I'm not a professional reviewer, but I liked my first game so much, I had to share the experience and my thought.
First of all, I'm not a native English speaker, I apologize for any spelling and grammar mistakes.
If Inception and Stuffed fables ever had a child, it is this game.
Comanauts takes a lot of inspiration from the world of "Inception", from dream zones, totems and etc. But does this with such a twist and fluid gameplay that it has created something all of its own. The game revolves around a storybook that is divided between Comazones - an area of the dreamlike state that is part of the subconscious memories of a geek scientist, being held in a coma state by his inner demons.
In the game we play as avatars, fragments from his memories that we control in order to move through the different comazones, try to discover what happened to the doctor in this phase of his life, while searching for clues on what inner daemon is holding the doctor in his grasp based on hints we gather from the area we are in and the doctors' "inner child" who show us periodically and if we can appease it, give us a clue on the whereabouts of the area the doctor is trapped in.
Mechanics: The game uses dice from a bag, the dice have different colors and each color corresponds to a different attribute, you use red dice to execute melee attacks and strength based checks, green dice to execute ranged attacks and dexterity based checks, yellow dice to perform perception checks and blue dice for resistance and stamina checks, purple dice can be used as any kind of attribute, and you can always replace two attribute dice with one dice that was used before (by you or other players).
The game concept of "map on the book" is pure genius, it allow the designers to execute wild ideas that a regular map system will find hard to use, (one world is a 2D side-scrolling video game, another is a comic book, another is a world shown from the viewpoint of a small kid, where everything is scary and big and clowns are terrifying etc.)
Cooperative: One of the hardest game designs concepts, in my opinion, is the cooperative concept. The problems you have to deal with include (but not limited to 🙂 ) Alpha players, no interaction between players and a feel that you could have played his on your own (no need for other people because the game is simple enough, no significant choices or no hidden information that each player has (like secret goal)) Comanauts still suffers from an Alpha player problem, you take out the dice, you roll them, and you will immediately have the alpha tell you what to do. The interaction between the players is on a good level, they are not dependent on each other (bad interaction, which forces you to play in a very specific way to be succesful) but can give a hand to each other, usually by handing you a die that you need on your next turn, or taking the enemy fire on to them, some abilities grant bonuses to team members.
Regarding the last point, the actual need for another player - The game can be played solo, there is no point in the game that I said "wow, this is so overwhelming, I couldn't play this on my own" but if you play with more players, you get to really feel the psychological aspect of the game, with people experiencing the game with you and having different opinions on where to go next, so the game "feels" different with more players
Components: Top notch, Plaid hat games continue with solid card stock, excellent graphical design, very well done standees (no miniatures in this game, but the sheer amount of enemies and avatars really makes up for this). The dice feel good in the hand, and the book is bound with a solid spiral binder. The rule book is a bit unclear, and I had to go back a few times to find some small rules.
Replayability: Unlike similar games of this kind, the game presents a lot of replayability. Every game, you randomly choose 5 out of 11 comazones, the character generation is partially random, and the inner demon (and the clues you get) are different every game. The game encourages deep conversation between the players on the meaning of the clues, and to what coma zone they point you in, and you don't have enough time to search them all, the doctor is in a critical condition and can die if you don't find the demon fast enough. Additionally, the campaign mode makes sure that you will not encounter the same inner demon on the consecutive game, which can help you forget the clues for the first one.
On a side note, the situations that are described in the doctor's life are somethings that many people can relate to, like being obsessed with a video game, or trying to run away into an imaginary world etc, the level of storytelling in this product is very high.
I highly recommend this game, a great concept that was forged into an amazing, evocative board game.