STAFF REVIEW of Bad Dream: Coma (Xbox One)

Monday, April 26, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Bad Dream: Coma Box art When I first saw Bad Dream: Coma from developer Desert Fox, I initially expected it to be a small little one-off indie game. Doing so research though it seems as though there’s actually been a handful of games in the series, though the previous entries were small piecemeal games, only lasting about a half hour or so. What intrigued me the most about Bad Dream: Coma though was that it’s actually a point and click adventure title, a genre we don’t see very much more of these days, especially on console. Given that I grew up with the genre as a kid with the classics, I had to see what it was all about.

I don’t know if I was ready for what I experienced though. Disturbing is one way to put it. Taking place within a dream, this opens up the possibilities where almost anything can happen, and given its title, you know it’s not going to be all about rainbows, butterflies and unicorns. Quite the opposite, so get ready for an odd psychological thrill ride with a creepy atmosphere, blood and some extremely odd imagery. Remember though, your actions and choices will have consequences, some that won’t always be immediately apparent.

There is an overarching plot, but it will only take you a few hours to complete depending on how good at puzzle games you are, so I don’t want to really get into the narrative much as it would spoil much of the experience. Just know that you’re going to experience very odd and creepy imagery set within a very bad dream. There are even times where the fourth wall gets broken, adding a whole other weirdness layer to the whole experience.

Like most other point and click titles, you’ll be within a scene, usually with a few objects that can either be interacted with or picked up and put in your inventory. Split into multiple chapters, each one will consist of a dozen or so areas that can be explored, and you’ll need to remember how each area is attached to one another as there’s no map for a visual. With just a simple hand cursor you’ll start your adventure in this messed up dream world with a number of different ways to solve puzzles blocking your path.

Bad Dream: Coma may be a point and click, but it isn’t like your typical kind where you can basically brute force your way through by clicking every object you see, as you’re going to want to think about your actions, as there are always repercussions and consequences for your choices, actually changing the game as you go depending. There’s not much narrative outside from a few conversations with a couple characters but the world is still quite atmospheric, giving you a general ‘goal’ of solving or finding something, but doing so won’t be so easy.

Scenes are connected usually by arrows, indicating that a specific area is over that way when you click said arrow. Sometimes though the arrow blends into the artwork itself since it’s all hand drawn, and can be quite difficult to discern at first. More than once I was unable to figure out where to go simply because I wasn’t able to see the arrow to click on to navigate. Also, because there’s no map you’re going to have to fumble around with how each scene is connected with a lot of trial and error. The navigation is illogical at the best of times, and while yes, you do eventually get used to it after clicking to the wrong area a dozen times, it could have been implemented much better.

There are multiple endings and playthroughs to experience, which I’ll get into shortly, but I bring this up now because a single choice can ruin a run without your knowing. For example, I was working on the good ending and made a mistake unknowingly, locking me out of the ending I wanted, so I went to reload a previous save only to find I can only restart the chapter I was currently on. This means if you don’t notice right away that you made a ‘wrong’ mistake and a chapter ends, there’s no way to go back to a chapter select and will have to completely restart your run if aiming for a specific ending since there’s only one game save per run.

There were a number of issues I ran into though. One sequence in particular had the ‘A’ button on the dialogue box to progress actually sitting over the dialogue itself, and since it’s not voiced, I had no idea what was being said. Another time I had a “13” ticket in my inventory but had to also go collect a “3” ticket. I did so without problem but it never showed in my inventory properly, so when I gave the ‘wrong’ ticket to someone it immediately locked me out of getting the good ending, causing a whole chapter restart, which thankfully somehow worked the next time I reloaded the game. Lastly, I’ve also had the game hard crash to dashboard, causing me to lose my game save in the process. To be fair I’ve not read about others having this issue, but you can no doubt guess that I’m going to do another playthrough at a later date because of this.

Puzzles make up the bulk of the gameplay, aside from aimlessly wandering and clicking every item you come across of course. The cursor has a weird drift that is very small but noticeable when trying to click on a very small object. You’re not able to tell what’s clickable or not without hovering over the item either, and sometimes an object may not be clickable in one section, but is able to be picked up in another, so there’s a lot of repetition and aimless searching.

While the puzzles aren’t exactly linear, obviously many sections and areas won’t be accessible until you solve the puzzle before it, but this is where you start to figure out that puzzles in Bad Dream: Coma are nonsensical at the best of times. Some puzzles are logical and can be figured out with some thought, but the vast majority are extremely obtuse and not intuitive at all. I get that the setting is an odd dream world, but some of the solutions simply don’t make much sense. Traditional puzzle solving simply isn’t going to work here and thinking outside the box is a necessity, also known as trying every object in your inventory on every other object to see if anything works. I won’t lie, while I was able to solve many of the puzzles on my own, I’m not sure how I would have fared without having to check some walkthroughs online when I was stuck on numerous occasions, especially since some solutions seemed to not relate at all to the puzzle in question.

As mentioned above, Bad Dream: Coma has three endings for you to strive towards: Good, Neutral and Bad, adding some replayability for those that want it. Now I expected these endings to be tied to a few choices I made along the way but there’s much more to it than that. I was trying to work on the Good ending at first but quickly realized how difficult that actually was. This ending requires you to be, well, good at all times, not causing any direct harm, though doing so isn’t always as direct a consequence as you might expect. For example, there’s a board game you can play and if you decide to cheat, boom, you lose the good ending. That’s where the Good and Bad endings become quite challenging to get, as you basically can’t screw up once, which is where walkthroughs will come in handy.

A good example of this is in the very first scene you start your adventure in, allowing you to click on some crows. Doing so punches and kills them, instantly locking you from the good ending if that’s what you want to strive towards, so you need to think about your actions rather than just clicking everything you see. Even more surprising though is how each playthrough is quite unique from one another. Puzzles and events change based on which ending you’re currently navigating towards and the choices you make. Within the first ten minutes of my Bad playthrough compared to Good, I had some drastically different puzzles and outcomes, so multiple plays are going to be required to see and experience everything Bad Dream: Coma has to offer.

The hand drawn visuals look as though it’s been done on some old parchment, seemingly done in ink, adding some creepiness to the visuals and atmosphere. It’s a very simplistic style but works well for this world and genre yet still has a decent amount of detail when you take the time to notice. Even though the majority of the aesthetic is black and white, there are some moments with splashes of color, usually with creepy notes or blood, adding some uniqueness to its overall feel. While there’s not much for a soundtrack, the sound effects are done quite well and also add to the creepy environment and scene that you’re currently in. When you’re trying to solve a puzzle but can hear someone banging on a door, it adds some tension. While I would have preferred the dialogue to be voiced, the audio overall is passable.

While the main narrative is likely to confuse you at first, it does become interesting the further into the dream world as you progress from chapter to chapter. While there may be some symbolism and meaning behind many of its characters and scenes, but you’re most likely to come away with some frustration as you try and figure out some of the most obtuse and odd puzzles in a point and click adventure that I can remember in quite some time. That being said, Bad Dream: Coma is creepy, dark and disturbing, but it was also quite memorable and has decent replay value with its three unique endings.

**Bad Dream: Coma was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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