the opposite effect; making The Coma: Recut a notable standout at face value, rather than “just another horror game.”
Unfortunately, gameplay always trumps graphics, and that’s where The Coma: Recut suffers most. The horror genre thrives on atmosphere and tense scares, and while half of that is readily available in Devespresso’s console debut, the scares gradually transform into annoyances that are bogged down by jarring and unreliable mechanics. If you enjoy this type of horror, there’s clearly something here that warrants playing. With so many horror games to choose from, however, I struggled to remain interested when The Coma: Recut did little to stand out beyond its visual flair.
So, where’s the final score? There isn’t one. I spent a lot of time conveying my opinion in the above text, and I hope that’s worth more to you than some arbitrary number or a sequence of shaded-in star shapes. Basically, I’m not a fan of scores so I no longer use them. Read the review and judge for yourself if the game is worth your time and money. I trust in your ability to make the right decision!
Full disclosure: This review was done using a digital PS4 copy provided by the game’s publisher. While I’m sometimes given games to critique, I pride myself on providing an unbiased review to fellow consumers, along with constructive feedback to hard working developers and publishers. Whether or not I pay for a game is irrelevant.