The Coma 2 Vicious Sister is a direct sequel to The Coma: Cutting Class/Recut from 2017, which was a well-received 2D survival horror made in Korea, and became something of a cult classic. The sequel is very similar, from graphics to setup, but benefits from improving on all the little issues in the first game. Also going in, you should know that yes, there are ties to the first game and yes, they reference events and a character from the first game here and there, but I played the second one without having played the first and I don’t see that there was any real issue with starting here.
The closest thing I can think of to compare the Coma series to is the old Clock Tower series from Capcom in the 90s or at least the first one. 2D sidescrolling horror, with a simple items and keys type gameplay that the Resident Evil series made its own, though Clock Tower was point and click, which the Coma 2 is not.
However when it turns to horror, The Coma is channelling all sorts of Asian horror cinema such as the Grudge, Battle Royale, Audition, Takeshi Miike films, and plenty of Korean ones you’ve probably not seen, and just a little bit of Junji Ito’s manga. It’s got some Metal Gear and some Alien Isolation in there for good measure. It’s a fun melting pot that translates into a game that’s easy to pick up and play, and manages to foster both a foreboding sense of unease and a few jump scares.
Mina Park is a young honours student attending high school in Korea. She has the same issues any high school kid does; grades, boys, rumours. But when Mina stays late one night after school to talk to her teacher Mrs Song, she suddenly finds herself the victim of a strange ritual in a dark store room. When she awakens, her world is very different. She has entered a kind of shadow realm, called The Coma, where very few conscious humans exist, and everyone is either a wax grotesquery, or is actively trying to kill her.
Inside the Coma realm, Mina must find a way to exit a school covered in bodies, with eldritch vines and tentacles blocking every exit. As you exit the school finally, Mina thinks she sees her teacher Mrs Song, only to be attacked by a shadow version of her. Mina manages to escape out into the town but finds the whole place has been affected by the Coma. From here on The Coma gets itself into a pleasing Resident Evil type rhythm of new locations, like police station’s covered in evil, or dark abandoned hospitals, finding items and solving puzzles to move forward, and a few disparate survivors who help or hinder our heroine as she tries to survive.
Mrs Song, the teacher, hunts you like a psychotic Mr X from Resident Evil 2, but imagine instead the freaky Joker smile, long black hair over her face like the Ring, and that her body moves like a marionette on speed. More on her in a moment, but overall the Coma 2 strikes a good sinister tone in its plot, but character was a little lacking. I can’t say I really cared that much for Mina’s plight, she’s not especially likeable or fleshed out. It’s actually her classmate Da-Hyun who gets the more in-depth character reveals. The same can be said for the villain, who gets relatively little explanation, and virtually no motive. She’s just evil, and must be stopped.
The bulk of the game is presented as a 2D side-scroller. The character art is pleasing, and the animation in the normal game world is well done. However, character models do have limited frames used for their movements and so getting in and out of cover for example, or the motion of starting or stopping running can seem a little jarring. You might describe it as clunky. The locations, from the dark abandoned school after hours, to the eldritch covered police station, to the markets and hospital, all feel lived in, well designed and apt environments for the type of game. It could be argued that they are a little generic, as we have seen the like in every horror game going, but abandoned, in the dark, with only a lighter to light your way, and a psycho hunting you down, they feel plenty scary.
The Coma 2 uses comic book art frames for cutscenes, and the art here doesn’t do it for me. They are not ugly drawings, far from it, but I just feel it detracted rather than added. The first time you see the Shadow teacher for example, it’s in still frame art. This made it far less scary, and I would have preferred it if she chased you down in the regular 2D game graphics, like she does in the rest of the game. The same can be said of a number of sections. You ride a motorcycle for a moment just after escaping the school, but it’s a few still frames of art. Why not draw the bike in-game, and have the chase in a side-scrolling format with the background whipping past? The drawings also often seem like a different young girl, her hair is lighter, her face shape is not quite what you are used to in the rest of the game. It feels a little like the developers decided to change the character model after the artwork for the cutscenes was already done, or vice versa.
The Coma 2 follows the Resident Evil model of gameplay just in a 2D setting; explore your surroundings, avoiding rather than dealing with enemies, and find items, keys and key cards to open doors, and repeat. There are clues scattered about the levels, and each clue will lead to another, or to an item or key you need to progress. Though not every section is obvious, I found it was generally simple to follow the clues without too much trouble. You are given a list of reminders to keep you on track if you had to take a break for example.
Most areas are split into corridors, or streets, and then doors and rooms behind them, or stairs and lifts to other levels. You might not want to follow the clues because every time you step out of a room, you are in danger. You are stalked constantly by the Dark Shadow of your teacher, and she can appear at almost any time. There is a sound cue that she’s nearby; you hear her heels click-clicking down the corridors. That’s your cue to dive into a room. She generally won’t follow into a room, so most are safe.
However if you are seen before you entered the room, she will give chase, follow you up floors, into rooms and then murder you with one great claw punch through the heart. Inside the rooms, you need to duck under tables, into cupboards, lockers or wardrobes, and hope she didn’t see you get in. If she did its game over again. While in a locker, Metal Gear Solid style, you have to hold your breath and this is handled via a d-pad combo every few seconds. The atmosphere of being constantly stalked makes the game oppressive, in a good way. You will try to run from room to room, always on your toes. Hiding, especially when she comes flitting past like a marionette, feels like the best parts of Alien Isolation, hiding from the alien. But being forced to do these unimaginative and somewhat pointless button combos to stay hidden detracts from the experience.
You’re not quite defenceless, but The Coma 2 never really gives you any weapons. For the most part you only have some mace, for a one-shot escape. There are a few scripted attack sections, where the only way you’ll survive intact is by having crafted a particular item before that scene happens. If you hadn’t, then these sections will leave you with a one part less of your maximum health for the rest of the playthrough. And you only have five parts. These can generally be filled by items, but not if you’ve actually lost the section.
You also have to contend with Mina’s own stamina constraints. You can run, but only for a short time, which means you will explore most places at walking pace, conserving the burst of stamina for running from room to room, or away from enemies. Don’t worry, it regenerates quickly, it’s just there to stop constant running. Creeping about is scarier.
Apart from the shadow teacher, there are a few other enemies. Bodies on the floor can slash at you, others in the ceilings will try to drop on you, nightmarish creatures also stalk the streets and will chase you down. Most static ones can be dealt with just by running past before they can attack, but some, like the stalkers, need to be run from, far and fast.
I really liked the level design in Coma 2, especially the extensive vertical maps of each location. Where maps are normally flat and top down, it makes sense in 2D games that maps are like vertical slices across a building, giving you the rooms and info on each floor. There are lots of secrets in The Coma 2, locked rooms that require special keys, and lots of backtracking through the game to achieve them, however of those I tried, the only real rewards were more lore and consumables. There’s little in the way of incentive to go out of your way except to get the achievements.
Most of the dialogue in Coma 2 is dealt with via written text boxes. There are a few sections with voiceover, however it’s all in Korean. For a westerner, that certainly makes it sound authentic, but if you don’t like reading a lot of text, you’ve been warned.
Music all through the game is handled really well, from the Persona-style acid jazz in the real world, to the dark ominous themes in the Coma shadow realm. The music never got boring, and it really added to the atmosphere. The developers should also be commended for sound design outside of music, such as the sound cues for the psycho stalker. I will hear those heels in my nightmares.
The Coma 2 Vicious Sisters succeeds as a pretty good adventure horror game. Its graphics are endearing enough to keep you going, it’s puzzles not to complicated, with just the right amount of backtracking, and its story will take you to the end, even if you are likely to forget any details within a week. It’s certainly an improvement over its predecessor.
But therein lies maybe its biggest issue. For those coming to this brand new, you’ll have fun, and unless you really get the bug for it, you’re unlikely to play the first game. But for those who have, its almost a carbon copy, just with a female lead instead of a male. Same school, same Coma world, same psycho-hunting-you-down mechanic. All that’s changed is the framing of the story, and an overall slicker package.
The Coma 2 will only last you 6-8 hours to play through. This new console version includes all the DLC skins from the Steam edition that have been released since January 2020.
An atmospheric adventure, The Coma 2 has enough puzzles and personality to keep horror fans going until Halloween. While it succeeds in gameplay, it’s story is pretty simple, and it gets repetitive by the end of it’s six hour campaign.
The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters is available now on PC, Xbox One (review system), PS4 and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Devespresso Games
Publisher: Headup Games, Chorus Worldwide
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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