By Scott Ramage / March 18th, 2020
|Title||The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters|
|Release Date||January 28th, 2020|
South Korea’s own Devespresso Games struck a chord with a cadre of horror fans when The Coma: Cutting Class released. A few years, a vambrace and a remaster later, The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters hit Steam. As for whether it lives up to the standards set by the first game? Let’s find out.
The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters picks up where the first game left off. While I didn’t play that one, I did watch a playthrough beforehand. Good thing too, because I would have missed many, many references to it. Youngho is in the hospital and his classmate, Mina, ends up with the pendant he was holding when he collapsed. After class she spots one of Youngho’s friends, Seho, going into a storage room. She follows him, but nobody’s in there. Then she reads from a strange book which causes her to pass out and enter the nightmarish dimension existing alongside reality known as the Coma. Now she’s caught in a struggle to prevent the titular Vicious Sister from accessing the Waking Realm, lest it unleash its fury on Mina’s world.
When discussing Vicious Sisters, it’s important to distinguish what’s changed from the first entry and what’s the same. Structurally, the sequel plays much like the original. Mina side-scrolls her way through buildings, picking up items and avoiding or hiding from Coma monsters. The same items from the first game can be found scattered around the map or inside vending machines, some of which heal the same bleed and poison status effects. There are still notes to read for lore and/or hints and various puzzles involving items, namely keys. The last similarity I’ll mention is that there is still a ton of backtracking across every location, something I’ll expand on later in this review.
As for what’s different, several of the changes made for Vicious Sisters are cosmetic. Visuals are still hand-drawn and look great for the aesthetic the game puts forth. However, the frame-by-frame animation from the first game got replaced with a smoother, vector-based one. Whether it’s a monster hopping into view or Mina sprinting down a hall, everything looks nice without that floaty, “this character moves like a marionette” quality this type of animation can have if not implemented properly. The only time it consistently looks awkward is in dialogue, where everyone feels the need to constantly bob their head up and down or side to side.
What’s also different is the scope of Vicious Sisters. While the first game stayed on the grounds of Sehwa High School, this one sees Mina start in the school, but end up visiting multiple locations like markets and police stations. Along the way she often gets attacked by wandering minions, called Flesh Thralls, or chased by stronger enemies like the twisted visage of Ms. Song. These enemies wander the halls or streets of each area, but only go into rooms to chase after Mina, who can hide in lockers or under desks until they go away. The footsteps of these stronger enemies can be heard if they’re nearby, but I struggled a lot with knowing when it was safe to leave a room. I’d hear footsteps fade into the distance, go outside, then immediately hear a shriek and need to hide again. Other times I’d hear the footsteps get really close and go silent. After twenty seconds or so, I had a fifty-fifty shot upon leaving the room of immediately slamming into whatever I was trying to avoid.
On the plus side, Mina isn’t completely defenseless in Vicious Sisters. Aside from being able to dodge past enemies and traps, there are usually plenty of health or stamina items around, either found in bags or available to buy from vending machines. She can also use one-time self-defense items like mace if she gets caught by Dark Song in particular. These are usually tied to quick-time events, something that bothered me after a while due to their overuse. Vicious Sisters loves quick-time events, throwing out three or four at a time for things like hiding from monsters and cobbling together items at a crafting bench. I can understand the former to some degree, but why is crafting, a no-pressure activity that’s not time sensitive, tied to a series of quick-time events?
Crafting is something you may or may not do in Vicious Sisters, depending on how much you value Mina’s well being. She has five points of health to start with, but can permanently lose a point for not crafting certain tools for certain events, usually when she’s moving between different parts of town. The thing is, these tools are key items and only work for those specific events, even when they would be useful at other times. If Mina crafts a taser and gets caught by Dark Song, she’ll decide dying is better so she can save it for a future emergency she doesn’t know will happen. At one point Mina crafts a trap which doesn’t slow down Dark Song at all, but demon teacher Wile E. Coyotes herself off a ledge and out of the scene as Mina gets away. Sometimes these crafted tools pay off, but other times they don’t significantly change Mina’s interactions with Dark Song, minus the health loss.
That leads to one of the key features of Vicious Sisters, and also one of its biggest drawbacks. Some backtracking is to be expected, particularly in horror games, but this game tends to rely on it to an absurd degree. For example, I noticed that I’d often get an item or note in the far northeast corner of a map, then have to follow the hint to the far southwest corner. This happened over and over across multiple buildings. It’s made worse by several key parts of the map like connecting hallways or staircases being blocked off or destroyed, forcing long detours. I get that it’s to have more monster encounters and play up how warped the Coma’s take on the real world is, but it’s no less annoying. It’s aggravated further by Mina apparently being the embodiment of Murphy’s law. Instead of having to grab a card from her bag at the school to use for the subway, Mina will have it stolen by a Shade, be led across the school to find it, go to the subway, find the card has no money on it, find a card machine that only accepts bills when she just has coins, find a Shade in a bathroom that will pay for toilet paper, then have to track down said toilet paper because I guess no one stocked any of the adjacent stalls. For the record, that’s not an exaggeration; it’s an actual sequence of events in the game.
Still, I’ll take being constantly strung along with fetch quests over getting lost due to how event flags work in Vicious Sisters. Even with an objective list and the map occasionally showing markers for where to go, it can be easy to miss what the game thinks is important. See, Mina often won’t pick up any items or read any notes unless A) the light is on so she can see them, and B) she follows a weirdly specific sequence of events. While it may make sense to not take certain items without knowing if she’ll use them—shout outs to every square crank in any Resident Evil game—it’s also frustrating to have to follow an unusually strict trail of bread crumbs so Mina will pick up something she should know will come in handy. I missed a post-it note in a school office, one of four I had to read in order, which left Mina unable to see or pick up a key sitting on a desk. Said key was for a room Mina needed to visit, and which a Shade already hinted that she should go to. Did I mention this key sequence is also part of Operation: Subway Paper from earlier? It can get exhausting not just how often the game uses backtracking and event flags, but how they can make Mina seem oblivious.
As much as the means to get through the story bothered me, not much else in Vicious Sisters did. Controls were an issue because I played on a keyboard and, with no options for rebinding and next to no mouse use, I wound up playing the whole game with one gradually cramping hand. That aside, the story is well paced and the game takes advantage of the expanded setting to do some world building on how the Coma and the beings in it operate. I know some will think the ending (the good/true ending, not the bad one) is somewhat disappointing in one specific regard, but I thought it made sense while still allowing Mina to deal with her faults over the course of the game. The atmosphere stays strong on both an audio and visual front throughout, thanks to the moody ambient tracks and combination of twisting eldritch vines and wax corpse-like figures.
As much as I like the world and story of The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters, as well as most of the gameplay, I can’t overlook how much it felt like the game was being padded with fetch quests and picky event triggers. I lasted eight hours on the first go, but had to keep taking breaks every 30-40 minutes or so because I could only do so much backtracking or scanning of every wall in every room for hints before needing to do something, anything else. For those with a higher tolerance for it, the $15 asking price (or about $23 for a deluxe bundle with the artbook, soundtrack and two DLC costumes) should be well worth it. After all, someone needs to help Mina out so she doesn’t have to settle for a disappointing B on her exams. Yes, really.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Devespresso GamesSteamThe Coma 2: Vicious Sisters