'Once Upon a Coma' is the Intersection of 'Night in the Woods' and 'Hollow Knight'

Bringing awareness to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts

After an unknown amount of time in a coma, Pete wakes up to an eerie scene: All the adults in his small town have vanished and the place is in complete disarray. As he wanders through the creepy Tim Burton-esque scene he sees the neighborhood kids in various states of craze, obviously in love with their newfound freedom from mom and dad.

That’s the premise of Once Upon a Coma, an upcoming psychological adventure co-developed by atmos and Serenity Forge. You take control of a young boy named Pete as he tries to figure out what’s going on around him, all the time wondering if he ever really did wake up from his coma.

“We want the story to be multi-layered, if you’re a kid experiencing this game it’s just a fun adventure game with a weird ending,” said Serenity Forge founder and CEO Zhenghua Yang at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. “But if you’re an adult with the game you’ll quickly read into some of the ideas we’re trying to bring awareness to: Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts.”

The demo immediately touches on some of the themes Yang mentioned. The house you wander through is incredibly spooky with creatures staring at you through the windows and the kids you encounter outside are demeaning for seemingly no reason. And even with those creepy elements, the games music and art style was intimate and inviting.

It’s pretty apparent that developers Infinite Fall and Team Cherry have had quite the impact on the designers of Once Upon a Coma, since the combat and some of the character designs are directly inspired by Hollow Knight while the overall feeling and structure of the game feels very similar to the side-scrolling in Night in the Woods.

Both games came out a few months after development started for Yang, “A lot of people feel like their idea is stolen when a game similar to their own comes out,” Yang said. “But we don’t feel that at all, they fully expressed what we wanted to do with a game and helped us shape our project.”

Once Upon a Coma is also the sequel to the popular flash game, Coma, created by Thomas Brush. Although Brush and Yang consider the game a standalone experience, accessible to everyone including people who don’t know about the first game. It raised over $85,000 in a kickstarter campaign, more than tripling their original goal of $25,000.

Serenity Forge aims to have Once Upon a Coma released on PC and Nintendo Switch in September, although they haven’t confirmed an official date. PS4 and Xbox One will come early in 2019.