Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Genuinely creepy with some interesting and original surprises along the way, The Coma: Cutting Class gets more right than wrong despite a few questionable design choices and a repetitive core gameplay.
The story of Yungho is told through a point-and-click adventure game. He is a teen student who is under a great deal of pressure from his schooling. Everything gets off on the wrong foot for Yungho, who pulls an all-nighter prepping for a test. From oversleeping in the morning to the strange sight of an ambulance leaving the school upon his arrival, Yungho’s day has been anything but according to expectations. He comes to find out that the ambulance was there because a a fellow classmate tried to kill himself due to the stresses of the same schooling that is taxing Yungho’s own nerves.
The tale continues to take a turn for the worse when Yungho falls asleep at his desk, too tired from his studies and stress, only to awaken in a sort of nightmare reality of his school where his teacher is now stalking him, looking to kill Yungho as it sets up a survival horror experience.
As is quite often the norm these days, Yungho is not able to really fight this shade off, but instead has to rely on being aware of his surroundings and running away to hide. One of the first games I ever played that made our protagonist basically helpless in a horror game was Clocktower, and to that end The Coma does a nice job of making Yungho feel truly helpless. Lighting is of course important, as is the generally very good sound design. You hear Yungho walking down the quiet halls, his footfalls marking his passage. It is a somewhat nerve-wracking experience however, when you come to a stop only to realize that there are still approaching footsteps from the shadowy ends of the passage.
The visuals are simple, colorful, and like the sound work well enough for this game, though the anime style could seem like a strange fit at first glance. The controls and puzzles are all fairly straight forward, but enjoyable as you have to figure out how to unlock a particular door or make sense of a vague note you have discovered along the way. The actual story has moments of genuinely creepy punch to it.
However, there are a few things that bog down the experience too. While the inventory system is manageable, it could have been optimized better still. Also, a lack of video options was a little disappointing. Add to it the largely repetitive nature of the game (there is a lot of back-and-forth. In fact, it quite often feels like one large fetch quest) and the ending which was mostly satisfactory while serving as a setup for an obvious sequel at the same time, and there are clearly areas that could stand to be improved.
The tone has a bit of camp to it at times, but generally speaking the story works well. Considering the amount of text here, the localization effort is generally pretty good. There were a few grammatical things here and there that crept up, but nothing that completely killed the flow of the game. I have certainly seen and suffered through far worse.
The Coma: Cutting Class does its job – it delivers some decent scares and sets up an interesting world with room to grow. The gameplay can prove repetitive at times and there are a few small concerns that creep up in polish from localization to how the inventory system works, but I enjoyed the experience more often than not. Fans of niche horror titles like Corpse Party will probably get the most out of this title, which should see a sequel if it performs well in sales.Score: 6.5 / 10