"Big Kahuna Burger? That's that new Hawaiian burger joint. I heard they got some tasty burgers. I ain't ever had one myself, how are they?"
For anyone who knows movies, the phrase Big Kahuna will doubtless conjure up that very quote, from the film Pulp Fiction – the scene in the Quentin Tarantino film where Samuel L. Jackson's Jules character tucks into a Big Kahuna Burger and coke just before he mutters: "That's a tasty burger" and then, along with his pal Vincent Vega, goes on to experience a moment of divine intervention involving someone with a really, really bad shot.
But is there anything divine about I-play's brand new puzzler, Big Kahuna Reef? Would Samuel L. Jackson be as impressed by it as he clearly is by novelty Hawaiian-themed burger bars?
Perhaps. It's not going to make a huge splash, but the swelling ocean of the mobile games audience is vast enough for Big Kahuna Reef to become part of the eco-system and quietly make a ripple or two.
A direct conversion of web-based game Hawaii Quest, Big Kahuna Reef takes place in the form of an underwater reef that is made up into a grid. Covering the squares of the grid (which gets larger the more you advance in the game) are various aquatic objects that have to be matched up in vertical or horizontal lines of three or more. In doing this, you destroy any crates that are lurking underneath these objects. Destroy all the crates before the time runs down and you move onto the next level.
The game encourages speedy play by doubling the amount you can score as you go. The first crates you manage to get rid of reward you with three points, if you're quick enough the next line of crates will get you six, then nine, then 12 and so on – keep your speed up and you keep doubling the potential prize for each successful move.
The one-thumb control system is simple enough, and enables you to scroll around the menus and playing area using the pad trouble free. Graphically, Big Kahuna Reef has large visuals with a decent level of detail for this type of game and some intriguing backgrounds behind the main playing area.
As developers are very much aware, there's not much you can do with a puzzle-based title on a mobile, especially a tile-swapper. Yet the standard is progressing all the time, and Big Kahuna Reef stands up very well to this ever-rising benchmark.
It's also good to see the advancing sonic capabilities of phones enabling programmers to come up with better musical compositions, and Big Kahuna Reef certainly boasts a well put together (if rather repetitive) theme tune.
An unusual feature is that as you progress you earn a new breed of fish every three to four levels, such as a clownfish, Pacific blue tang, seahorse, smooth trunk fish and sea turtle, among others.
A record of these sea-based creatures is stored in a separate part of the game. Later, you can select the fish you've unlocked and have it swim around your phone's screen. You can select as many of each fish as you want, so that you could end up with shoals of the little fellas swimming around. It even gives you a bit of a natural history lesson on each of the species' individual characteristics.
If you love tropical fish and can't afford one of those fangled BiOrbs that are all the rage these days, then this feature could be a tidy alternative to a mini aquarium. You don't even have to feed the blighters. But don't think it's similar to Nemo's Aquarium – it is far less sophisticated, as in Big Kahuna Reef it's only ever meant as a reward-based addition to the main game, and you don't get to look after the fish.
To sum up, Big Kahuna Reef is a fairly challenging puzzle game that raises the water level just over the 'above average mark' but it's missing that something special. There's definitely better out there, but if you're one of the many fans of the web-based original then you may well love this more than the rest.