Within five minutes of starting Bad Dream: Coma I had punched a crow, taken a bottle of beer away from the tiny drunk driver of a crashed remote control car, and broken open a mechanical baby robot with a crowbar. This is an odd game…
As the name might suggest, Bad Dream: Coma is set inside a particularly macabre fantasy world which exists in the head of someone in a coma. If Salvador Dali collaborated with Chris Morris and David Firth on a computer game, I imagine it would turn out something like this.
The game is essentially a point-and-click adventure, which takes place inside the aforementioned dream world. There’s a distinct art style throughout, with the entire game rendered almost entirely in hand-drawn black and white line art on a parchment-esque background. The occasional faint yellow glow of a lightbulb or the vermilion hue of fresh blood are the only other colours that I’ve seen in my experience with the game so far. It’s really striking and gives the game a unique look.
You start off in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world, with junk and debris strewn everywhere. In amongst that debris are a number of newspaper cuttings, which seem to suggest that the best place to head is to a hospital just over a broken bridge. Thus your journey into the inexplicable begins in that direction.
There’s a downside to the surrealist nature of this adventure however, as it makes some of the puzzles somewhat obtuse. For example, in an early part of the game, there’s a man in the hospital who needs new eyes. The way to get those is to cut a number off of the keypad of a vending machine in order to repair a telephone, and then call an empty kitchen with some eyes on the floor waiting to be picked up. Traditional puzzle-solving approaches won’t work here, as this is a universe which doesn’t actually follow the normal rules of logic and common sense. It’s very unique, but it’s also very frustrating and I found myself turning to the internet for answers on multiple occasions
There are clues throughout the game that tell you where to go, and the game utilises a lot of different techniques to guide you. For example, the above puzzle solution will come to you when you find a note saying “call me” lying around. There was one puzzle. I was alerted to the fact that the mechanical baby I talked about earlier had appeared in a previous screen because I heard it crying. Using multiple techniques to provide player guidance is a nice touch, and forces you to pay attention to everything.
Over the years, it’s fair to say that I’ve played through a lot of point-and-click adventures. It’s one of my favourite genres, so I’ve worked my way through a lot of them. One of the things that seems to be a tricky balance to make is the amount of detail put into the world. Not enough and the game feels empty, too much and it becomes confusing. Sadly, Bad Dream: Coma falls into this latter category. The world is alive with things going on: blood dripping from walls, bugs crawling everywhere, flies circling light bulbs, and tonnes of random background objects, usually rubble or litter. The downside of this is that as interactive objects aren’t differentiated in any way, there are a lot of times where you just have to run your mouse cursor around the screen to differentiate between background art and objects pertinent to the game.
Despite the flaws, I did enjoy the game. I’ve never taken any mind-altering substances, but I imagine this is very much what it feels like. There are a few frustrations present, but the overall experience was something quite different from other games in the genre and I applaud the developer for doing something quite different. It might not be the best point-and-click that I’ve played this year, but it was great fun and I’ll likely be playing some more after this review to obtain the additional endings provided.
Bad Dream: Coma (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
This is a very strange game that will require some lateral thinking and a lot of hunting around. The nature of the surreal world makes some of the puzzles harder than they ought to be, and you might find yourself playing “hunt the object” more than you’d like, but nonetheless, this is an enjoyable game and if you want something a bit off-the-wall then I’d recommend giving it a try.