Youngho is a young high school student with a normal life and normal friends. He’s just an average student cramming for his exams, stocking up on energy drinks and wishing to the tests gods for a safe journey. All goes well, until he bumps into a young woman that goes by the name of Yaesol. She’s distant and cold, (perhaps just his type) but she tells him that he’s late and that he should move along.
Slightly perturbed by her standoffish demeanor, he quickly heads to school, only to find out that one of his classmates has been hospitalized. Frantic faces of curious onlookers become apparent and one thought crosses their minds. “This just has to happen in the middle of exam week.” Unfazed, Youngho passes through the crowd until a pendant twinkles by his peripheral. The pendant belongs to his teacher, Ms. Song and he innocently picks it up, without knowing the dangers it will bring him.
The exams are delayed but the school continues with the day, despite the recent incident. The exhausted Youngho takes his exam but half-way during his test, his vision becomes hazy until he is greeted by darkness. Next thing he knows, he wakes up in a different world filled with grisly creatures and deadly traps. Stumbling through the dark corridors of the building that mirrors his beloved school, he once again encounters Yaesol. She is hiding (or perhaps waiting) in the cafeteria with an explanation that Youngho is in The Coma, a distorted, alternate version of Sehwa High School. Furthermore, she adds that in order to wake up, he must backtrack and find the source of evil that keeps him here.
Youngho has no means of protecting himself while he is stuck in The Coma. Armed with only his trusty flashlight, he must run, hide and run some more if he is being chased. Luckily, there is only one enemy to deal with but to his dismay; this “killer” wears the face of his beloved teacher, Ms. Song (who may be a puppet rather than the mastermind of all this.) Confused at first, Youngho must use his wits to avoid detection of this murderous doppelganger. Fortunately, avoiding Psycho Song is a piece of cake. She loses interest in Youngho quickly once he reaches a certain distance away from her. Hiding in bathroom stalls and closets can also break line of sight since she never checks those locations. As long as you listen for her footsteps, getting away from her shouldn’t be a big hindrance. However, towards the end of the game, she becomes more aggressive and faster, making it harder to break her line of sight. This is where I was starting to get annoyed but I will admit the slight difficulty spike towards endgame was a nice change of pace because in the beginning, I was getting bored.
Psycho Song isn’t the only thing Youngho must contend with. He needs to keep himself healthy with consumable items picked up in the school or bought in the school cafeteria’s (the safe zone) vending machines. There is a stamina meter, right below his health pool but stamina recovers fairly quickly. Water helps with the stamina bar but I never had the need to use it. Any items pertaining to stamina was useless because by the time Psycho Song loses sight of you, your stamina would’ve recovered by then. I thought it was a waste of space in an already limited backpack space. Good thing key items are separated in a different slot; otherwise, I would’ve lost my mind while playing.
The game also tries to add another layer of difficulty by adding harmful conditions such as being poisoned and bleeding but during my time in The Coma, I didn’t find it too concerning. If you’re unlucky enough to be afflicted by both of them at the same time, they are a deadly combo. Consumable drops like antidote and bandages (which heals these status ailments) spawn enough times that you don’t have to worry about running to the shop to buy them.
To add to that, there aren’t any puzzles that needs solving, although there are doors that bar your way. They will need the occasional access code or key to unlock it. That’s usually the objectives that pop up. Find this key, find this access code, find another way, find another life.
Another thing that may or may not be your cup of tea is manual saving. Chalkboards are your best friend so saving often is advisable.
In all honesty, the atmosphere of The Coma can be unsettling. Most of the time, it is eerily silent, with only the sounds of Youngho’s footstep echoing in the background. Occasionally, the growls and deliberate footsteps of Ms. Song will penetrate your ears and that is the time you need to scramble away, lest she finds our hero and gut him alive. Dark apparitions of Sehwa high students hide in every corner, waiting to swat and cripple our already scared Youngho.
However…HOWEVER!! Psycho Song ruins the foreboding mood the game is trying to portray. Maybe I’m just terrible at the game but she finds me all the time. I can’t “Sam Fisher” my way through anything so every time I hear her chase music, I just want to hit somebody. The game becomes very repetitive and over time, the hallways become this obstacle course where I go from point A to point B. Dodging and hiding is the name of the game. It becomes dull very quickly and her constant chasing takes away from the experience.
The beautiful anime-style drawings in the cutscenes are captivating and I actually want more of it. The gruesome husks of the inhabitants of The Coma are intimidating and downright creepy. I actually would love an art book of the game. In terms of graphic options, it is bare, with only few options to choose from. Selecting Fullscreen is really the only one available. I really don’t see the need to mess with the graphics anyways but options are always nice, right? For some reason, it's locked at 50 fps. Go figure.
Besides this, I've encountered several glitches that aren't gamebreaking but left me pulling on my hair because of its suddenness. For example, I died and loaded back into the game. The screen turns all black but you can hear the in-game sounds and the HUD is present.
There is also another occasion where I kept teleporting to this door and no matter what door I would enter, my character instantly warped to the original door. This one truly aggravated me because I haven’t saved and this dumb bug happened to me. (I found that restarting the game solved these bugs. They appeared once or twice.)
The game randomly crashed on me twice during my 6 hours worth of game time. Again, both times I haven’t saved. I didn’t have a very lucky playthrough.
The highlight of The Coma is its characters and story. My favorite will be Youngho, for obvious reasons. It's good to have a likeable protagonist, who is outfitted with quips and flirting ability. He’s a real charmer.
There is a twist at the end which leads me to believe that a) The developers might be gunning for a sequel or b) The Coma has multiple endings. I can’t be positively sure on that one because I’ve played it only once but the more think about, I left something unfinished and perhaps there might a good and bad ending. I’m sorry I can’t be sure of this just yet.
For 9.99, this game offers an intriguing story filled with twist and turns but is held back by its poor, repetitive game mechanics.