Dreams are the strangest of things. One of the most common things you might hear someone say to you is “Can I tell you about my dream last night?”. We don’t understand the inner workings of the mind at night and for centuries we have sought to try to share these experiences in order to get a true understanding of what is going on. However, some dreams have inspired great stories and ideas. Some have been turned into large abstract paintings or pieces of sculpture art. But it goes further and in recent times dreams in games have become a common factor and a handy plot device. But has there been a game where the whole experience is that of just a dream? Welcome Bad Dream: Coma.
Bad Dream: Coma is a point-and-click narrative adventure that takes you through the mind of a sleeping individual and their nightmare world. Through this surreal landscape, you will experience deserted wastelands, dirty hospitals, forests, graveyards, and places that will, frankly, make you shudder.
The experience focuses on the need to explore the world, pick up items and discover clues to this fevered narrative. You never die, but you can be hurt in horrendous manners throughout, all as you encounter people, strange creatures, and even Death itself.
As you would expect to hear, the game’s tone is a very dark one, full of the surreal and the unusual. It’s a story that is told in chapters, each of which has a different location, yet there are also different ways to actually play out proceedings – the good way, the bad way, and the neutral way. These different versions not only deliver different outcomes but affect how you play each chapter, in terms of what you have to do and, at times, what characters you meet along the way. I love the tone it brings; the creepiness, darkness, and horror of the story. It’s fragmented, doesn’t ever make sense, and is a collection of distorted stories, much like a dream. But that’s the draw.
In regards to the gameplay and Bad Dream: Coma is much like a normal point-and-clicker. You are presented with a hand-drawn animated level, and thrust into the first person. You can click on anything on the screen. Things can be moved, crunched, pushed or, if you’re feeling evil, the game allows you to punch a crow and make it explode. Everything seems to be usable, but there are certain objects you can pick up and put in your inventory, before the standard fare of using items with items comes to the fore.
The big problem I have had though is that in Bad Dream: Coma, it’s very easy to lose track of what you are doing, and you are never sure what to take in next. There are obvious clues, with things played out visually and through conversations with characters, but because the dream is so surreal and disturbing it’s easy to get lost in the non-linear nature. Hell, even should you resort to a guide, you’ll still be left unsure as to what needs doing. But moaning aside, the gameplay and puzzles on offer are very clever, and for point-and-click fans it’s going to be a creepy delight; no more so than in the old-fashioned “spot the difference’ sections that appear occasionally.
Visually, Bad Dream: Coma uses a very simple but stunning use of graphic design. It’s like a scary comic novel that has come to life; colours are monochrome for most sections but splashes of light and tones are used very effectively. The characters are beautifully drawn too, yet pretty terrifying and so if you have a nervous disposition then it might be good to turn away at times because Bad Dream: Coma can get gory and disturbing; fingers go missing and you destroy things into a pulpy mass. The visuals are fantastic though and some of the imagery will stay with you for a long time, mostly because of the uneasy view of the world. The sound design is minimal as well, but very effective – a sudden howl of an animal in distress or a muffled scream from a patient in a hospital mixed with very simple loops of footsteps and locational atmosphere creates a very interesting soundscore throughout.
Bad Dream: Coma on Xbox will leave a mark, mostly thanks to its strange, surreal visuals and dream-like concept. It’s a good point-and-click adventure, but might be too obscure and surreal for some – you’ll certainly have to work in order to understand the purpose of the main character and what is happening to them. If you are looking for something to keep you awake at night – ensuring that you may never sleep again – Bad Dream: Coma might be the game for you.