Coming straight out of left field by developer Arkedo, "Big Bang Mini" is a wildly creative take on the vertical shooter genre of games. The developer has previously released another quirky DS title, "Nervous Brickdown," and "Big Bang Mini" continues their tradition.
"Big Bang Mini" is a title that crosses the globe throughout its levels. The visuals are full of color and really pop out all over the screen. What is really impressive about the title, is each area of the world not only has its own background graphics, but the entire game from the user interface up is specifically tailored to each section. The game is about lighting fireworks, and even the those look different in each world. Even the multiplayer has its own graphical variations. It really goes a long way to keep the game fresh and entertaining.
Along with new graphics in each world and mode of the game, the music also varies. While it's generally pretty good, with some sections being better then others, on the whole I do feel the soundtrack could have been a bit better. The tunes are not as catchy as I had hoped they would be, but they still do a good job of conveying the mood and theme of each part of the game.
As mentioned already, "Big Bang Mini" is a vertical shooter, however the way it plays is entirely unconventional. You move the "ship" icon on the bottom screen with the stylus, and you flick the bottom screen in any direction to launch a firework. The object is to launch these fireworks onto the top screen to destroy the incoming enemies. Once an enemy has been defeated a glowing star will drop. You use the ship to collect the stars, which fill up your meter on the left hand side. Once a meter is filled up the level is complete and you go into a bonus round. The bonus round is all about connecting points to create a star constellation. Each world has its own twist on how to do this, some require you to memorize a pattern, some require you to complete it quickly. If a firework goes off and does not hit an enemy, the falling colored residue of the firework can work against you. After one hit you're dead, so you have to be extra careful not to blow yourself up. In a way, the games challenge can somewhat be attributed to how you play the game. A sloppy player will make it more difficult for themselves than someone who plays it smart. Every world also has its own unique abilities. Some include creating a spiral to suck in enemy fire, some let you create reflective shields. There are some permanent upgrades you can acquire as well, like homing shots. This also really adds to the creativity and freshness of each level. There are over 90 main levels, so having a constantly changing gameplay dynamic really sets this game apart.
Beyond the arcade mode is a two-player option. Thankfully, the game only requires one DS game to play and it is a very different beast from arcade mode. In multiplayer, you hold the DS book style and try to launch attacks at your opponent on the opposite screen sideways, meanwhile trying to repel their fireworks back and not be destroyed by other objects in the levels. There are also plenty of other modes beyond the arcade for single players for both competitive and casual fans alike. If there is any downfall to the title, it's two little nitpicks. The first is that the DS does not recognize more than one input press on the touch screen. This naturally can lead to some confusion as you have to launch fireworks and move your ship with the stylus. Oftentimes you may find yourself attempting to launch a firework, only to realize you have just moved your ship to the top of the touch screen. The other problem also relates to movement. Since you have to hold the stylus and drag the ship to move, your own hand and wrist can sometimes obscure the vision of incoming projectiles as you attempt to move the ship out of the way. Still, the asking price of the title at launch was only $20, and it's more than a great bargain. "Big Bang Mini" not only has plenty of great content, but offers one of the most innovative takes on the genre in a long time. It's also a title that is truly tailor-made for the DS and simply would not work on another gaming platform.
Final Verdict - 9/10
"Big Bang Mini" really came out of nowhere and totally surprised me. What appears to be a innovative take on the vertical shooter genre then explodes into a content-rich title that is constantly changing and expanding. This game is one of the best values and uses of the DS system available.