So let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way before we even start. Coffin Dodgers is no Mario Kart. It’s not even a Crash Team Racing. Nor a Road Rash. Not in any such way. Unfortunately.
It’s simplistic, it occasionally borders on laughable and it’ll be over before you know it’s started. But, and this is the important point…for the short amount of time it lasts, it’s pretty good fun.
Set in the retirement village of Sunny Pines, It is up to you to jump into the mobility scooter of one of seven characters and race to the death. Well, race from Death actually because failing to compete at a high level in Coffin Dodgers will see the Grim Reaper taking your soul. The community that we see the 13 race Championship set in comes with a few distinct areas and you’ll find yourself ploughing through a farm, hopping over gravestones, tearing round the town and down into hell.
Which of the veteran characters you pick however will have little impact on how the races play out though. Apart from the obvious visual differences, each and every one controls the same, has seemingly the same top speed and will corner like, well, a grannie on a mobility scooter. It would have been nice to have seen each character bring a personality of their own and it would no doubt have been rather tempting to then play through the full championship with each one.
For each race you complete, you’ll gain points which work towards an overall championship – manage to stave off Death and place high enough up and you’ll find yourself swiftly moved onto the next area and the next competitive board. With only three races per championship and each of the races over in a matter of a few minutes, you won’t ever need to find yourself going too deep into the action in order to stress about qualifying. In fact, if you do somehow manage to struggle against the other old timers, then a quick ‘try again’ option as the chequered flag drops will give you another chance to show what you’re worth. If you don’t take up this option though beware, you won’t be able to try it again at any point in the future. Not unless you wish to start the entire series over again.
Not that you’ll be bothered about that though as the opportunity to come out on top in each race, nearly first time, every time, will come as a breeze to all but the least skilled of players. In fact, on my first playthrough of the championship (with hill-billy Jeremiah if you’re asking), I easily gold medaled each and every one of the races, except one which I purposely lost just so I could see the effect for this review. That included winning the final race against the Reaper himself and saw me having completed the entire story campaign/race type thing that is included in Coffin Dodgers within an hour or so. Whilst hardly trying.
Much of the reasoning behind my winning was to do with the upgrades that I was able to make to my scooter. There are a few options available and as long as you’ve earnt enough coins from winning races, then you won’t ever be left wanting in the upgrade department. Powering up your engine and making your wheels turn faster is quite obviously the best way to go, but it’s also worth modifying the handling, messing around with your colour scheme (for no reason other than it’s great to make Death ride a pink scooter) and ensure that you have full control of your lovely power ups.
Yes, the residents of Sunny Pines are a bit of a dab hand at DIY and there are a few special gadgets and powerful weapons for them to pick up, equip and fire off. Now, your standard attack, that of the melee works very much like that found in that racing classic Road Rash, with a simple press of the B button powering up your attack and sending your fellow pensioners flying. But the inclusion of Mario Kart style rockets, boosts and oil spills mean that Coffin Dodgers at least attempts to keep up with Mario and co. The weapons do in fact make the racing what it is and due to the sheer ease in which you’ll find yourself winning will quite possibly be tempted to drop back a bit just to get the chance to use the weapons as they were intended. You know, because all OAPs have the odd Uzi stashed away and they are obviously begging for them to be used.
Whilst the racing itself may be fairly fast paced and simple enough for a pro to get the hang of, unfortunately Milky Tea have left in some very annoying quirks. Firstly, there are times when the screen will judder and shake, normally when there are plenty of racers on tracks at once, and this quickly brings across a feeling of nausea. Frustration is also a key element however and you’ll frequently find yourself (or at least your character) smashing into the side of the track, stopping dead in his tracks and unable to move forward at all. Yes, a quick reverse and steer back into the action doesn’t take long, but I’d prefer to see less of a sudden stop and more of a bounce back into the action.
The visuals are also less than ideal and even though there is plenty of colour and humour included, both the gameplay and the cutscenes are severely lacking of something that wishes to tempt in Xbox One owners. The same can’t be said of the stupidly addictive music however – it may loop and it may be stuck in your head forever more, but it pushes you along brilliantly.
Once you’ve completed the championship – and you will complete the championship – a few other small options are in place to keep you going, but each one really does just play out as more of the same. The time trials give you the chance to test yourself against your own PB’s and the free roam mode lets you go out on a little explore of Sunny Pines. Neither really drag you in though and you therefore may well pin your hopes on the Crazy Taxi-esque ‘Crazy Grandad’ mode. This will have you driving around the retirement complex in your scooter in an attempt to find many items that have been scattered about. With a time limit in place and only a huge arrow pointing you in roughly the right direction, it’s a bit of good fun the first time you play it. But again, will you be going back for more once you’ve heard the klaxon sound? Um nope, because it doesn’t in any way have the same draw as that big bright yellow cab once did.
You may find solace in the split screen local multiplayer on offer, and admittedly it’s good to get involved in with a friend or three in some fun racing; although the exploration side of things is completely pointless. Coffin Dodgers is however sorely lacking an online component which could have quite possibly made it a bit of a cult offering. I know that I for one would have urged friends to get involved so that we could blast each other off the track multiple times, especially if Milky Tea and Wales Interactive could have found a way for a full eight player compliment. But hey, it’s not there and we’ll just have to continue dreaming.
So, Coffin Dodgers, is it worthy of your cash? Well, if you’ve watched a stream or just checked out a video, then chances are you won’t bother picking it up as the overall look is enough to turn many a player away. But, and yes, this is that same but as before, for the hour or so you’ll have with the solo championships and the further 60 minutes it’ll take you to blast through the easy to pick up but grind-able achievements, you’ll find a decent amount of fun.
And fun is all we really want. Isn’t it?