Big Bang Mini review

Even though I love my DS Lite to bits, lately I’ve not been enthralled by most of the games hitting the shelves. It seemed to me there was a gap in development where the serious publishers we waiting to find out about the upcoming Nintendo DSi and its features before green lighting new titles. Now that the fate of the DS brand is sealed for another couple of years we should start seeing more unique games heading our way very soon. Thankfully smaller more indie developers kept going with the Nintendo DS, creating original games for the discerning gamer and today we’re going to look at one such game. Big Bang Mini DS is the second game from the interesting French studio Arkedo who previously worked on a Breakout inspired title called Nervous Brickdown. Well Arkedo are back and this time it’s Missile Command and Space Invaders that have been the inspiration for their new title Big Bang Mini, but can it really live up to the classic game that I played on the Atari 2600 so many years ago? Let’s find out in my review of Big Bang Mini for DS.

Everyone knows Space Invader’s so I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining it here for you now, Missile Command on the other was never quite as popular and as such isn’t as well known. Basically the idea of the game was to shoot defensive missiles using your joystick into the sky to destroy the incoming alien rockets and ufo’s. Missile Command was a hit with gamers just like Space Invaders because of the perfectly pitched learning curve, starting off simple but getting harder and faster as you progressed. It didn’t matter how many times you died because each time you believed deep down inside that you were just seconds away from completing the game and so the ‘just one more try’ factor kicks in until you’re out of money and asking your parents for an allowance increase to pay for your habit. Nowadays video arcades are a dying breed because our home and portable consoles tend to do everything a gloomy seaside video Arcade Cabinet can do and more besides. So whilst Big Bang Mini has that same ‘just one more try’ factor, once you’ve bought it won’t in fact cost you all your spare change to have another go.

The basic goal in Big Bang Mini is to survive waves of enemies by firing missiles (or fireworks as the game likes to insist) up from the bottom screen to the top screen and hopefully destroying them. To fire a missile you drag your base icon around the screen by using the stylus. To shoot your fireworks you simply strike the touch screen in the required direction just like you would a match on a matchbox (well perhaps with a tad more care). At the very start you’ll actually be shooting harmless balloons with fireworks to get you into the swing of it. Quicker than you think come the real baddies; they move around the top DS screen (sometimes even dipping on the bottom one) avoiding your missiles and even sending weapons of their own back down towards you. To make matters worse every missile of yours that does not successfully hit an enemy will explode and the debris will fall back down to the bottom screen and let’s just say, with only a single hit point between you and failure, you’d better move your base icon out of the way or be prepared to start the level again. Every time you destroy an enemy a power star falls down and it’s up to you to collect it if you want to progress to the next level, the star’s size will vary from small to big depending on the difficulty of the baddy dealt with, a meter displayed on the left side of the screen slowly fills as you collect the stars and once it’s full the level is over. After each level you get the chance to take part in a bonus round where you effectively play join the dots with your base icon avoiding any dangerous objects. If you complete the bonus round a photo is taken of the resulting firework show and you’ll be one step closer to unlocking the special ‘relax’ game mode to play. So that’s the basic premise of how Big Bang Mini DS works but there’s so much more to let you know about.

There are 9 game worlds each containing 8 standard levels and a final boss battle. Each world looks markedly different with new enemies to encounter and special powers which change how the game plays. The first world; Tokyo, starts you off gently with just simple rockers and easy enemies but world 2 Aurora introduces the ability to draw an invisible spiral on the screen to deflect incoming bullets but needs to recharge between uses, the bad guys also get much faster. When you get to world five; Savannah, you gain the ability to shoot Fireballs which fly to the top screen killing most enemies in one hit but the Fireballs rebound back down which you’ll need to avoid along with any enemy fire as well as the debris of your fireworks. Maybe when you get to Rio de Janeiro you’ll find the homing missile you were giving in World three has been disabled, how will you manage to fend off the bad guys without it? Getting all the way to World 9 (The Abyss) will take bags of skill and touch screen dexterity, maybe for a break you’ll want to check out the Challenge mode? Here in Challenge mode you can play a seemingly never ending game mode in an attempt to get the highest score you can, a bit dull you say? Well what about if we throw in online high score leaderboards via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection where you can compare your score against the whole world and your BBM owning friends? Big Bang Mini is so addictive I could see it becoming the next Geometry Wars with regard to high score loving. If high scores aren’t your thing then if you have a friend with a DS you can use the single card download play mode to send over a three map battle game for two players which quite unusually asks you to turn the DS on its side to play. The simple goal being to shoot over fireworks to your friends DS hoping to eradicate the other player before they do the same to you. Simple fun but without the hecticness of the main game (no enemies) and as such it feels a bit sterile and slow in comparison which is a damn shame. Moving platforms and bats make things a little harder but you’ll be better off doing some competitive high scoring in the challenge game rather than play this multiplayer mode.

Big Bang Mini for DS is a frantically good arcade style handheld game which contains more explosive action than every Warner Bros cartoon combined; things get so busy that you’ll end up hardly even looking at the top screen, instead you’ll be staring at the bottom DS screen without blinking for minutes at a time trying to shoot your rockets, avoiding enemy fire whilst collecting stars without killing yourself in the mean time. If you haven’t got that extra peripheral vision sense when gaming on your DS you’ll be in trouble here when you reach the later levels where speed and accuracy is of the essence. Don’t go thinking the boss fights will be a welcome relief; you’re stripped of all super powers and asked to kill giant baddies with just your normal missiles whilst he throws every trick in the Big Bang Mini book at you.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Big Bang Mini visuals, everything is very slick with gorgeous stylised animated backgrounds to each world and a diverse looking range of enemies (even if all they do is shoot at ya). Just as with the visuals BBM excels in your ears with very catchy tunes (I really love the title theme, I have been humming it for days) and all the explosive sounds you expect in a game full of explosions.

So whilst Big Bang Mini suffers slightly from a lack of gameplay variation it cannot be denied that it’s full ff over the top Arcade goodness which will grab you by the goolies with its insanely difficult later levels whilst being simple enough for causal gamers to pick up and become engrossed. Big Bang Mini scores a terrific 8 out of 10 and we can’t wait to see Arkedo’s next pseudo retro arcade outing.

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Big Bang Mini review pics

Big Bang Mini review screenshots

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