Game Review #535: The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: John B
Developer: Devespresso Games
Publisher: Headup Games
Category: Action, Adventure, Platformer
Release Date: 6.19.2020
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Buy The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Some of my favorite games from the PSX era are the classic entries in the Resident Evil series. Up through the fourth game – including Code Veronica – RE is probably one of my favorite game series of all time. Despite that, I really don’t have much affection for the survival horror genre, or at the very least it’s not a genre I find myself drawn to very often. And that kind of confuses me; I love story-driven games with ample exploration and puzzle-solving elements, and that’s basically the definition of survival horror. I guess it’s more the horror part of the moniker that turns me off; I’ve never been into the horror in general, whether movies, books, or games. And that makes reviewing games like The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters for the Nintendo Switch all the more challenging. I can see the high level of craft that went into the game; the care that went into telling the story, the attention to detail in the graphics, and the masterful composition of the audio track to maximize the game’s tense atmosphere. And yet the game’s vibe just didn’t speak to me, and I feel like it’s a shame that I couldn’t fully enjoy a game this well-made more than I did.
An Exciting Career in Ghost Vigilantism
Players take control of high school student Mina Park of Sehwa High. One night – during a super blood moon - she stays late after night classes and sees another student entering an area he shouldn’t. Mina passes out after reading a mysterious book and wakes up in a twisted version of reality called The Coma. She finds herself the target of an evil shadow being known as Vicious Sister, but comes into contact with a group of paranormal agents known as the Ghost Vigilantes. With assistance from the Vigilantes, Mina explores the Coma, becoming engrossed in preventing Vicious Sister from completing her dark ritual.
So the story is pretty solid, with a great cast of characters fighting to save the Sehwa District – and themselves – from shadowy creatures in the dark. The Coma 2 does a good job building its lore and setting via torn pages scattered around the game’s various locations. It’s a simple but effective way to flesh out various characters’ histories and motivations, as well as explaining The Coma itself. The writing is sharp and engaging, whether you’re reading the notes or the dialogue, which makes for an overall engrossing narrative experience.
2D Survival Horror
The Coma 2’s main gameplay concepts combine 2D metroidvania-style exploration and survival horror mechanics. Exploring the game’s different locations generally consists of walking along some main hallways and exploring whatever side rooms are accessible. Along the way, Mina will find keys, tools, buttons, or other means of opening new areas to explore. She’ll also encounter various kinds of shadows, ranging from generic scything tentacles to zombies grabbing at her feet as she passes all the way up to Vicious Sister herself on the warpath. Mina can outrun her pursuers – provided she has enough stamina – and hide in various closets, cabinets, and under tables until her pursuers move on.
While running and hiding is the main tactic for evading Vicious Sister, you can also spray her with a can of mace if you happen to have one and escape – but cans only have one use and you can –for some reason - only hold one can at a time, so try not to get caught. If you get hit, you can use bandages to cure wounds and eat food to restore health. All of these items are scattered around the Coma or can be purchased at one of the many vending machines you’ll encounter.
Many of the game’s areas feature a crafting side quest that requires Mina to gather components and create a special, one-use item. For example, the first craftable item is a Taser in the police station and the market district tasks you with creating a bear trap. It’s always a good idea to take the time to figure these side quests out, as the consequences of skipping them are pretty dang dire. If an area has a crafting table, then leaving that area will feature a special cutscene where you will need to use that item. If you don’t have it, you will permanently lose one of your health bars, and there’s no way to replenish them!
The Suspense Isn’t What’s Killing Me
The game does an absolutely stunning job of setting up a tense, sinister atmosphere that kept my blood pressure pretty high at all times. The biggest issue for me was actually the action scenes – when I was being chased by Vicious Sister it was kind of a chore to get away from her. Actions aren’t just carried out by pressing a button – you’ve got to hold the button while a timer fills until you take an action like entering a door or hiding spot. The extra second it takes to do so often gives VS the chance she needs to catch up to you, which is almost always an automatic death unless you have mace. I died more times because it took too long to open a damn door than I can count. The loading times aren’t terrible, and there is a way to fast forward through cutscenes if you have to replay them, but when you have to replay a section ten times because you can’t open a gee-dee door fast enough to get away, they start to feel longer and more aggravating. It also detracts somewhat from the game’s sense of suspense; the more annoyed I got at having to reload from the same point, the less effect the atmosphere had on me.
It Was Dark But Not Stormy Night – Like, Really Dark
Probably the real reason I don’t care for survival horror so much is how freakin’ dark the games tend to be. I don’t mean in terms of themes or tone, I mean they are literally too dang dark to see anything. The Coma 2 uses darkness as a main game mechanic by way of your lighter, and later on, special spectral matches. Having the lighter on attracts enemies, but it’s also the only way you’re going to see anything in your surroundings – especially if you’re playing undocked. Even with the lighter on, things are so freaking dark undocked that you can’t even see a hazard until you’re right on top of it – and by then it’s usually too late to avoid it.
And that’s a shame, because this is a pretty good-looking game. The 2D graphics have a hand-drawn look to them, and they’re the highest-quality graphics this side of a Vanillaware release. They’re highly detailed, and – when you can see them – very attractive. Cutscenes are rendered in a really cool motion graphic novel style featuring an attractive manhwa art style, completing the game’s impressive visual repertoire. The audio design is a mix of spooky, atmospheric background noise and slow, tension-building music that crescendos into high-pitched, nerve-racking wails during the chase scenes, heightening the frantic feel of escaping your pursuer.
This Is One Coma You Won’t Want To Wake Up From Right Away
I really liked a lot of things about The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters. The storyline is solid and gripping, with great characters, multiple endings, and plenty of interesting world-building lore. The idea of the gameplay is pretty solid, but I would have preferred the game tweaked some of the implementation to make performing actions a little smoother during chase scenes. It’s just not a good idea to stand still for a full second when a knife-wielding, homicidal shadow monster is chasing you, and it led me to some unnecessary deaths that detracted from the game’s otherwise-outstanding sense of atmosphere. The game looks good, but if you play it undocked – which I greatly prefer – things are so dark I could barely see anything on the screen which was frustrating. Despite some warts, fans of survival horror will be greatly pleased if they pick this game up.
Buy The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*A game code was provided for review purposes