Coconut Dodge (PlayStation Minis) Review – Go Ahead and Crab It!

Well, Futurlab’s Coconut Dodge is out, the very first console game released by Futurlab, so I have to take a moment to congratulate them. Now, unfortunately, I’m not supposed to be biased here, but I really wish I could be because I really like Futurlab so far. I can honestly say, the game is quite cute, and for the most part, a fun, solid title, but there’s some things I wish they took the time to implement.

According to its official website, you play as a crab named “Clawrence”, and he likes gold, good for him! Anyone can identify with that. He plans on getting some gold by standing beneath the trees it falls from and catching it. The only problem with Clawrence’s plan is coconuts also tend to fall from the trees, often in a bizarre, maze-shaped, fashion. You see where this is going, don’t you? Good, now go dodge some coconuts!

As simple as the concept is, there’s a lot of cool features, and ways to play. One of the coolest things about it is that each ‘level’ essentially has three parts. There is the part where random coconuts fall down and you just have to dodge them while catching the occasional pieces of gold that fall down. Then there are the excellently designed “mazes”, where patterns of predesigned coconuts fall and you must navigate through them while gathering the gold within them. The great thing about this being that there is usually one simple path that you can easily pass through with a little gold, and one expert path that requires only the greatest of skill, but usually it rewards you with lots of diamonds, which are worth 4 times the standard gold pellet. Lastly, there is a sort of bonus round after each level that rewards you with nothing but gold and you must try to catch as much of it as you can.

In addition to the main mode where players play level after level, there is also another mode called “maze master” where players select a maze they have made it to, and are challenged to get nearly maximum points for that maze. This mode is very fun, despite how difficult it can get, and how intensely angry it can make you. My only beef with this mode is that it lacks some of the mazes in the main mode, especially the beginning ones which is a little disappointing since the later ones are difficult to get to; Oh, and it makes me want to break my PSP in half sometimes.

There are also some power-ups and abilities. You can temporarily dig underground using the triangle button if you really want to survive and have no other options, but this is dangerous because you cannot control where you dig back up again, and really, it is not a good way to get points, so you will probably end up never using it. You can also speed up (“Turbo”) and slow down (“Creep”) using the cross (also known as ‘x’s) and circle buttons, respectively, although I find slowing down is never really necessary. Speeding up, on the other hand, is essential for getting all the gold. You can speed up if you want to go fast, which is often necessary during mazes, but if you want to really want to get across the screen in the blink of an eye, then you can double-tap the ‘X button to do a “Super Turbo”. What I dislike about the super turbo is it would be so much easier at times to simply push the square button which is currently unused.

There is a Viking Helmet that occasionally gets thrown at you, and if you catch it, it gives you temporary invincibility. There are also beach balls that you must keep up, and when you hit them enough times, they pop and give you a certain reward; yellow beach balls give you points, and blue beach balls slow the coconuts when they get sped up.

I really must complement the sound and graphics for this game; they are bright, fun, and enough to make you smile, the music in particular, is really nicely done, although there is only the title theme and the song that plays while you play, they are really cute tunes. The only sound that I really hate is the annoying dying one. When you die, the game punishes you with this strange beep-like sound, and the music just stops. As if dying isn’t punishment enough. Speaking of dying, there is only one life, which can be a bit of a letdown and really discourages you from taking risks during the maze rounds. 

As far as “replayability” goes, this game doesn’t fare too badly, although it might have been able to fit another game mode or two in there. I would have liked to have seen a keep up mode devoted to the beach ball and how many times the player can hit it, since I don’t feel the beach ball is explored as much as I would have liked it to have been, and that would have been perfect for taking turns in the car or somewhere, playing some sort of form of ‘numbers’.

I don’t think I can stress how challenging it can be, and I don’t think I will ever be able to beat all the mazes on maze master, or even get to them for that matter, but that can be really good if you are someone who plays videogames to complete the difficult challenges. Overall, it’s a nice game that its team can be proud of developing, you can see there has been a lot of love put into it. Having ‘mazes’ in a game like this is an interesting concept, and it works. Alternate routes is a really cool feature since hardcore gamers who are looking for a challenge will like it because of its potential difficulty, and even casual gamers can get something from it since it can also be simple if you are not up for such an intense challenge.

Futurlab’s Coconut Dodge, a game that received much love and support from our community here, was updated a while ago. In an early attempt to take advantage of community feedback and add some of the bonuses they didn’t have the time to implement, Futurlab was hard at work making a new coconut dodge that replaces the old one, and it shows! In my previous review, I described the core mechanics of the game, which for the most part remain the same in the update, but now the game has some hidden bonuses that greatly add to the replay value.

The most noticeable and important change is probably in the main mode, where the player now has three lives. This makes the game so much easier for inexperienced players and gives players with a little more skill, a chance to take more risks and get to the later mazes.  If I had to criticize an aspect of this change, it would be that there is no apparent way to get bonus lives; still, this change alone makes the game a lot easier to recommend to casual gamers, who normally, may not be suited to play this game if they are not used to games that are capable of requiring such precise movements at times.

One change I was disappointed to see didn’t appear, however, was super turbo being mapped to a specific button. James from Futurlab insisted that this would ruin the game, by taking away a rhythmic requirement some mazes have, and would make it too easy. I have no choice but to trust James’ judgement on the matter, and in fact, I respect his desire to keep some things his way, as I really admire game developers who are not always willing to change their game simply to please those who do not understand it; even if I may be among those who don’t understand.

I did find that besides an alternate method of super turbo many changes I requested were there, such as extra game modes, although they are hidden.  there are three extras to be found, there is a “beachball keepy-uppy” mode, the original one life mode, and the impossible mode.

In my original review did mention that I felt the beachball wasn’t explored as much as I would have liked, and Futurlab listened: they answered with a mode dedicated to popping as many beach balls as possible without letting a single one drop, all while collecting gold and dodging coconuts; in beachball keepy-uppy, a beachball appears that requires one hit to pop, after it is popped, another one appears that requires one more to pop, and so on….. Eventually, players must even juggle multiple beachballs (although at first, the juggling is brief), which becomes good hectic fun. It is really fitting that this mode is in maze master because it is a fantastic way to get to know, and eventually master beachball.

The one life mode is the same as the original mode in the original game. The impossible mode is too, however, all falling obstacles are now pitch black forcing the player to figure out what is what, simply by judging the shape of the object, which is quite a challenge. Evidently the developers feel that there are just not enough people who wind up in the emergency room, with their fist jammed through the screen of a PSP, and hope to change all that by adding this mode into the mix. But there is incentive for skilled players to try these difficult modes: on the scoreboard there is a special font for the names of those who win on these modes.

There are also some minor tweaks such as the louder sound effects being turned down, a subtle super turbo sound effect, and some new multiple potential graphics for the 1000 point item, options for the pause menu, and some changes to the selectable maze master mazes, that turn out to be welcome changes with some simple, but solid reasoning behind them.

Really, it’s impressive that Futurlab took the time to listen to the feedback given to them post-release and release a much better version of the game for free to those who already purchased it. The changes truly up the overall value for this game and they make it a lot easier for me to recommend Coconut Dodge to everyone. For those who have already purchased Coconut Dodge, you can just re-download it, and for those who haven’t purchased it, try to.

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