It’s not very often these days to see a new OHRRPGCE user publish a game; one that is complete at that. It’s even more rare to see such a game that is halfway decent or has some potential. Dr. Coffin’s Cursed Maze is such a game, and some people may even enjoy it as is. As it stands though, I feel that some changes could be made to make Coffin accessible and enjoyable to a much wider range of individuals.
You die and are expecting a sweet afterlife. Instead, you wake up in a hellish labyrinth somewhere between life and your eternal resting point. You can vaguely recall a “thing” haunting your thoughts by the name of Dr. Coffin. Not having any other leads to your tragic destination, you decide to search for this “Dr. Coffin” in hopes of answers and ultimately freeing your soul. I’ll go ahead and say that the best thing about Coffin in my opinion is the atmosphere. It’s not scary or even really suspensful, but it is definitely unsettling. The author relies heavily on scenery descriptions and dialogue to set the mood of Coffin. In addition, Willy did not use any sound effects or music. Although this may turn off some individuals, I think it worked in his favor. It helps add to the unsettling atmosphere already orchestrated by the dialogue for sure. Honestly looking back at it, I think too much or the wrong kind of music/sound effects could have made the game overly cheesy, so kudos on not having any in the first place!
It’s very apparent that Coffin could very well be Willy’s first stab at pixel art. With that being said though, in some ways his work is better than the stuff in many newbie games I’ve seen over the years. It is definitely better than seeing ripped graphics from Vikings of Midgard like some new games seem to use. Regardless, we all have to start somewhere, and it seems the author put forth a decent effort; and that’s all you can ask for with a new OHRRPGCE user. The only thing I’ll pick on a bit graphic-wise is the hero’s graphics. I’m thinking he was supposed to be human once but he looks more like a gorilla. The frantic monkey ground-pounding victory dance he/she/it uses doesn’t help that either.
If you couldn’t guess by the looks already, Coffin is a dungeon crawler. There are multiple paths to take, and there is potential hidden items and equipment in seemingly empty corridors. Battles are encountered in traditional JRPG format, but otherwise you will be crawling through the maze, searching for clues while trying to survive at the same time. While playing through Coffin I couldn’t help but think Castle of the Winds (due to the dungeon-crawling style) meets Déjà vu/Shadowgate (because of the nicely written dialogue and area descriptions), but that’s probably just me!
Coffin’s biggest flaw by far is the high and seemingly random spikes of difficulty as you progress through the game. The beginning area of the maze is balanced pretty well outside the first boss encounter. It took me several tries to down him due to being one-shotted. I eventually was lucky enough to take the boss down, and it gave me a key to open a door on the other side of the maze. Once you unlock the door, you start getting one-shotted again. After dying and going back to this same place multiple times and failing, I decided to go around the opposite way of the door to see if I had any luck (ie. the northwest corner of the map).
Battles were definitely easier in this area, but you eventually run into the same problem again the further you come to the northeast corner. Because you cannot run from battles and you have to start near the beginning of the maze every time you croak, it gets really frustrating after a while. Yes, there are restorative items that can be purchased, but they can prove to be quite expensive especially if you do not seek out treasure that could be tucked away in some of the maze’s corridors. To make matters worse, you will probably rely on some items to restore your vitals while treasure hunting. If you come up empty handed, you just wasted a lot of time and valuable resources on nothing at all.
Personally, I see nothing fun in spending 10 minutes getting to a certain part of the map to be one shotted in a random encounter thus having to start all over again. I’m not even sure that grinding would help too much. The grandaddy of OHRRPGCE grinding games, Fantasy Under A Blue Moon X, at least gave you a sense of accomplishment for grinding to get past tough areas. I just don’t see that happening here. The problem with grinding in Coffin is that you would have to stay right next to the “Star Coffin”, which acts as a saving spot and a regeneration area. Unfortunately, that means you’d be stuck to fighting an endless amount of weak enemies just to progress further.
I think Willy did a decent job overall for his first published game but at this point I can only suggest Coffin to those who enjoy frustration. I’m hoping that this game sees some of the suggestions I have made in future updates. I really think it would make it appeal more to the masses rather than just the hardcore.