Big Kahuna Party
WiiWare | Reflexive Entertainment | 1 Player / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer/co-operative play) | Out Now (North America) | 700 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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3rd August 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
Bejeweled 2 review, I made mention of its lack of multiplayer and how much potential was wasted with the re-release. So when I received a request to take a look at this old WiiWare game, it brought back memories of the good times I had with it. It wasn't anything special of course, but it was fun. And looking back, having multiplayer support was a big strength to the package, and it still serves as a good talking point today.
When you play the game for the first time, you can assign yourself a profile to keep track of all the progress you make in the game. The 'Play Game' option presents you with four different ways of playing on your own or with friends. Action Mode is the main way to play where you try to clear each level as quickly as possible before the timer runs out. Whereas in Relaxed Mode, you can play leisurely with no time constraints whatsoever. Two multiplayer modes exist as well, one where you participate in score battles, and the other where you co-operate with one another to clear levels. There aren't significant variations or anything, but the core concept is fleshed out rather nicely thanks to these different options.
Just like in Bejeweled, the idea is to make matches of three to clear items off a grid. Combinations of four or more will create special power-ups, such as bombs and dynamite that can be used to eliminate a good chunk from the playing field. Big Kahuna Party swaps out gems with aquatic elements such as starfish, shells, and sea urchins. Its incredibly easy to play. Simply point your cursor at the screen, select a square by holding the A Button as you drag towards the box you'd like to switch with. With so many similarities, though, does the game differ from its original counterpart? In terms of layout and structure, yes it does.
Rather than focusing on maxing out the energy meter, your main objective is to break all of the wooden boxes. The grid is mapped out into a series of boxes that are rarely aligned in a linear fashion. The board usually contains gaps, which means many of the levels feel different because of they way they're organized. Off to the right-hand side is a totem that serves as a guide as to how much time you have remaining. If you manage to get a combo, additional statues will pop out of the totem to signify good sequencing. Resting beside this area is a fish net. Once it flashes, you can select it with the A Button and use it to extract a troublesome piece from the board.
Completing levels will unlock new species of fish for the simple aquarium found on the Main Menu. There's a total of over 90 levels in the game, meaning that completing it in its entirety will take hours. That is, if you're playing for that purpose. If you just want to use this as a means of relaxation, then you'll likely be pleased, albeit you might long for something else later on. This is a concept that's been explored many times, and because of that, not everyone will see value in purchasing this game for themselves alone. For that reason, multiplayer is clearly the main draw of this release, and I think the party element is well explored here.
The visuals have a tropical feel to them, as does the music which, admittedly, could be a bit more varied. You'll notice that making a match results in smooth animations, and even the explosions that occur never appear choppy or poorly-executed. As far as the background images go, it's natural to see shipwrecks and sandy areas. But things get a bit weird when you see things like a pirate's head floating underwater.
Even now, I still see Big Kahuna Party as a modest effort. The 'My Fish' mode is pretty worthless, and playing on your own does wear off. However, the main appeal from this release comes from its multiplayer, which still gives it a bit of leverage over the WiiWare release of Bejeweled 2. It's a nice quick diversion for friends and relatives, especially when they're feeling too lazy to play something more involved. Clearly, then, the game still has merit on the service, even more than a year later.
21/30 - Good
Gameplay 7/10 - Takes inspirations from Bejeweled in its power-ups and mechanics, structure is a little different with boards of different shapes
Presentation 7/10 - Tropical feel, explosive effects, simple backgrounds that can appear weird at times, smooth animations when making matches
Enjoyment 4/5 - Multiplayer is the real highlight of this release, playing on your own is somewhat enjoyable for a while
Extra Content 3/5 - Co-op and battle for up to 4 players, more than 90 levels for solo players, basic aquarium, Relaxed mode, not bad at all for $7
Equivalent to a score of 70% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)