Review: The Coma: Recut (Switch)

High school can be a killer.

By Marc Deschamps. Posted 01/19/2018 21:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Frequent scares; terrific audio; haunting visuals
Poison Mushroom for...
Unresponsive controls; tedious backtracking

Though Switch has seen a lot of different genres represented since the system debuted last year, survival horror fans haven’t had much to celebrate. The Coma: Recut gives Nintendo’s handheld hybrid a title that certainly helps fill the gap, though the results are a bit mixed.

The Coma: Recut bears a bit of resemblance to Corpse Party: both games take place in a spooky school set in Asia and both manage to elicit strong scares despite using a simpler artistic design. In The Coma, players control Youngho, a Korean student that finds himself trapped in a parallel dimension where he’s being pursued by a shadow version of his teacher, Ms. Song. Youngho has nothing in the way of offensive weapons, so getting caught by Ms. Song can quickly result in death. To escape The Coma (which doubles as the name of this parallel dimension), Youngho will have to survive long enough to uncover the mysteries of his surroundings. Fortunately, items that refill Youngho’s health and stamina are never too far out of reach, and save points (in the form of chalkboards) tend to be plentiful. Getting a second to stop and use both can sometimes prove tricky, however.

Survival horror games where the player controlled character has no offensive abilities aren’t totally unheard of. The problem is, in The Coma, the deck is often unfairly stacked against you. The game occasionally reminded me of playing LJN’s Friday the 13th on NES as a kid, where finding Jason Vorhees pretty much guaranteed certain doom. There were times I found myself running away from Ms. Song, only for her to attack me from a direction opposite the room I left her in, defying logic. Horror films have often given characters like Michael Myers unfair advantages, but it’s frustrating when the game doesn’t play fair. It can also really hamper exploration, which is all the more irritating when you find yourself stuck. This tends to be The Coma’s biggest problem, as getting to your next destination can take several attempts only to find out you aren’t even in the correct area. There are safe havens; Youngho can hide in lockers provided Ms. Song didn’t see him step inside, and the school’s cafeteria is also devoid of enemy encounters, for whatever reason. Still, the game could have easily made run-ins with Ms. Song a bit less plentiful and still managed to keep the fear factor at the same level.

Unfortunately, Ms. Song has another advantage, as well. The controls simply aren’t as responsive as they should be. More often than not, I felt like I had to press firmly on each button as my responses rarely responded right away. In a game where you’re being consistently hounded by an unkillable entity, having to click a button more than one time can mean the difference between life and death; oftentimes, it did, forcing me to restart from my previous save point.

The map in The Coma: Recut takes some inspiration from the Metroidvania genre. There are three wings of the school to explore, and previously locked rooms open up as time goes on. As such, backtracking plays a major role in the game, but it’s often a bit of a nuisance. The reason is that the game has sort-of artificially extended the gameplay. For one, exploring any area takes up a lot of time thanks to Ms. Song’s frequent pursuits. Often times, players will have to break off from going towards one room in order to get to a locker or safe space. The other reason is because items will show up in areas they clearly weren’t in earlier in the game. Youngho doesn’t just find an item and keep it on-hand in case he needs it later; instead, the game will tell you there isn’t anything important there until later on, when you’ll be forced to go back to that location. As a result, backtracking never feels as natural or rewarding as it does in a game like Metroid. Instead, it feels like a way to prop-up a title that’s already on the shorter side (though there are multiple endings).

The biggest question for any survival horror game often comes down to “is it scary?” For The Coma: Recut, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Being pursued by Ms. Song, and even just the threat of Ms. Song, often left me feeling unnerved. Unsurprisingly, the game is also filled with plenty of jump scares, and while some gamers might hate them, they’re unquestionably effective. There are certainly scarier games on the market, but The Coma does deliver.

If there’s one area in which The Coma Recut excels, it’s in the game’s sound. Saving on one of the school’s chalkboards will elicit a sound of chalk scratching against the board, while a dead body dropping to the ground will land with a sickening “thump.” Most notably, the blood-curdling roar of Ms. Song will always let you know when it’s time to start running. The music is every bit as memorable and atmospheric, as well. My favorite track, from the school’s music room, evokes John Carpenter’s Halloween theme, playing up the existence of the piano in the room. Whether the similarity was intentional or not, its presence was more than welcome.

Equally strong is the game’s artistic direction. The graphics can be a bit on the “cartoony” side, but the visuals throughout Youngho’s adventure become increasingly more disturbing throughout the game. The graphics are sharp, and they showcase some horrific little details, like students killed by hanging and blood-soaked stairwells where it appears a body has been dragged. The title certainly pushes its “T” rating in that regard!

I wanted to love The Coma: Recut. Despite the game’s issues, I did enjoy my time with it. Like any good horror game should, the title left me feeling unnerved during play sessions, and the fantastic sound and visuals greatly added to the experience. Unfortunately, the main villain makes navigation painfully unfun, and the responsiveness of the controls are an unfair disadvantage. With some minor tweaks, The Coma: Recut could have been a masterpiece, but, as it stands, it’s just a fun horror title for those that can overlook its flaws.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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