Review: Coffin Mall

Store page / View this review on Steam

I hold a lot of nostalgia for the horror films of my childhood, when literally anything could be the basis for a scary movie. I remember wandering through the video store, examining VHS cases for movies about murderous washing machines, tires, rabbits, and more. It seems I’m not the only one that yearns for this sort of hilarious schlock, because these days we get games like Coffin Mall. Miniscule in scope and light on gameplay, this nugget of horror nevertheless provides a thrilling romp as you struggle to survive against a foe both ridiculous and surprisingly terrifying.

Honestly, if you like retro horror and compact experiences, pick this one up right now and go in blind. Otherwise, I’m going to spoil just as much as the store page does, which is the entire hook of the game. You are a newly-hired night watchperson at the local mall, and things go completely to hell when a homicidal car decides that you shouldn’t be alive anymore. It’s a short, tense escape from the clutches of the car, requiring you to think quickly and use your surroundings to get away. But this cantankerous clunker isn’t about to give up on you easily, and your survival will soon hinge on more than just getting out of the mall.

If you’re still reading this, we might as well make sure you know exactly what you’re getting here. Coffin Mall will take you about 15-20 minutes the first time you run through it, with much of that time dependent on how adept you are at avoiding a speeding fender to the face. Gameplay is simply walking (or running) around, hitting switches, and solving one very straightforward puzzle. I won’t lie, this feels a lot like a game jam game, but it’s important to note that the visceral quality of the experience is top-notch. I’ve played through a lot of horror jams, and it’s not often that I come across games that make me as tense or as excited as this one. For as short and simple as it is, Coffin Mall is very effective in using the scant tools it has.

Obviously this will appeal more to fans of retro-style horror, particularly in the PS1-ish graphics. They’re not as stylized as some, and seem a bit unintentionally glitchy in places, but I’ll hardly fault a game of this scope for that. The sound design in contrast is on point, making you feel every lightning strike and engine rev in the pit of your stomach. It’s a game that knows exactly what it wants to do and executes it perfectly, and in that respect is very, very easy to recommend. If you miss the days of evil cars and killer appliances as much as I do, Coffin Mall is just the trip down that dark memory lane you want.

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