27/05/2017

☆ Review: Bad Dream Coma - "Spiders hatched in my kitchen..." ☆

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Bad Dream Coma - PC

Point-and-click video games seem to be having a bit of a renaissance. With new titles like Obduction and Thimbleweed Park, and remasters to such classics as Full Throttle and the Monkey Island series, it seems the adventure gaming fan has it all.
Even the indies are getting in on the action, as evidenced by the release of Bad Dream: Coma, developed by Desert Fox and published by PlayWay back in March.
The developer is also responsible for several other games in the Bad Dream series, from which one would hope they’d have a pedigree in horror-themed adventure gaming.
Starting up Coma instantly gives you an idea of what you’re in for: you’re greeted by a beautiful image of a scruffy jackdaw who’s found himself an eyeball to feast on. The gameplay itself is reminiscent of Myst and Riven – i.e. simplistic and intuitive. Hovering over items on the ground causes the cursor to change: a hand if it can be picked up, a question mark if it can be interacted with. All fairly standard stuff for the seasoned adventure gamer.
The game’s first-person perspective serves to immerse the player into the world; this is your nightmare, these are your feet sticking out the end of the bed, et cetera. Of course, not many people have a cursor flying around their field of vision…but this is a nightmare, after all.
"Of course you’re going to have a nightmare if you do something like that."
Speaking of nightmares, Coma’s narrative revolves around that – as the title ever-so-subtly hints at. To this end, the game has a foreboding atmosphere designed to make the player feel uncomfortable. Dialogue is terse and unwelcoming, newspapers are little more than small scraps, and things seem to appear out of nowhere.
It actually does a very good job of capturing what a dream feels like – at first it may feel disjointed in its execution, but it’s meant to be that way. After all, when was the last time you had a dream that made perfect sense? The simplistic gameplay drives this narrative; everything is secondary to the plot.
At this point, it’s worth mentioning that there are six other games in the series. I suspect playing those will help to set this game up.
You may have gathered by this point that the game is highly focussed on this bizarre nightmare world, and the graphics only further this commitment. Coma is presented in a hand-drawn style, which suggests that the protagonist is retelling this tale through a series of scrawlings on whatever paper could be found, however stained and blotchy it is. That’s my interpretation, anyway. There are also a few small details that are pleasant to see (insofar as anything in this game can be described as ‘pleasant’) – small things you’d notice if you were to play.
C:\Users\Tim\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\INetCacheContent.Word\2017-05-16 22-09-29.mp4_snapshot_11.12_[2017.05.23_11.43.21].png
"‘Ere mate, got a quid so I can get the train?"
Despite all this, the art department is where the game really falls down for me. To put it simply: it is way overdone. Stylistically, the game’s visuals lend themselves to the creepy atmosphere, but that’s just it – there’s so much spooky nonsense that it wears thin before you’ve even left the first screen. The background is filthy, everyone speaks in riddles, structures are cracked and broken, and everything, including the cursor, seems to be covered in oily black stains. Even the first monster to feature in this game is trite at best. And the clichés don’t end there: near the start of the game, there’s the classic “baby screaming in the distance coupled with unsettling ambient music” thing which we’ve all come across before. It’s trying too hard. Yes, very good, you’re a horror game. We believe you.
As well as this, it seems like many of the game’s interactions are totally inconsequential. There are three different endings, which is nice to see, and supposedly these can be influenced by things that, at first, appear trivial. But there are that many bottles to poke and cans to crush that would cause such gameplay to become a guessing game.
There are other ways to influence the endings, too. Punching birds, for example, counts towards the bad ending…as did seemingly everything else I did. This may not be an issue for the smarter among you, but every puzzle I solved had a negative impact, even though I couldn’t see any other way around said puzzles. I hesitate to put this down to poor design, but when I showed this game to other people, they agreed with me…we can’t all be thick as bricks, right?
"Spiders, eh? Who saw that one coming?"
Summary:
As it stands, this game is made for a certain audience. If you’re in for this whole “too spooky for me” aesthetic, and you like a bit of obtuse puzzle-solving, then Bad Dream: Coma is the game for you. It may be worth seeking out and running through the other (free) games in the series first. However, if you’re like me and find this sort of thing banal and uninspired, I’d say give it a miss.

Game Link: Steam
Dev Link: PlayWay















Review By Tim Scott



"STAY FROSTY!"