Big Bang Mini Review: Boom Goes The Dynamite

Big Bang MiniWho would have thought that fireworks, of all things, would provide so much inspiration for video games? Aside from their obvious celebratory implementation in sports games, the firework has recently become a key gameplay element in more than one game, the latest of which is SouthPeak’s DS title, “Big Bang Mini.” This time around, the firework’s role has been expertly crafted for Nintendo’s touchy portable, providing the most fun I’ve had playing with fireworks since that time when I was a kid, and I almost had to go to the hospital.

At its heart, “Big Bang Mini” is a shooter, and, in a genre that’s known for its difficulty, “Big Bang” can hang with the big boys. Each level in the game has ten stages, a boss, and an overall theme based on the location of the level. The point of each stage is to collect enough stars by shooting your enemies down to fill up your meter, once the meter is full the stage is over, and you get to take a shot at a bonus level. While that may sound cut and dry, there is one added element to contend with; a small orb that you have to, at all times, keep out of harms way, or else you game comes to an immediate end. Additionally, moving the orb around is vital, as it is the only way to collect the falling stars you need in order to advance. Of course, your shots aren’t coming out of the orb – that would be too easy - they can originate from anywhere on the touch screen, just as long as you can keep the orb safe, which is a daunting task, especially in the later levels.

Big Bang MiniWith each of the different levels having a theme based on its location, the levels take you around the world, from Paris to New York to Luxor (note: I know Luxor is not a real place, but one of Arkedo’s earlier titles). The themes create a unique environment for each level in the arcade mode, introducing new scenery, enemies, and even gameplay elements. As you progress through the game, your shooting ability is upgraded with a couple of different shots that remain persistent throughout the game, but most of the levels also grant you a world specific upgrade. Most of these upgrades are focused on defense, allowing you to avoid the shots coming at you in different ways, but there are some unique ones, like the ability to stop time, and the ability to lasso oncoming fire. Arkedo did a great job of mixing up the elements to make each world feel unique, and always keep the player on their toes.

Unfortunately, as much as I enjoyed the themes, they also spawned my first noticeable complaint about the game. The environments in the game change with each theme change, and along with them, so does the music, which is really a blessing. Some of the individual levels are exceptionally challenging and force you to replay them over and over again, but the music never changes. It’s always the same song for all ten of the stages, and the boss, and it becomes really repetitive really quickly. Don’t get me wrong, the audio in the game is great, I just got tired of hearing it so much.

But, if redundant music is the only complaint I have about the game, then we’d be in really good shape… right? Well, there’s good news, and bad news. The bad news is, that wasn’t my only problem with “Big Bang Mini.” The good news is there was only one other really big issue that I had with the game that really affected the gameplay – the precision of the targeting of the shots. Throughout the game the ability to hit a moving target is vital, making it imperative that your shots are on target, and sometimes your fireworks don’t go where you want/need them to go. With each flick of the stylus you really need to hope that your shots are headed in the direction that you need them to, or else the debris from your missed shot is going to be coming back at you. It’s not even that this is something you can get good at, sometimes it’s just luck.

Big Bang MiniFortunately, to make up for the couple of drawbacks of the game, “Big Bang Mini” offers a huge assortment of game modes, most of which are unlocked as you play through the game. The Arcade (standard beat this level) and Versus (multiplayer) modes are unlocked after completing the Tutorial, and even if you didn’t unlock anything else, both of these modes can suck up a ton of your time. Should you continue, Challenge (highest score) and Mission (complete the objective) modes are next, based on your success in the Arcade mode, while they don’t offer anything really new in terms of gameplay, they do offer a different way to experience the game. Beyond that, there’s a few surprises, but only the truly dedicated “Big Bang” fan is going to be able to experience those.

Overall, “Big Bang Mini” is unlike a lot of games that are on the market today. This uniqueness becomes very quickly apparent when the game suddenly throws you into its 8-bit randomizer levels (which I still can’t completely explain), or when you’re being attacked by a cat that is pooping stars at you. Sometimes good things come in little packages, such is the case for SouthPeak’s, “Big Bang Mini;” it’s a tiny game, at a tiny price, for the smallest system, with the word “mini” in the title. You really don’t get any smaller than that. Fortunately, this everyman’s shooter is a package that everyone can really enjoy.

Rating: ★★★★☆

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