Coma

Sometimes I wish I could just say, “Go play this,” and let you guys experience something without my rambling, inarticulate initial impressions muddying up the waters. The game is sometimes so beautiful and simple that spending too much time describing it really dilutes the experience. If you’re the type that’s going to go play the game anyway, just go play it now before reading the rest.

If you’re still skeptical, let me try to describe it. Coma is a simple platformer, there are no attacks or other special abilities, just left, right and jump. You move through each screen trying to complete various objectives. There’s really nothing more to this game than that. The gameplay is so simple it really doesn’t do much good to describe it.

The art is nothing short of breathtaking and it combines beautifully with the music to create a very peaceful but unsettling experience. That’s really the amazing part of this game, the whole of the experience. The puzzles aren’t complicated, but if they were, the experience would be diminished. The art isn’t in your face, but its subtlety just adds to the experience. The music is understated and gentle; there are no memorable themes or catchy boss-fight music.

Description just sullies it though, it’s short and simple and just worth experiencing.

Why You Should Check This Out: Coma is a platformer with brilliant art and music. But the simplicity and beauty of the game simply serve the larger experience. There’s not a ton of gameplay here, but there is a ton to take in and enjoy. The game does a wonderful job of putting you in another world and letting you soak it in.

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Comments

I don't have time to finish it right now, but it is very pretty and really intriguing. Looking at what seems like such a simple game is really making me pine to make my own games for the Android. I need to get on top of that...

I loved it, especially the music. The platforming controls were a little floaty and imprecise, but it doesn't have anything that is super tough that makes that problem too frustrating. The ending especially was great.

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. The music is great, I liked the visual style...it reminds me a lot of Nevermore 3, another great little flash game that I couldn't get anyone on this site to play. In fact, it almost feels like a rip of it, visually and aurally.

I'm not as enthusiastic about the symbolism. The main thrust I get;

Spoiler:

he's in a coma, at the end he dies to be with his sister or whomever. It all takes place inside his head and/or body, at least I think that's what the squishy red stuff in the basement is trying to represent.

But what about all the other stuff? It's completely unexplained — not just in a "it's better to leave some questions unanswered" sort of way, but in a seemingly non-sequitur way.

Spoiler:

Does the seemingly evil father represent anything, or is he just an evil father? What's with the brother/lightning bug? What about the big cloud lady thing at the end? Why all the obfuscation from various characters? Does the worm mean anything or did he just want to expel the character from a sphincter?

It seems as though some of it could be explained by people's voices he hears while in the coma, but I still don't get it.

It seems like part of the game is symbolic, and part of it's just weird for the sake of weird. They both can work, but in my opinion don't mix very well. At least not in this case.

Anyone else? Am I just stupid and missing all the symbolism?

I think it all only really makes sense as dream-logic.

Spoiler:

Is the worm symbolic? Or is it just another scene in a neverending dream of his coma? Frequently scenes in a dream don't really symbolize anything but just reflect the dreamer's feelings

Minarchist, I refer you to Roger Ebert's review of Mulholland Drive, as I feel that many of his comments about the dream logic in that movie can be applied to this game. I'm not sure that much in this game is meant to make literal sense, although I'm sure that a narrative could be constructed from the pieces offered.

I'll have to check out Nevermore 3, though.

I thought the music and style were perfect - this had a great atmosphere. I've suffered the same dream logic; things make total sense in the context of the dream, but when I wake up and remember enough to piece it together I just get confused.

Some thoughts to join the spoiler discussion:

Spoiler:

The evil father - maybe he is the reason you're in the coma? It's "coma" and not just "sleep" which begs the question of why is our character is in a coma in the first place. And he locked your sister in the basement - he hurt/killed her too? Plus, the only mother figure, that blob in the sky, tells you to ignore your sister being locked in the basement and to go play with her son. Ignoring abuse? The home isn't a very welcoming place, which suggests an unhappy house.

That's where I'll start my guessing. Though I'm not quite sure what the little bird refers to when it says "I lied to you" at the end.

Great find Pyroman!

I get the dream-logic thing, but something still doesn't feel right. I think what bothers me about it is it doesn't work in the auspices of a game. There is a clear, achievable goal that you strive for in order to access the rest of the content and reach some sort of conclusion. When a series of events and linear conversations have been pushing me forward towards a singular goal the entire time, it's far too structured and organized to fit into the dream logic world without some sort of underlying meaning.

Spoiler:

The game is pushing you the entire time toward dying

. Clues from the subtle to the obvious abound. I want to know that it's some sort of struggle to be overcome, rather than a barrage of free-form images, some kaleidoscope of delirium that means nothing in context, if there is in fact a context. If there is no meaning or struggle, then I feel cheated. Why did I work towards that goal? What was the designer trying to make me think about? Or feel? I just don't think randomness works, unless it's a specifically-stated goal (like Ezra Pound's density of poetry pointing out that kids today are stupid, for instance).

There are examples of games that don't really fall into that "achieve a goal" mentality, but they're open-ended. This had a clearly-defined arc, so in my mind there has to be something to that.

Clockwork, do you have every Ebert review memorized?

EDIT: see, the kind of thinking Polliwog mentioned is exactly what I'm trying to get at. There has to be something there...right?

I guess I don't feel the need for the events of the game to make sense in a narrative context, although I'm pretty sure we're contractually obligated to agree on all things not political.

It's not too difficult to construct a narrative for the game's events with a bit of literal symbolism. The bird can become the protagonist's subconscious leading him toward wakefulness; the mother and father figures can give context to his waking life and the reasons for his coma. However, I think if you pursue too aggressively an added layer of meaning, an interpretation, for every piece of the world, then you'll begin to undermine the magic that makes it work. You can doubtlessly find something for the worm to represent, but in infusing that imagery with meaning, you lose the thrill of forcing your character to be swallowed alive in order to progress. Isn't there a part of you that thrills at the idea of a monster with words carved into his innards not because the monster stands for something but simply because it exists?

This game benefits greatly from suggesting a context that is never made explicit. Like the backstory of a Valve game, it's better that it exists and is hinted at in passing than that it exists and is clearly enunciated.

Minarchist wrote:

Clockwork, do you have every Ebert review memorized? ;-)

No, but I used to be a bit of a movie nerd, and when his archives were first put up online I spent a good chunk of time reading through most everything he's written.

Edit: I should say that I was a movie review nerd. I've read countless reviews for movies that I've never seen (and likely will never see). I read them like stories from Borges; impassioned descriptions of works of art conjure imaginings far more interesting than the works themselves would be.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I guess I don't feel the need for the events of the game to make sense in a narrative context, although I'm pretty sure we're contractually obligated to agree on all things not political.

It's not too difficult to construct a narrative for the game's events with a bit of literal symbolism. The bird can become the protagonist's subconscious leading him toward wakefulness; the mother and father figures can give context to his waking life and the reasons for his coma. However, I think if you pursue too aggressively an added layer of meaning, an interpretation, for every piece of the world, then you'll begin to undermine the magic that makes it work. You can doubtlessly find something for the worm to represent, but in infusing that imagery with meaning, you lose the thrill of forcing your character to be swallowed alive in order to progress. Isn't there a part of you that thrills at the idea of a monster with words carved into his innards not because the monster stands for something but simply because it exists?

This game benefits greatly from suggesting a context that is never made explicit. Like the backstory of a Valve game, it's better that it exists and is hinted at in passing than that it exists and is clearly enunciated.

That's fair. I had begun to construct some conclusions just from my one playthrough. I guess the thing I really wanted to know was if it was some sort of change the protagonist was affecting, or if it was just a jumble of thoughts right before the climax. I don't mind obtuse, but some reason for me to press little buttons or wiggle a joystick is appreciated.

And yeah, the worm was pretty cool. I stared at the buzzing "teeth" for a minute and though, "Am I really supposed to go in there?"

ClockworkHouse wrote:

This game benefits greatly from suggesting a context that is never made explicit. Like the backstory of a Valve game, it's better that it exists and is hinted at in passing than that it exists and is clearly enunciated.

I like this. I had fun playing Half-Life, but getting to construct my own story based on the bare details the game gives you lets the hook sink a little deeper. I'm the type of person that tries to find meaning, even when meaning might not exist or is meant to be vague, and a game like this (with so many hints) really gets the wheels turning.

Minarchist wrote:

And yeah, the worm was pretty cool. I stared at the buzzing "teeth" for a minute and thought, "Am I really supposed to go in there?"

Me too! That part unsettled me.

Hint: Its not over until you see the credits.

Spoiler:

So I'm guessing quiet a few getting stuck where the bird says "I lied to you"? look for switches

mousepad42 wrote:

Hint: Its not over until you see the credits.

Spoiler:

So I'm guessing quiet a few getting stuck where the bird says "I lied to you"? look for switches

Technically there's a bit after the credits.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I

Minarchist wrote:

Clockwork, do you have every Ebert review memorized? ;-)

No, but I used to be a bit of a movie nerd, and when his archives were first put up online I spent a good chunk of time reading through most everything he's written.

Edit: I should say that I was a movie review nerd. I've read countless reviews for movies that I've never seen (and likely will never see). I read them like stories from Borges; impassioned descriptions of works of art conjure imaginings far more interesting than the works themselves would be.

Except the reviews were talking about real things, while Borges ....

I apologize ahead of time that this is a bit of an aside, but thanks for posting that Ebert review. Mullholand Drive is one of my favorite films and I never read that Ebert review. He blows me away sometimes in that he writes reviews that after seeing a movie one or two times that contain things that took me 5 or so viewings to conclude.

On topic: I played a bit of the game, but haven't finished it. I have no idea how far I went in the game, but Pyro's descriptions of the music and art are spot on. I'll finish the game up sometime in the AM.

mousepad42 wrote:

Hint: Its not over until you see the credits.

Spoiler:

So I'm guessing quiet a few getting stuck where the bird says "I lied to you"? look for switches

Yup. I'll go back and try again today.

I didn't care for it and was bored. The 640x480 resolution really hampered my enjoyment. I like to see art to appreciate it and had to squint a lot of the time to find different areas and read the scribbles. The visuals and sound were nice but overall it was a waste of my time.

Sun, come back out! I want to go swimming now!

Polliwog wrote:

Some thoughts to join the spoiler discussion:

Spoiler:

The evil father - maybe he is the reason you're in the coma? It's "coma" and not just "sleep" which begs the question of why is our character is in a coma in the first place. And he locked your sister in the basement - he hurt/killed her too? Plus, the only mother figure, that blob in the sky, tells you to ignore your sister being locked in the basement and to go play with her son. Ignoring abuse? The home isn't a very welcoming place, which suggests an unhappy house.

That's where I'll start my guessing. Though I'm not quite sure what the little bird refers to when it says "I lied to you" at the end.

Great find Pyroman!

Spoiler:

I'm pretty sure the bird was saying "I lied to you" because you are in the basement and the sister isn't locked up in there. Which means that the mother may or may not have been right, and the father may or may not have been actually evil. On the other hand, the bird was moving you out of the dream space, while those two entities were attempting to keep you there.

I'm also pretty sure Cyrax needs a better monitor. You shouldn't have to squint to see 640x480, man!

Switchbreak wrote:

I'm also pretty sure Cyrax needs a better monitor. You shouldn't have to squint to see 640x480, man!

The parts that are tricky to traverse, and where the messages are sprawled, are in the darkest areas. Combine that with small art and, yeah, it was a problem.

Switchbreak wrote:
Spoiler:

I'm pretty sure the bird was saying "I lied to you" because you are in the basement and the sister isn't locked up in there. Which means that the mother may or may not have been right, and the father may or may not have been actually evil. On the other hand, the bird was moving you out of the dream space, while those two entities were attempting to keep you there.

I like it.

Spoiler:

So at the end, as you soar through space and eventually the screen whites out, are you waking up from the coma or dying? I'm fine with the ambiguity, as I think I can rationalize it either way.

Polliwog wrote:
Spoiler:

So at the end, as you soar through space and eventually the screen whites out, are you waking up from the coma or dying? I'm fine with the ambiguity, as I think I can rationalize it either way.

Spoiler:

Doesn't the sister say, "Your eyes are beginning to open"?

I love it when a game gives me goose bumps.

Hey Pyro, I rec'd this to you in the last Fringe Busters, but it looks like you had your eye on it already.

Interestingly, after I played it, I happened upon this preview about Limbo:

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2...

I wonder if Coma was inspired by it, as they seem so similar in premise and art style.

If that turns out to be so, then people who enjoyed this might want to check out Limbo when it becomes available.

Arclite wrote:

Hey Pyro, I rec'd this to you in the last Fringe Busters, but it looks like you had your eye on it already.

Interestingly, after I played it, I happened upon this preview about Limbo:

http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2...

I wonder if Coma was inspired by it, as they seem so similar in premise and art style.

If that turns out to be so, then people who enjoyed this might want to check out Limbo when it becomes available.

I'm really stoked about Limbo because it's yet another artsy indie game that's coming to XBLA via Summer of Arcade. I really hope it gets big.

I had several people recommend Coma so thanks for your link last week! Always good to know when several people are excited about a game.

cyrax wrote:
Switchbreak wrote:

I'm also pretty sure Cyrax needs a better monitor. You shouldn't have to squint to see 640x480, man!

The parts that are tricky to traverse, and where the messages are sprawled, are in the darkest areas. Combine that with small art and, yeah, it was a problem.

I agree. Had some trouble navigating the darkness. Got a little frustrated with the basement, I couldn't see any switches even though it sounded like I hit a couple. After wandering back and forth finally some hole opened and I made it down. I was so annoyed that I was about to quit the game, but then it was over.

Interesting enough. My experience of the story was hampered by running over the same area a few times after I accidentally fell off that pipe thing and the other darkness stuff. Oh well.

Stele wrote:
cyrax wrote:
Switchbreak wrote:

I'm also pretty sure Cyrax needs a better monitor. You shouldn't have to squint to see 640x480, man!

The parts that are tricky to traverse, and where the messages are sprawled, are in the darkest areas. Combine that with small art and, yeah, it was a problem.

I agree. Had some trouble navigating the darkness. Got a little frustrated with the basement, I couldn't see any switches even though it sounded like I hit a couple. After wandering back and forth finally some hole opened and I made it down. I was so annoyed that I was about to quit the game, but then it was over.

Interesting enough. My experience of the story was hampered by running over the same area a few times after I accidentally fell off that pipe thing and the other darkness stuff. Oh well.

Had the exact experiences you had. Fell into that trench multiple times, so much so that I got muscle memory to escape out the blow hole, and I guess didn't have my sound up enough to hear the clicks for the triggers in the basement. I just jumped around until something happened. So it went from a chilling "I lied," to crap game design.

Just saw this on Bitmob
. He links Coma and some other games like it that I'm going to give a go. I've really been neglecting the indie freeware games lately.

Not sure I understood WTF was supposed to be happening. But the visuals and audio were nice.

Looking forward to Limbo.

Maybe I'm just dense as a brick, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do in this game. I love the atmosphere, the surrealism and the music, and want to get into it, but I just don't know what to do. At first I thought it was a platformer with Machinarium elements mized in, but that doesn't seem right. Puzzles? what puzzles? I'm missing something here. So far all I seem to do is run from screen to screen and get some conversations along the way.

Am I supposed to solve something at each screen? Something about this game is not communcating to me at that basic a level.

Any help? I really want to play this thing.

No, you mostly just keep moving left to right until you find something to interact with, and occasionally you have to backtrack.

I almost got stuck at the rock formation that looks like a half-loop and a statue, because you have to be pretty good at the jump mechanic to get over it. Maybe that's where you are.

Jolly Bill wrote:

No, you mostly just keep moving left to right until you find something to interact with, and occasionally you have to backtrack.

I almost got stuck at the rock formation that looks like a half-loop and a statue, because you have to be pretty good at the jump mechanic to get over it. Maybe that's where you are.

The game has an adventure game feel to it. I really didn't enjoy that aspect of it. It had too much backtracking and not enough platforming to be considered a "platformer". I'd call it more an adventure game with platforming elements.

There are a couple of times I almost got stuck.

Spoiler:

There's a dude in a pipe you can converse with if you walk up to him (fall in the pipe, walk right.

Spoiler:

Talk to your dad after talking to the dude.

Spoiler:

You can go farther to the right after you've helped the guy out of the pipe.

Spoiler:

Once you've gone through the worm anus, go back to the pipe. Now you can jump out of the pipe, up higher and then swing across the chasm to the other side

Spoiler:

Assuming you jumped on the trampoline up to the big blob lady then talked to her son, go back to the house you started in and play your sister's song. D E B A B (I think).

Spoiler:

Go down to the room below and hit little switches that are nearly impossible to see in the dark. There's 3 in the first room (I don't remember where they are but it's fairly small), 1 in the second (on the ceiling by the hole you came down from) and 2 in the 3rd.