Coffin Dodgers PS4 Review
Publisher: Milky Tea Studios Developer: Milky Tea Studios Genre: Racing
Players: 1-4 Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
Old people and death are a fun topic for a racing game, don’t you think? I wish I could have been at the meeting when developer Milky Tea Studios discussed this idea. The premise sounds like someone was bored one day, had a random thought about pensioners racing on mobility scooters, chuckled a bit, and then thought it might actually be a profitable concept, a £9.49 profitable concept to be more precise, with a discount price of £8.54 for PlayStation Plus members at the time of this review. Generous.
So a game about pensioners racing, you wouldn’t really expect much, would you? If you said no, you’d be right, as Coffin Dodgers is a game that definitely lacks any substance, cruising by mostly on its ridiculous concept and people’s love of quirky OAP’s as opposed to the actual content, a game where you can definitely switch off your brain.
There is a story – and ‘story’ is used very loosely here – whereby a group of seven elderly characters, whilst sleeping one night, are each paid a visit by death himself, the Grim Reaper, who says he will be back for their souls in three days – why he doesn’t just take them then and there while they are sleeping is anybody’s guess, but this isn’t a story where you should lose sleep over the details. Deciding they are too young to die, they challenge Grim to a literal death race, putting their souls on the line. And there’s something about zombies in there too that’s rather glossed over.
The story mode is where all the action takes place – again, using the word ‘action’ loosely here – as you race to stay in the game and avoid elimination by trying to stay ahead of the pack. There is a total of five areas to race in, including the aptly named “The Village”, “The Town”, The Farm”, “The Graveyard” and “The Showdown”. You can just tell the quality of the game with titles like that. With the exception of “The Showdown”, which has one racetrack, the other four areas have three racetracks each, with you needing to finish every racetrack in a certain position and avoid elimination in order to move on to the next area.
The racing itself is very simple, with decent enough controls. They do feel a bit finicky at first to handle, but nothing that majorly affects the gameplay. There are times when holding down the accelerator button at the start of a race can cause the character to wobble when they move forward, and you do need to release the accelerator button in order to gain control again, but this doesn’t have a huge impact on how you play the game or whether you win or lose. In fact, once you are used to the controls, it can be very easy to win a race, the difficulty of the game not offering much in the way of a challenge.
To help you stay in the race, your chosen character can use melee attacks and power-ups scattered about the track. The melee attack initially consists of you using a walking stick and swiping at other racers to stun them, or it can be charged up to completely knock them off their scooters. The power-ups you can grab include a machine gun, missiles, a protective shield, oil and other such items. When using an item to hinder other racers, a target marker will appear on-screen, though the homing of the weapons isn’t always very accurate and won’t always hit their target, which can be frustrating when you are in a situation where your only hope is a hit. There are no items that are particularly special, only useful enough to see you through to the end of the race.
As for the racetracks themselves, as mentioned, they don’t offer much in the way of a challenge and it is very easy to memorise the layout so that if you do choose to play through again, you will win without breaking a sweat. The races are on the short side, though can be customised to your liking, increasing the number of laps and hazards and whatnot. There isn’t much variation in the design of the tracks, but just enough for you to recognise that you are on a different track. During races, at times you will also need to avoid obstacles, such as cars, a paperboy and even a UFO laser beam. One track that does stand out is “The Farm” in which UFO’s have invaded the area and are abducting sheep. I do enjoy games that add minor details, and this is one such detail that stood out for me, but it is a shame it doesn’t continue for the whole game.
Upgrades are also available; winning a race will earn you coins, and you can use these to upgrade your scooter, improving the engine, gearbox, how many power-ups you can carry and unlocking more powerful melee weapons. However, even though there is an upgrade system, it doesn’t make much of a difference to the gameplay itself, as you can complete the game without even needing all of the upgrades, and could possibly even finish the game without upgrading at all.
In fact, a lot of what Coffin Dodgers offers seems superfluous and makes the game feel as though it was purposely made just to make a quick buck. The game really is as basic a game as you can get and isn’t even that innovative; I’ve played simpler games which are more original. It seems that a funny idea was formed, and the rest of the game was built around that idea, but with other ideas that aren’t very creative, with it seeming as though the developers are hoping that the game will sell based on its concept alone. It is certainly a fun, quirky game, but one that is not for serious game players and may even struggle to keep the most casual of gamers hooked. Other aspects that seem tacked on is the collection of XP that doesn’t seem to have any reason for being there – your upgrades are based on your coins, so I am not entirely sure what the XP is for; it could determine how many coins you receive at the end of a race, but if that is the case, it is not made very clear. There is also an open world area, because open world games are also popular right now, and it feels so barren, only having glowing markers that take you to boring mini games, that have you collecting as many items as possible within a time limit, or takes you to the races you have already played.
The graphics of the game are also lacking and Coffin Dodgers looks more like a PS2 title than a PS4 title, which is a huge step backwards in gaming quality. Why would anyone these days make a game that resembles a PS2 title? Yes, there are games out there that try to imitate older games, such as Nidhogg or Shutshimi, but Coffin Dodgers looks as though it was made on the cheap and comes across as quite a lazy effort. The animations are also limited to a few limb movements here and there and sometimes there is also slight lagging during races, which seems impossible considering the game isn’t really pushing the limits of the PS4.
There is a multiplayer option and you are able to play split-screen, the screens being split vertically in two player, which is more preferable as it allows you to see more on the screen. In all, up to four players can join in and, admittedly, this is the only part that actually feels as though it has been given some thought, and it is fun knocking your friends off their scooters and watching the amusing physics of the characters as they fly around, skid, become stuck in the map, or are unintentionally driven over by another character. Whether the physics in the game were done on purpose or not is questionable, but is still fairly amusing. There is also a Time Trial option where you race against the clock, but I doubt many players will stay around long enough to even bother with it.
Back to the story, and it really is lacking, and that is an understatement. There are literally only two main scenes the game offers and that includes the opening, created to resemble a comic book for some reason, and the ending, that seems to forget it was supposed to be styled on a comic book, and it isn’t consistent at all. A lot about the story doesn’t make sense, mostly because not much thought went into it anyway, and one thing that also seems tacked on just because it is popular right now is zombies. Zombies feature as obstacles on the tracks that you can kill and gain XP from, the excuse being there is a sudden zombie outbreak, though I do also want to mention the bit of false advertising; on the main image there are zombies on scooters, though at no point in the game do you compete against zombies on scooters, or even unlock any zombie character to play as. The story is that Grim kills any racers that are eliminated and takes their souls, though these racers are somehow still able to compete even though it clearly shows them being buried in scenes shown after the races. It also shows them rising from the grave, a hand rising out of the ground; are the eliminated racers now zombified and you get to compete against them in their zombie form? No. As mentioned, there are no zombies to race, and the eliminated racers turn up looking like their normal selves. The whole story has been given very little thought with so much added in as though it was a last minute inclusion, just to broaden the games appeal.
Overall, Coffin Dodgers feels like a paint-by-numbers racing game, one that has a funny concept, but a terrible execution. The game is by no means unplayable, but does come across as a thrown-together, cheap, money-making ploy with a lot of excess baggage added in order to justify the price. Milky Tea Studios also creates animations, so I suppose they have to make the extra cash somewhere, even if that means releasing sub-par games. Worse still, as far as I can tell there is only one unlockable, with the only other rewards being the PS4 Trophies you can collect. The multiplayer is fun to play with friends, but it is difficult to tell who the game is aimed at. The Pegi rating is a 12+ and so, despite its cartoonish appeal, Coffin Dodgers can’t be played by young children – who it would appeal to the most – though perhaps older people would get some joy out of it. As for more serious gamers, they should really give this a dodge; Mario Kart it isn’t.