Review: Big Kahuna Party (WiiWare)

Is WiiWare puzzler Big Kahuna Party a beach party or a shipwreck?

Big Kahuna Party is a "match-three" game in the style of Bejeweled. This style of play has been around for a while now and there is not much left to add to the genre, though this doesn’t mean there isn’t room in your collection for a fun variation on the theme. So is Big Kahuna Party worth a try?

To its credit, Big Kahuna Party attempts to inject new life into this tired old formula. Instead of boring square shaped puzzles, you will play on a variety of oddly shaped screens. Some of these will leave you scratching your head as to how it could be possible to ever match something in so small a space. This adds a new kind of challenge not present in similar games.

However, the game is easier than it sounds because your goal is not to get every match possible. Rather, you simply need to break every "box" on the screen. A "box" is simply a regular square, but animated as being inside a box. Matching the item inside that square breaks the box. Clearing all boxes finishes the level and moves you on to the next. It’s as simple as that.

The way you match items is to simply point the Wii remote at the item you want, click it, and then do the same with the one next to it. It is simple, elegant, and how one would expect it to work. The only problem is that unless you have a very steady hand, you will likely need to use both hands to hold the remote steady as the squares are very small. This style of game actually works better with a mouse on a pc because the desk holds your mouse steady for you.

When you finish a level, you are rewarded with a fish. The more levels you complete, the more fish appear in your aquarium. That’s right ... look out My Aquarium. There’s a new fish tank simulator in town called Big Kahuna Party. You can fill your tank with fish that you’ve unlocked in the game and run it as Wiiware’s “killer app”: a screensaver.

As you progress through the increasingly difficult levels, you’ll find some handy tools, such as a bomb that will blow up a huge chunk of the screen. You will also face additional challenges, such as squares that are "locked" and will not fall down until you match the items inside, thus breaking the lock. These new elements keep the game interesting as you unlock and attempt to use new abilities.

There is a multiplayer aspect to the game as well: a competitive mode and a cooperative mode. In reality, both modes are cooperative as in each you work to finish the level. Competitive mode just means that you each get a score at the end. We would have enjoyed true competition, specifically the ability to hurt your opponent. Without that competitive aspect, multiplayer is of limited appeal as it only lets you and a friend work together to complete a game. You could have done that anyway with one remote and talking to each other. Instead, this game mode just gives you and your friend an option to play the same game at the same time but without having to talk to one another. On the other hand, for larger groups the game allows up to four players to play simultaneously, and this is certainly more fun than watching one person play.

For replay, this style of game has always provided a good value because it is addictive, and each time you play things work out a bit different. Moreover, the unique board layouts should add some life over the long run that other games in this genre cannot provide. If you do not already have one of these games on your Wii, then Big Kahuna Party will have a long life span.

Conclusion

Big Kahuna Party is a fun new spin on an old classic. If you can’t get enough of this style of game, or if you’ve never played one before, then this is an obvious download for you. If you have already had your fill of this kind of game, then the new twists may help you squeeze a little more enjoyment out of it, but probably not for long. Make no mistake, Big Kahuna Party is a fun game. But so are all of the other Bejeweled clones. It’s a victim of its own success.