Coffin Dodgers is a racing game by Milky Tea Studios. Eight racers battle for first place, picking up and using various powerups to give themselves a boost or to disrupt their opponents. Now you’d be forgiven for thinking this sounds very similar to other racing games, and the comparison is not totally unfair, but in this game you are quite literally racing for your life. If you lose, you die. You wouldn’t see Mario or Sonic in that sort of situation would you? Oh and did I mention the racers are using mobility scooters?
The game takes place in Sunny Pines, a village where pensioners retire and live out their lives free from work and worry. There’s a bustling town, a small farming community, everything you need for a peaceful life. Only the Grim Reaper has other ideas. Death visits the town and declares that he is going to take the lives of its residents in three days. The village’s eldest inhabitants decide they don’t want to die just yet and so they challenge Death to a racing tournament. On mobility scooters.
As you may have gathered the game doesn’t take itself too seriously. The stakes are high – at the end of each race, the losers are taken by Death while the winners carry on to the next stage – but the whole affair is very cartoon-like. Bright colours and chunky objects make up the visuals, and the sight of seven elderly pensioners (plus Death in a wheelchair) tearing around the roads is incredibly funny, especially when they start beating each other with their walking sticks.
It gets even funnier when you take the powerups into account – homing missiles, rocket boosters, oil slicks, even a defibrillator to temporarily stun opponents are all available. It gets extremely frantic, especially when racers all bunch together and start whacking each other and shooting each other with uzis. Things happen very quickly. One moment you may be languishing towards the back in seventh place, next thing you pick up a boost or other characters start taking each other out and next thing you know you’re up at the front with a homing missile on your tale.
At the end of each stage the racers at the bottom of the board are taken by Death. Then they come back as zombies and re-enter the race. This adds an extra layer of tension as Death takes the bottom two living characters, so even if you come in fifth but the people below you are all dead it’s game over for you. Fortunately game over in this case just means you have to restart that particular group of races from the beginning.
There are other obstacles to contend with as well in your race for life. Cars driving the opposite way – including police cars – appear randomly in later races. If the track goes underground you may have to contend with support pillars or trains. Oh and there are other zombies milling around on the road that you can knock down for points – they explode with a satisfying blood splatter – and in one stage there are UFOs kidnapping farm animals and cutting up the road with lasers. Who knew that retirement was fraught with such peril?
You can upgrade your scooter in the Garage to give it more speed, acceleration, better handling and more. This really becomes a requirement in the later races as the other racers have upgraded vehicles and will leave you in the dust. As you complete races you earn money to buy the upgrades. Then, when you take your newly kitted out scooter back to the races, you’ll find that you need to learn to control it again.
Actually that leads me on to the controls themselves. The game is extremely fast paced, so there’s a bit of a learning curve for acceleration, turning, using weapons and the like. But I was able to get used to it fairly quickly so it can’t really be that bad. It’s very easy to focus on the race and you’ll soon find that the turns and powerups become almost second nature as you put all your attention on the road and the racers in front of you. There’s a map in the corner to show you where everyone is so you’ll be able to see when someone’s about to overtake you.
There are some other things to do outside the main race tournament. There are time trials and quick races, which don’t earn you XP but are still fun to do. There is also a mode called “Crazy Granddad” where you are able to free roam through Sunny Pines searching for objects within a time limit. There’s also an “Explore” option which again lets you freely ride through Sunny Pines, and you can find extra races or activities, but in this mode there isn’t a lot to do – no zombies or other obstacles are present so it can get a bit boring. One thing I haven’t seen though is an online multiplayer option, which is a pity if it’s not actually there as this would be a great game to play with mates. There is a split screen option though for local play.
I really enjoyed this game. It’s a lot of fun and fast-paced enough so that you can really get into it. The music is cartoony and fast and lends just the right sense of urgency to the proceedings. The life-or-death stakes really make you push yourself to try to be the best, and the visuals and animations will make you chuckle. I hope that Milky Tea will expand on this and add new game modes – including online multiplayer – as I think this is something that has a lot of potential. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to outfit my scooter with yet another engine upgrade.