|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Arkedo Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Southpeak Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 21, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Big Bang Mini (BBM) re-imagines the arcade shooter by injecting a little casual, party fun and an upbeat, distinct presentation to the formula. The result is an enjoyable gameplay experience and a slick overall package that will test your skill but remains light enough that it will appeal to a very large swath of gamers. Moreover, four modes of play, including DS download play, give this title a lot of legs for just $20.
BBM is a simple, top-down shooter spread across both DS screens that relies almost entirely on touch-based controls. Instead of a spaceship or burly commando, players control a basket. That's right; a basket that is completely vulnerable. Keeping this basket safe will require gamers to constantly move it, as baddies intent on your demise will launch waves of shiny, destructive debris at you. Thankfully, you will also have the ability to light up the night sky with fireworks to blow up these enemies. If done so successfully, a falling star will be produced that you'll have to collect before it falls off the bottom screen. Collecting these stars fills up a meter. When the meter is full, you'll pass the level.
However, shooting off your armament can only be done by abandoning the basket and flicking the touch screen in such a way as to produce a trajectory that intersects the flight path of your enemies. If you leave your basket alone too long, you'll be hit by falling debris and be forced to start the level over. Subsequently, you'll find that you'll constantly be hopping back and forth between shooting and dodging. This gameplay mechanic is the basis for the entirety of the title, and it is both challenging and engaging despite how cumbersome it may sound. The combination of moving your basket around to dodge incoming attacks, collecting stars, getting out of the way of falling sparks, and ripping off a barrage of your own fireworks makes the game both frantic and unique.
Taking players on a world tour of sorts, Arcade mode has a single player taking on nine different levels made up of nine standard phases and one boss stage. Every level will employ a different theme such as Hong Kong, Kamakura, Luxor, New York, The Abyss, etc., and every theme brings with it new enemies and new game mechanics. For example, new enemies with new patterns and attacks are constantly cropping up (even from phase to phase). Also, fighting on a snowy level full of shifting, blizzard-like winds affects the trajectory of your attacks. Sometimes you'll be faced with walls closing in on you, and other times you'll have to pick up air bubbles while underwater to avoid drowning - you're always in for new challenges.
Additionally, new abilities and techniques will be unlocked that will stay with you throughout the game. Being able to shoot off homing missiles, draw barriers, produce whirlwinds, and encircle bullets are just a few of the techniques you will have to employ to get through the 90 levels. These ever-changing and constantly-evolving components keep the Arcade mode fresh from start to finish. Plus, the interesting boss battles at the end of each level really provide for a sense of closure and satisfaction.
Getting through the Arcade is only one of the modes of play. Challenge mode is an interesting feature where players simply try to accumulate as many points as possible. Not only is this fun and addictive but, best of all, you can upload your high score to leaderboards via the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection. In addition, the Mission mode feels a lot like Xbox 360 Achievements or PS3 Trophies. That's because players try to unlock 25 different mission badges by besting the objectives and challenges outlined. For instance, to gain the Mission 9 badge you'll have to kill the boss on the Aurora level in less than 30 seconds. Upping the ante significantly, the Mission 22 badge requires you to pass Hong Kong phase 1 in less than 23 shots! The Challenge and Mission modes do a great job of turning a relatively casual game into a truly trying title for the gaming core.