Platforms: Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Windows, and Xbox One
If the Grim Reaper himself came to you in the middle of the night and told you that you only had three days to live, what would you do? If your first instinct wasn’t to soup-up your Rascal scooter and draw up a contract to race Death for you soul, then it’s been nice knowing you because you’re clearly doomed. This is the course that seven old folks at Sunny Pines Retirement Community took when they were faced with this decision in Coffin Dodgers, which is obviously based on a true story.
You’ll be able to choose one of these seven retirees to save from Death’s cold grip, as you battle it out in a combat kart racer. Each of the seven characters has a unique back story and personality, but they all feel exactly the same when racing. So much so that you actually use the same scooter across all races, regardless of the character you choose. The story mode of Coffin Dodgers is broken down into a total of 13 races that take place in five different areas. Your goal is to not be last after each area because that person’s soul belongs to the Reaper. That’s pretty much the gist of the game – beat Death and save your soul. Getting through the story probably won’t even take you a couple of hours, but there is some incentive to playing through a couple of times to see the alternate ending.
Races always feature eight racers and, if you’re familiar with Mario Kart, then you’ll know what to expect. Your ultimate goal is to come in first place, but you’ll be able to pick up a variety of power-ups throughout each track to help you out. These range from offensive items like rockets and machine guns to speed boosts and protective shields. It’s all standard kart racer stuff. You’ll also be able to utilize a melee attack that can even be powered up to one shot your opponents off of their scooters. One thing about races that I did find rather odd was that regardless of where you finished the previous race your character always started in eighth place. Not a huge deal, but you’re always starting at a slight disadvantage.
Outside of the story races there are a few other options including quick race, time trials, and some open world modes. The open world modes include explore, which is pretty self explanatory, and Crazy Granddad. In this mode, you’ll have to find an item on the map by following a giant arrow at the top of the screen. Your goal is to collect as many items as you can in one minute, and it’s really not much fun. Everything outside of story mode feels pretty pointless because you don’t acquire any kind of coins or XP. If you’re looking for a multiplayer experience with Coffin Dodgers, there’s also not much here to find. There is no online multiplayer and you can only do single race two-player split screen.
If you’re a completionist, the one thing that might keep you coming back are scooter upgrades. As you complete races in story mode, you’ll earn both coins and XP. Coins can be used in the garage to unlock a variety of modifiers for your scooter that will improve your speed, acceleration, handling, weapon effectiveness, and also unlock more paint colors. Even here there isn’t a ton to unlock as each category only has three options at most. As far as XP goes, I honestly still have no idea why it is in the game. I never saw any indication that it was associated with any kind of unlockables or leveling system.
As far as the technical aspects of Coffin Dodgers go, the game controls pretty much how you’d expect an arcade kart racer too. It’s not nearly as tight as something like Mario Kart, but it is completely competent. There are some issues with collision detection that can be a little frustrating though. Sometimes you’ll hit a wall and just be pushed along it, other times it will stop you in your tracks, and, worst of all, are the times that it completely wipes you out. I also encountered more than my fair share of slow down, stuttering, and just overall performance issues. This can be costly in close races if it happens, but with an upgraded kart, races probably won’t be that close anyway.
The difficulty in Coffin Dodgers is all over the place. When you first start, if you end up in the back of the pack or one of the AI drivers gets too far ahead there’s no coming back or catching up. There’s no equivalent to Mario Kart’s red or blue shells to slow down the leader and there’s nothing like a the star or Bullet Bill power-up that will allow you to catch up to the pack if you made a costly mistake. I restarted plenty of races because I knew I had no chance and that takes out a lot of the fun. On the opposite end of the spectrum, once you get your kart leveled up, the game becomes a cake walk. There is very little middle ground unless you want to set up your kart a specific way, but, even then, the AI is inconsistent in how it acts, so the challenge will vary.
Even with all the issues that Coffin Dodgers has, I kind of enjoyed some of my time with it. It’s just a silly kart racer that I could actually see being fun to break out and play with friends at something like a Halloween party. Still though, I can’t really recommend this for someone looking for single-player experience unless they are hard up for a new kart racer or are a trophy hunter looking for an easy platinum. You could do worse, but you aren’t really missing much if you skip out on this one.