The world of horror and the supernatural has a strong and rather unique place in Korean culture. Since the late 1990s, the film industry has been the leader in horror, especially in terms of story, direction, and style. They are particularly skilled at creating strong female villains who are tormented and want to seek revenge on the mortal world. And this crossed to the gaming scene with the launch of The Coma: Recut on Xbox One in 2017; a game that sees a young student being trapped overnight in a school, after falling asleep studying. It is then where all manner of horrors are rained down. In The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters the evil veil of horror once more comes down onto a poor student and it’s up to them to get out alive. Are you ready to meet the Vicious Sisters?
The game set up this time around is very much like the first, with its 2D side-scrolling widescreen approach. But it is a much bigger game, managing to expand on every aspect that was created first time around. The story starts where the first ended with Youngho – the student initially in question – now in a coma and so his friend Mina takes up the mantle of the hero.
As is customary, she visits her friend in the hospital and attends school, but it just so happens that one night there is a blood moon in the sky and as soon as you can say ‘my teacher is a demon’ everything goes wrong and Mina is propelled into the world of the coma. For those who don’t know, this is like another demon dimension that is similar to our reality, but full of horror and evil. Think of the Upside-Down world in Stranger Things and you will be getting slightly close. It’s up to Mina to work out how to escape, stop the evil demons, and save the world. The story is great and the dialogue fun and humorously told through brilliant animation and comic book cutscenes. This is a game that takes itself seriously but is never afraid to drop a wink at the audience.
The gameplay is setup in pretty much exactly the same way as the first game. You are Mina and you will have, amongst your arsenal to hand, a map that shows the rooms and levels of the area around you. However, some maps need to be found later on and only then will you discover access to specific parts. It will be checking out this map where you will see areas with a question mark, signifying where you need to go next, but you can also look at your notebook to provide details of what is required for progress as well.
You have a health bar and a stamina bar that you need to keep an eye on, because there is danger seeping out of every corner; things grab you from the floor, bodies fall from the ceiling and poison spewing plants blow up in your face. If you get hit you can lose a bar from your health but you can top up that health up with delicious treats found scattered around the levels. You can also buy treats and antidotes from vending machines if you have money on you. But these dangers are insignificant when you take into account the main draw of The Coma 2 – the Vicious Sisters themselves and some other big bads like a not so friendly butcher.
These characters stalk you throughout, and you can hear them getting close as their footsteps get louder and faster; it is then when you know danger is near. The only course of action is to run and avoid them slashing at you, hiding under a desk or in a cupboard for safety. However, whether they see you or not depends entirely on whether you can complete a Quick Time Event in time or not. As you can imagine, these encounters are highly stressful, yet a whole lot of fun. It all gets more hectic the more you spend time with The Coma 2, particularly when the sisters turn feral – if they grab you they can one kill you unless you have some mace to give you a second chance.
The rest of The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters pretty much consists of you trying to get from one area to another, as safely as possible. You might need to collect a key in order to do so, or craft a special item from things you collect from various places. It’s a neat adventure with lots of interesting strands and clever ways of dealing with the terror around you, with the world full of interesting sub-stories and characters.
Visually it employs a comic book style to great effect. The cutscenes are superb and immaculately hand-drawn and the locations – which now take you from the school to a market, through a police station, underground train system, and hospital – are all fantastic. The characters that you meet in the Coma world are brilliantly designed as well, from the scary figures on the floor grabbing at you with their claws, to the actual sisters themselves – complete with their demon smiles.
The sound effects are also extremely good, capturing the ominous sounds of the enemies approaching with footsteps and creaks. The heartbeat of Mina is terrifying when you run out of stamina, and the screams, scratching, and terrifying manic laughter are all techniques that are well employed. Thankfully the development team have kept the original Korean voice over in place, with English subtitles delivering immersion and that is great. I really would have liked this to continue throughout though, rather than just in the cutscenes.
The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters on Xbox One may be a direct follow up to the original The Coma but I feel it has improved on it in every way, all without radically changing the format. New locations, new characters, and some extra scares make for a game that fans of the franchise, and horror in general, should go and buy.