Appearing out of nowhere like a crazy tropical storm, Coconut Queen has arrived and is ready to give Build-a-lot (and, heck, even Totem Tribe) a challenge for its casual sim throne. Combining the "neighborhood improvement" concept with some inventive unlockables and a subtle sense of humor, Coconut Queen provides a phenomenal gaming experience with enormous replay value.
The island of Lui-Lui is home to pristine beaches, lush jungles, countless scuttling crabs, and, as of today, Liz from accounting. You see, CoCoCo (the Colorado Coconut Company) has sent Liz to check the status of its island property to see why fruit production has dwindled. When she arrives, some really strange things begin to happen, starting with the handsome gentlemen islanders crowning her as their queen!
The basic goal of Coconut Queen is to please tourists and rake in lots of cash. You do this by building cabanas, cabins and other lodgings while sprucing them up with hot tubs, palm trees, umbrellas, etc. While collecting rent from the visitors, you also have commercial income you gain from structures like buffets and markets whose revenue is based on how many tourists are staying at your resort. Appeal plays a big part in how much cash you earn, so spending time beautifying the landscape really pays off in the end.
Each chapter has a set of specific goals that must be met in order to progress. You might have to build a certain number of buildings, upgrade a few structures, bring in a set amount of money per rental day, or even destroy/sell several properties. You'll also have to contend with the occasional disaster, such as monsoons, angry monkeys, and sharks!
Once you work through an entire resort area the game really opens up. Coconut Queen features several stores that allow you to purchase new structures and unique upgrades using gems awarded to you after completing a chapter. You can also use gems to unlock new pathways on the island. Which upgrades you buy and in what order you buy them has an enormous affect on the gameplay.
Analysis: Coconut Queen has the look of a Saturday morning cartoon and the sense of humor to match. For example, the muscular worker men have a dozen or so sayings to spout each time you send them to work, including "Does this skirt make me look fat?". Each building is also given a name, some of which are quite clever!
One of the best things about Coconut Queen is that you aren't limited as to where you can build. Unlike the Build-a-lot series, Coconut Queen lets you place structures on any piece of open ground. Want to have small clusters of huts scattered around the screen? Do it! Like everything built around a central location? Awesome, go for it! This freedom not only gives it a leg up on Build-a-lot, it dramatically increases the replay value to boot. Once you complete an area you also unlock freeplay for that zone, allowing you to play and develop your resort for as long as you like without worrying about goals!
Coconut Queen does something no casual building game has bothered to do: create a plot that's unveiled as you play. Instead of the usual "you're a realtor, make things pretty", a somewhat wacky tale of megacorp versus island natives ensues, placing Liz in the middle of things and bringing you along for the ride. After each chapter, bits of story are spun via short cut scenes. Not only do you catch up on current events, you're often treated to flashbacks that fill in the story of why Liz came to the island. You also get a few tantalizing peeks into the minds of other characters, many of whom have their own endgame in mind!
I was pleasantly surprised by Coconut Queen's artwork, relaxed setting, and overall demeanor. It's a phenomenal casual sim with excellent artwork, a lively atmosphere, and a cheeky sense of humor to match. Wrap all of that around finely-tuned gameplay and you have a title that's virtually flawless!