When it comes to shooters, it’s hard to imagine innovation. It’s like trying to bring something new to the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. From 1942 to Ikaruga to Geometry Wars, we’ve essentially done the same thing; exhausting all manners of color and direction. The conceit of “Big Bang Mini,” for the Nintendo DS developed by the French Arkedo Studio, lies in separating the two things that shooters require of a player: shooting and dodging.
Much like siblings, one doesn’t easily imagine splitting up the brother and sister of shoot and dodge because status quo says “we are ship, ship does all.” But imagine that you’re a flying pixel that has to dodge oncoming traffic, and you can shoot from anywhere, like casting fireworks from an infinite amount of backyards. Low and behold the idea behind this entirely touch-based, spectacular shooter.
The layout of the game places your “ship” on the bottom screen with the enemies spanning both ends of the battle field. This instinctively screams “vertical”, but the background actually implies “horizontal” movement. In truth, the designation doesn’t matter as you can move in any manner your stylus wishes to twirl against the screen, and enemies will be coming in a variety of different ways from a variety of different directions.
Placing the stylus on the “ship” and moving is your manner of dodging any projectiles, and to shoot, you must let go of your ship and strike the touch screen in the direction of your foes. It’s interesting because you’re no longer restricted to shooting from your location, forced into corners where the bullets from those bee shaped ships in Galaga ultimately find you. You can move anywhere (within your DS’ screen) and shoot from anywhere.
Because of this design, barrages of one-hit death seeds come after you, and if your bullets miss, they erupt into fireworks that ricochet back, forcing you to dodge even more. I expected the game to provide more of a challenge as you’re able to dodge as fast as your hand can move, and you’re only left vulnerable when you have to shoot back. It remains fairly easy, a la the DS’ tendencies towards younger audiences.
Your progression through the levels is dictated by the collection of stars dropped by downed foes. Each level takes roughly three or four minutes. When you collect a certain amount of stars, you’re allowed to progress. The separations of sections within the level sometimes startle the fast paced, raucous flow of the game as enemies come in distinctive waves and rarely are you constantly bombarded with challenge. However, the flair and the solid mechanics make up for this.
Big Bang Mini avoids the monster of repetition by splitting the game into nine different sections of ten levels, each themed by a city or location. While this may seem like an odd thematic system, each section is caricaturized with its particular city, and the geographical theme not only dictates the neon background designs, but the enemies, music, abilities, and graphics. In New York, for example, the enemies are knife throwing Jokers that erupt into onomatopoeia, a la the Adam West Batman show with, “BAM!” and “KABOOM!” You can also tap on a particular enemy to gain their power. In the Sahara, you have to dodge hot beams from the sun, and in other levels, you can draw shields or stop time. These dynamic mechanics and electrifying graphics provide an impressive amount of variety and entertainment. The music has an addictive catchiness to it that blends seamlessly with the level design.
While this may seem like a short review, the bottom line is that Big Bang Mini takes something two dimensional and makes it fantastic. For ninety levels, you’ll dodge, parry, and invoke firework gods to take down a myriad of unique enemies and bosses. While some may complain that the difficulty for the game and bonus levels is toned down, the game play speaks to a higher goal. They keep it simple and do it right. I would normally re-reference my analogy about the peanut butter and jelly sandwich at the this to make a witty call back to the beginning of the review, but I can’t think of any way to make the PBJ as awesome as Big Bang Mini. Maybe glow in the dark peanut butter?
The presentation of themes and design boasts a variety of fun, robust graphics that out flare Saturday morning cartoons.
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The gameplay is a bit too easy and predictable, but the inventive mechanics and flawless control make up for it.
The music blends perfectly with the flow of the game, and sounds fantastic, especially for a DS title.
While the game has 90 exciting levels and a bonus stage for each of those leves, once you've beaten them, there's little incentive to go back. It's still one of the best two trick ponies ever.
One of the fastest, most exciting, accessible titles for the DS, especially if you like shooters.