When you're playing Coco Loco, [$0.99] it's important to remember that you're rescuing your marshmallow brethren from chocolate guardians. You're absolutely not rescuing your eggs from pigs. Sure, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably Angry Birds, but Twiitch deserves credit: this particular physics puzzler with slingshot mechanics is actually pretty great.
Some of Coco Loco's levels could be pulled straight out of similar games—let's just say there isn't much difference between an egg-shaped mallow and an egg-shaped bird. But those structural similarities surround cunning levels designed for more than brute-force thinking. The formula takes another sharp turn with terribly entertaining liquid dynamics. It plays like a brand new game, even if it doesn't look much like one.
Stop me if you've heard this one before: the Marshies were enjoying a simple dip in the hot chocolate springs when the cocoa guardians took them prisoner. Now it's up to you to get revenge, rescue your pals, and free them from their, err, celebrity-costumed captivity. That sort of quirkiness gives Coco Loco a fresh angle to build on, and it extends through every bit of the game's visual design.
From there it's a matter of differentiating itself through gameplay. The liquids make up a big part of that: the Marshies can be freed by being swept up in cocoa, and the chocolate guardians can be melted away similarly. Many levels will see you redirecting cocoa, breaking through dams and barriers and generally splashing around.
Lest I give the impression this is just a damp Angry Birds (probably an obvious mashup in this post-Where's My Water world), I should emphasize that the level design in Coco Loco is very, very good. Rarely are you left to smash down a structure with however many projectiles you feel like using. Instead, you're often given exactly what you'll need to solve a puzzle, one with moving parts, flowing liquid and tight corridors to aim your way through.
The tools you're given are a good mix of familiar and new. You've got your standard Marshie, the one that knocks over the things it hits. Another one explodes on your command. But there's also one that expands into a gelatinous wall on demand, and another that shoots cocoa out of a cannon, amongst others. Combined, they can pull of some excellent tricks.
You have to be creative when using them, as much as you need to be precise. Most of Coco Loco's 75 levels are set up for specific solutions: toss this dude at that spot to clear the way for the next guy to knock over the cocoa just so, and the whole thing comes together. Or take each of your Marshies and land them in just the right places all over the screen. You'll need to use your brain more often than you will your pixel-hunting skills.
I just wish the same creativity that's been brought to bear on the level design had bumped into the rest of the game at some point. We have the three star rating system, "Fluffy," the IAP that finishes any level for you, extra points for having Marshies left over, and that's just scratching the surface. Coco Loco is strong enough to stand on its own, and hanging a lantern on its similarities to Angry Birds does it no favors.
Just don't let that stop you from checking it out. Coco Loco isn't a strikingly original game, even without the checklist of familiar interface elements, but it is one of the most thoroughly solid and entertaining physics puzzle games I've played in some time. Taken in a vacuum, it could have blown me away. In the context of the rest of the App Store, it's still a heck of a lot of fun. Don't just give it a look, give it a play and you might be impressed.
Watch Button Watch App