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Publisher: Reflexive Entertainment    Genre: Board & Card
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: G3 @ 500 MHz    RAM: 256 MB    Hard Disk: 15 MB

Big Kahuna Reef
May 4, 2006 | Ted Bade

Click to enlarge
Big Kahuna Reef is one of those simple yet very addictive games. It is simple in the sense that there aren't a lot of rules, tables, or stats to try to memorize. However, I don't mean to imply that it is simplistic. This game offers a goodly amount of challenge as well as a reward for your good work. It's a great pass-time game, when all you really want to do is relax with a little challenge and great graphics to boot.

Shareware fans might recognize Big Kahuna Reef as being very similar to an older game called JewelToy, which was (and still is, for that matter), a favorite of mine. However, Big Kahuna Reef adds a number of challenges and features not part of JewelToy. And of course both owe homage to the venerable Bejeweled, the classic PopCap puzzler that spawned the "match-three" genre.

To play Big Kahuna Reef you swap adjacent pieces to get three or more similar pieces in a row. When this happens the matched pieces disappear from the board, you get some points, and more pieces fall from above to take their place. You move by clicking on adjacent pieces, causing them to swap position. Tile pieces in this game reflect the sea theme of Big Kahuna Reef; you'll see shells, shrimp, shark teeth, pearls, and more. The board sits atop one of three nicely rendered reef backdrops. (You can choose which to view.) As you progress through the game, accomplishing certain matches will release fish that swim over and behind the board, creating a relaxing fish tank backdrop. Each board (or level) has a specific goal you must reach in order to finish it, and there is a time limit. When you finish the level you get bonus points for time left and acquire a new fish for your "tank." Once you've acquired a few fish you then need to complete five levels to gain a new fish, and rumor has it there is a special reward for completing all levels!

As you play Big Kahuna Reef, you will encounter a number of challenges that make the game more interesting. The boards come in a variety of shapes. Odd shapes require a bit of thinking to avoid getting into an impossible situation. The goal of each board is to remove all of the special board pieces by making a match over them. The basic challenge is a wooden box; one match over it and its history. The next one is a metal one that turns to a wooden one once a match is made. A more difficult piece is the locked piece. The tile on it doesn't move, so you need to move similar pieces to it. Then there are the fish bone tiles pieces. If you make a match with them, they change ordinary spaces into wooden plank spaces, which then must be removed. To help, a fish net is acquired after so many points are earned, which can be used to pull any tile off the board. When this is done, pieces above it fall into the empty space. This tool can be used to make a match in an impossible situation.

You start a game with three lives, but can acquire more as you progress successfully through the levels. If you don't complete the board in the time allowed, you lose a life. You can continue as long as you have a spare life. If you find a particular board too challenging, you can skip it after losing once. I found most boards could be completed with a little work. More challenging boards required smart use of the fish net.

Points are awarded for making matches. As you continue a string of matches that remove a challenge piece, you get more and more points with subsequent matches you make. As you add to your string of matches, the Big Kahuna idol on the screen stretches out its neck, graphically (and numerically) showing the points for the next match pieces.


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