The classic genre of bucket collection will require no introduction to children of the 80’s. You move a bucket left and right at the bottom of the screen, collect the falling treasure objects while avoiding the falling enemies at the same time.
Coconut Dodge is the first foray into the PSP minis market from indie developers FuturLab, and presents a tricked out reboot of the genre.
Your bucket has been replaced by a money-hungry crab, the treasure has been replaced by gems and the baddies have been replaced by coconuts, but other than this re-skin, the premise is the same. To prevent the formula from getting quickly boring, Coconut Dodge has a few neat tricks up its sleeve. There are the obligatory power-ups (which drop in predetermined places so you can memorise when they will appear), falling beach balls which give score or power-up bonuses if you can keep them bouncing for long enough, and special high-value gems.
Coconut Dodge seems to be fairly intelligent about where the coconuts drop in that there is always an escape route – you never get bombarded in such a random way that you get stuck and die, which is one of the most annoying things in this kind of game for me. Handily, the coconuts also start to drop very slowly at the top and accelerate downwards so you can always see where the next wave is coming from.
To break up the standard levels there is the excellent addition of maze levels. This is almost like a 2D top-down racer where the coconuts and gems are arranged in pre-made formations and you have to dart around navigating the route to pick up the most gems. Here is where the strategy comes in: the crab can be moved at three speeds and some gems are worth several times more than others, so plotting a route really does become a game of on-the-wire memory skill and finger dexterity. Once you complete a maze level, it is unlocked in Maze Master mode where you get to play the same thing again and earn a crown if you reach the points target. These targets are very tough allowing only a tiny margin of error, so you’ll be bashing away at them for quite a while.
Other than that, the game graphics are unimpressive but irrelevant and the soundtrack is chilled out and completely unobtrusive. There are about 30 levels to hack through, each lasting a couple of minutes.
Some caveats: Coconut Dodge is hard. You only get one life and no health bar, a single hit and it’s game over and you have to start at level 1 again. This is all about the challenge, so if you’re the type who prefers to just see what comes next but don’t have good hand-eye co-ordination, then this game is not for you. Secondly, the speed-altering mechanic for the crab is a bit awkward. To move faster you hold X, which is fine, but to move at the fastest speed you have to double-tap it. The good news is I had a word with FuturLab about this when the game is released and they are currently considering releasing a replacement version (downloadable free for existing owners) with 3 lives and the option of using square for the fastest speed.
The first time I played Coconut Dodge I was a bit ‘meh’ about it. A few hours later I came back and was like, ok, this isn’t bad, and got a few levels further. The next day I was determined to beat it, which already makes it a minis title I have come back to more than most. This game grows on you in a curious way and winds up with you in furious determination to get ‘just one level further this time’.
One of the more enjoyable minis I’ve played.