- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Wales Interactive
- Developer: Milky Tea
- Players: 1-4 (offline only)
- Site: http://coffindodgersgame.com/
- Game code supplied by PR
The kart racing genre used to be very popular in previous console generations, but apart from the superlative Mario Kart 8 on Wii U, there is little of note on the current gen systems. Coffin Dodgers is a cartoonish kart racer with some dark humour, as the Grim Reaper pays a visit to the idyllic retirement village of Sunny Pines, to claim the souls of the pensioners who reside there. But this bunch of old codgers aren’t going down without a fight, as they take to their mobility scooters to escape from the clutches of the Final Visitor. So is Coffin Dodgers worthy of your precious time? Or should it be left at the mercy of the game’s scythe-wielding nemesis?
The premise of Coffin Dodgers is an interesting one, with the game’s Story Mode seeing the elderly citizens taking on the Reaper over 4 cups and 13 races. This mode is the main part of the game, although it took us only a couple of hours to play through the whole story. The developer has added in time trials, exhibition races, and split screen multiplayer to bulk up the content, but they really don’t offer much in the way of replay value. The game also has an open world mode, but this is limited to following an arrow to randomly placed items while up against a timer. Each cup is a battle to stay alive for our pensioners, with the player at the bottom of the leaderboard being taken out by the Grim Reaper, with a sombre cut scene showing their grave. In a neat twist the losers return as zombies, so the roster of racers remain the same, and zombie characters seem to get an increase in their kart speed, which helps ramp up the difficulty. The racing itself is a strangely simplistic affair with no drifting, and handling that is pretty stiff, although floaty at the same time. The game also has a horrendous collision system that sees you bounce off obstacles like a pinball, and then it takes ages to get back up to top speed. Which makes some races impossible to even get back into as you languish well behind the other racers.
Kart racers are known for their use of outlandish weapons to take down opposing players, but the weapons in Coffin Dodgers are very uninspired. Weapons include an arsenal of homing rockets and a really ineffective uzi, an EMP blast to stun opponents, an oil can to drop behind you causing fellow racers to slide out of control, a shield, and a turbo boost. You also have a melee attack which you can unleash when you are close to your opponent, like an OAP version of Road Rash. There is also a simplistic upgrade system that allows you to increase the acceleration, speed etc of your kart, but we found that as we increased our stats, other riders did as well – which cancelled the effect of our tinkering. It was only on starting another playthrough that we noticed a leap in our kart’s performance. To upgrade your kart you need to spend coins you earn through racing. You also earn experience points by playing through the game and winning races, and also by taking out opponents. However if you crash you lose some of your XP. The XP you earn enables you to earn more coins, so when you earn a certain amount of XP during a race you will gain an extra 100 coins.
Coffin Dodgers is bright and colourful like Mario Kart, but the graphics are extremely basic, and look more akin to an old smartphone game or PS2 game than a next gen game. It’s not ugly, but it’s certainly no looker. The level design is also woefully basic and pretty dull, with very little in the way of shortcuts, and layouts that reuse a lot of the same graphical assets from each level, so that they just feel like variations of the same stage, rather than whole new races. You start off in the retirement village, before you go through farmland, and finally into a cemetery. They do throw in extra distractions later on in the game like zombies (and, bizarrely, UFOs), but zombies can simply be mown down for extra XP, and the UFOs are quite easily avoided.
Coffin Dodgers unfortunately doesn’t live up to its interesting premise. The tracks are just too bland and dull, with little in the way of variety, and the handling is simplistic and just isn’t satisfying enough to hold your interest. It can also be really easy to maintain the lead if you get in front, but equally can also be really frustrating if you’re hit by a weapon or melee attack which instantly takes you out of the game, which is a cheap tactic that is oh so annoying. Online multiplayer is also a noticeable omission, that would have helped add more longevity to the game’s meagre selection of modes. It’s a shame as both the PS4 and Xbox One are crying out for an arcade style kart racer, but this is a pale imitation of Mario Kart that probably deserves to be left in the retirement village that it is set in.