The Coma: Cutting Class – Scared for Teacher

Youngho’s got it rough at school. Exams are tough. A bully’s singled him out. He seems to have slipped into an alternate dimension where his teacher is chasing him around with an axe. It’s a real drag. Fortunately, despite being sucked into a dark world filled with horrifying monsters and the corpses of his fellow students, there’s a way out AND a way to improve his grades. That all depends on you, though, as you tiptoe through the halls, nerves on edge while you’re trying to get the poor boy back home in The Coma: Cutting Class.

Getting Youngho out of this dimension alive means having to navigate the halls of his school, and it’s huge. You can only go left or right, which does make things simpler, but there are multiple floors and sections to the school, and it can be easy to get lost or confused. There are maps lying around that make navigation easier, though, so you can easily get your bearings as you meander the halls, looking for tools, items, and other things that will help you escape.

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The only drag is that opening the map doesn’t pause the game. Neither does going through your bookbag for items or stopping to read the notes and documents in each area. The game is always live, which means the creature that’s stalking you can easily creep up on you when you’re occupied. You’re always in danger in The Coma: Cutting Class, and if you have trouble remembering that at first, someone will come and remind you in a hurry.

Ms Song is Youngho’s teacher, and the game takes time to show her concern and care for him at the beginning. This is why it’s a surprise to see her tearing through the halls, slashing at your throat with a box cutter. Expect to see a lot of her, too, as she’s persistent, following you throughout the entire game. She’s never very far from your position, either, so whatever you’re looking for, you’ll need to find it fast.

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The game indicates her presence with the sound of heels tapping against a hard floor. It’s an uncomfortable noise – the kind of thing that gives the chills when you think you’re all alone. It’s especially hard to listen to that sound after you’ve had an encounter with her. Worse, when she sees you, the screen shakes as she screams. It’s a jarring moment, one that causes a disconnect in the mind from panic – the kind that makes you pull away from the keyboard in shock. You’ll need to get those fingers back on the keys quick, though, because if she’s screaming, then she’s almost on top of you.

Ms Song runs very fast, and attacks just as quickly. You may have five hearts worth of life in the beginning, but she can chew through those in little time. As the game progresses, she becomes even more dangerous, carving two and three hearts off your health bar if she gets anywhere near you with her weapons. Don’t expect some temporary invincibility when you take a hit, either, as she can keep on lashing out at you if you stay close. You have a decent-sized health bar, but it doesn’t translate to a long life with Ms Song around.

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You don’t have a whole lot of stamina, either. Youngho can only run for so long before he gets exhausted, his speed slowing to a crawl. Ms Song WILL catch you if you ever run out of stamina without a place to hide, so you need to manage that while getting away from her. There are items you can use to restore stamina, but since the game won’t pause while you’re in your inventory, it’s hard to stop running from her to grab a drink of water. This makes the stamina-restoring items largely useless, but it does make the chases more intense. You do have a decent amount of stamina, but in some end-game chases, you’ll be trembling as you watch that stamina bar dwindle down.

The only way to stay alive is to hide from her, jumping in lockers, closets, bathroom stalls, or anywhere you can squeeze yourself into. If she doesn’t find you in them, then you can wait until her music and footsteps die down to know she’s gone. Then again, many of the available hiding spots are stuffed with junk or corpses, so sometimes, just when you think you’re finally safe, you’ll find that you have no place to hide. Should you find an open hiding spot, though, you can look at your map and use some items in peace. At least that’s a nice bonus to hiding from a dangerous ghoul.

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The items are all the kinds of junk food a teenager could get at school, giving you bottled water, bags of chips, and things like that. They restore stamina, health, or cure status problems like poison or bleeding, but while you have a lot of space for these items, it rarely feels like enough. A boy can only carry so many bags of chips, sure, but it won’t take long before your inventory is choked with stuff. This is especially bad when money takes up an inventory slot per coin, meaning you’ll want to spend it quickly (you can buy specific items you want from the cafeteria) just to free up space.

It’s a bit annoying given how often you find new items, and especially bad since the game doesn’t pause while you throw out unwanted stuff. Important items go in a separate inventory, so at least that isn’t an issue, but it can still be difficult to make decisions on items when you hear a killer’s footsteps heading your way. This adds to the tension at times, but in others, you realize you’re trying to decide on whether you want a chocolate bar or energy drink with a murderer on your trail. Sometimes it feels tense – others it feels silly.

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The game looks really great, though. The Coma: Cutting Class is animated in a comic book-like art style, one that makes great use of shadow and darkness to make the simplest things look eerie. Ms Song, the normally-friendly teacher, looks very scary when shadows are applied in just the right places, giving her a monstrous appearance. Those same classes and rooms that looked friendly and normal in daylight also become foreboding when bathed in black.

Light enhances this effect. Youngho can only see a little bit in front and behind him, even with the flashlight on. Given that the game is a sidescroller, only moving left to right, this is still enough light to navigate but enough darkness that things can surprise you. In a 3D game, where you can walk anywhere, this narrow light would have resulted in confusion and getting lost, but in The Coma: Cutting Class, it enhances the mood without making it hard to get around. You can easily figure out where you’re going, but it’s still dark enough that creepy things will happen just out of sight, making you jump. It’s a great balance that works well to heighten the mood.

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The music really plays on the nerves, too. Many of the game’s songs draw out these strained notes, creating an unsettling sound that fills the game with dread. They’re dark, slow tunes that capture this sense of loneliness and oncoming danger. Combining them with the sound effects, especially the ones Ms Song makes, will have players in a state of constant dread, one broken by panic brought on by Ms Song’s screams.

Will you be able to find your friends, and the things you need, with this dangerous enemy following you through your school in The Coma: Cutting Class? With a couple of decent hiding spots, a bookbag filled with food, and careful use of your map, you should be able to make your way through. It’s in keeping a cool head that you’ll survive, though, as Ms Song is a deadly, fast, and terrifying enemy who seems to be everywhere at once. She will chase you. She’ll cut you. If you can stay calm, though, you just might finish your exams.

The Coma: Cutting Class is available for $9.99 on Steam.

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