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Bad Dream: Coma (Switch) artwork

Bad Dream: Coma (Switch) review

"Trial and terror"

Bad Dream: Coma (Switch) image

Bad Dream: Coma takes place entirely within a nightmare. Imagine that... However, this dream is not your run of the mill hallucination. Rather, all of humanity inhabits the same, shared vision where the world lies in shambles, monstrous beings and murderous people litter the landscape, and no one can die. Granted they can (and sometimes are, through the course of the campaign) be chopped to gory bits, but remain very much conscious...

Your quest takes you across a crumbled bridge, through a nasty hospital and into a dilapidated apartment complex, among other locales. While all of the areas you visit are merely par for the horror course, this title livens things up with its art style. You see, every screen resembles a hand-inked pen drawing. Each picture smacks of old school horror manga and comics, not to mention that they exude a fittingly bleak feel. On top of that, the locations you search come with their share of decaying touches that further sell the dying world/nightmare combination. The artwork is terrifically done, plus it helps establish this game's identity and allows it to stand out in a crowded genre.

You take the role of a participant in this existential hell, as someone without a clear identity or obvious objective in mind. You venture through various places, eventually hoping to find someone or something to wake all of the world's sleepers. As this is a point-and-click title, you mostly accomplish that end by snagging event items and using them to solve puzzles. You only need to keep in mind as you travel that your decisions and actions affect the tale's outcome. If you live selflessly by choosing the least harmful options available, great things will happen. This might mean taking less obvious routes, such as turning some spiders loose into the wild rather than mashing them with your fist, or procuring a wire for a busted machine without bashing a crying baby doll's face in with a crowbar.

Bad Dream: Coma (Switch) image

However, something isn't quite right about the "good ending" path. Though you'll witness your share of nightmarish images, your positive actions serve only to weaken this adventure's sense of terror. Sure, you'll watch a massive spider munch on a severed arm at one point, but you also perform an elaborate series of fetch quests so you can brew someone an energy drink. Somehow, being nice and having people thank you and tell you how wonderful you are doesn't sit well in a horror title...

The game could've included some touches to the "good" campaign to scary things up a bit. Sadly, the farther into the proceedings you journey, they less unnerving they become. Of course someone near the ending addresses this notion, but that exchange doesn't make the playthrough any less disappointing.

If you found that quest line unsatisfying, you only have one option: restart the affair and be the biggest asshole you can be. Tap/click on every crow in the first level to see them splatter on the ground, crush every spider, crack that baby doll's head open for the wire, cut off a man's fingers with a pair of scissors and glue them to your own hand... Do every awful thing you can and corruption will follow you. Bloodstains show up everywhere, as well as puddles and splotches of oil and other types of grime. Hell, after one point you might even notice urine and turds in a few places.

Bad Dream: Coma (Switch) image

That's not all: your vicious behavior attracts killers. Soon, some of the characters you met in the previous playthrough start turning up butchered, reduced to nasty (still living, unable to die) piles of flesh.

Visceral scares like this are often regarded as cheap and boorish. However, think about the ramifications of this situation. You're basically trapped in a new plane of existence where your actions affect everyone else, and you have to live forever with the knowledge that you are responsible for everyone's permanent misery. Never mind that the game resorts to simple visual thrills, because a concept much more sinister and horrifying lies beneath the facade.

Sadly, Coma loses some of its punch when you factor in its puzzles. Granted, you do encounter some fantastic challenges that utilize dream logic and ooze creativity. At one point, you must utilize a computer that has a virus. The only possession you have that sounds like it would work against a sickness is a bottle of pills, but how do you feed those to a machine? Simple: place it in the waste basket next to the desk, enter the computer's desktop and click on the trash bin icon. Voila! A medicine icon appears, doing away with the virus. During another segment, you'll enter a house at night and find progress impossible because you can't see. The solution: cut a sun off a child's drawing and stick it in the sky.

Bad Dream: Coma (Switch) image

However, a few segments offer rather confusing challenges. At one point, someone asks you to fix a flat tire. You'll need a couple of components to finish this request, one of which is honey from a beehive... Which you secure by using a cigarette on it and lighting it up... Needless to say, I only figured this out through trial and error, equipping items from my inventory and tapping all over the place until something occurred.

You bump into a lot of that nonsense throughout this experience, too. You hit a snag and don't know where to turn, so you just tap every inch of every room until you accidentally advance the story. Sometimes you equip an object before doing so, just so see if it'll lead you somewhere. To make matters worse, some event items are easy to overlook because of their size. For instance, one puzzle revolves around paying an electric bill so you can enter a pitch black bathroom. Understandably, the bill requires a stamp before it can be sent, which you find by tapping on a very tiny, faint, easily missable group of squares on someone's fridge.

By the time I reached the conclusion of my second go, I was pretty exhausted. Though this adventure sports a lot of terrific content, it comes a the cost of scenes that rely on trial and error or constant tapping and praying you stumble upon something useful. However, none of that diminishes my appreciation for this title's grim, hand-drawn world. If you can overlook its middling inventory puzzles, then you'll find a wonderful, imaginative nightmare full of disturbing sights.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (December 13, 2020)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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