Catching Up With 2009: Big Bang Mini

I usually start these columns off with a little paragraph of two that relates in some way to the reason I decided to play the game. I won’t do that this time.

Instead, I’d like to apologize for not getting a column up in the past two weeks. My computer at home suffered a massive breakdown and I’m still working on a permanent solution. The plan was to get a PS3 and install an OS on the thing so I could use that. I’ve had the PS3 for over a week at this point and I haven’t got quite around to that. I’ve been too busy playing games for it.

Even still, I’m committed to this column. I will however, switch it from a weekly column to a bi-weekly column. This isn’t just so I can play my PS3. I have reviews to write too, you know. I know I’m going to busy throughout March and I just won’t have the time I did in the earlier parts of the year.

I also might start adding PS3 games to the list of games eligible for one of these columns. I’m still working on that idea. I do have a good number of games I picked up for the DS and PSP specifically so I could write a column on them, so I really need to get to those.

Anyways, this week’s game is Big Bang Mini.

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Let’s Catch Up!

What’s the Game?

This weeks game is Big Bang Mini, a shoot-’em-up for the Nintendo DS.

Who Made It?

The developer for this game is Arkedo Studios, who previously made Nervous Brickdown for the DS. Journeymen publishers SouthPeak Studios released the game in the States.

When Did It Come Out?

Big Bang Mini was released on January 21st, 2009.

Where’s the Review?

Aileen Coe wrote up a review for us back in early February.

Why Didn’t I Play it in 2009?

To be honest with you, there isn’t a good reason for me not playing the game in 2009. I had heard it was good, I was interested in it, and I passed it in stores constantly throughout the year. It was even on the discount shelf in Wal-Mart for a good while. For some reason, I just never grabbed it, even as I was grabbing other games I had less interest in or couldn’t afford.

The funny thing is that I always intended to buy it. In fact, it was one of the top games on my list of games to buy for this column. So, when I found it brand new for cheap, I finally picked it up.

So What Did I Think?

This was certainly an interesting game.

Big Bang Mini is a unique vertical shooter that places your ship on the touch screen while the enemies are on the top. That isn’t so unique, but the real kicker comes in how the game controls. You fire off shots by striking the stylus in the direction you want to fire. This is, as the game points out numerous times, representative of striking a match to light fireworks. To move your ship, you need to tap it with the stylus and then drag it to wherever you need it to go.

That’s right. The ship’s movement controls are independent from the firing controls. You can’t fire and move at the same time! This might sound like hell to experienced players. However, it forces you to play the game differently. It also allows you to take advantage of the touch screen. Before I get more into that, I should mention a couple of other things to help you put the picture together.

First of all, when you miss, your shots will hit the top or the side of the screen. This causes them to explode. The debris from these explosions can kill you. Basically, firing off a ton of random shots can kill you even faster than the enemies’ own fire.

Secondly, defeated enemies drop stars. You need to collect these stars in order to fill up a meter. When the meter is full, you’ve beaten the level. You can blast away enemies until the cows come home, but if you don’t collect stars, it will all be for naught. This allows the game to use another feature. Enemies comes in waves. When you’ve defeated all of the enemies in a wave, the wave restarts and all of the enemies go away. The only way to move on to the next wave is to collect enough stars. You can get the number of stars you need without having to repeat a wave, but failing to do so may hurt you. For example, there were some waves that nearly killed me every time I got to them. Beating them usually required me to miss a few stars I otherwise would have gone for. Had I not gotten enough stars, then the wave would have reset and I’d be stuck with the full force of enemies again. That just wouldn’t be good.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in any battle. You need to move your ship our of harm’s way, fire off accurate shots, and collect stars. Failing to do so is a death sentence. However, it ends up being a ton of fun thanks to the incredibly well thought out worlds.

Each world has a theme. You’ve got a winter themed world where icicles can come at you from any direction (even below you!), a savannah themed world where some enemies emit devastating heat rays as a last ditch effort to kill you, a superhero themed world where you can steal foe’s powers to use against them, another world where you can slow down time, etc. There are nine worlds in total. Each has nine levels plus a boss encounter. This means you get a good sense of progression and no two worlds ever feel alike.

Also, at the end of each level is a bonus challenge you need to complete. These involve connecting the dots with various rules. It might sound silly, but some of these bonus levels are quite challenging and can even get your heart rate up.

I mentioned how the game utilized the stylus. I’ve already covered how you drag your ship along and fire by making a gesture not unlike that of striking a match, but all of your powers require stylus input as well. The best example is for the swirling vortex you can create to absorb enemy fire. You need to draw a spiral on the screen. This can save your life, but you’ve got to use it carefully, as it will need to recharge. Also, if you’re too slow in performing the action, you can get killed by a stray bullet. The same thing applies to a power you get for the underwater themed world. You can encircle bullets to remove them, saving you from disaster, but only if you can do it fast enough.

The only real downer about all of these cool moves is that only a couple are permanent additions. Most of your powers can only be used on the world you got them from. I can’t tell you how many times I played a level and thought, “If only I still had the mirror shield”. Still, it does help each world to feel unique from the ones before and after it.

Big Bang Mini also scores some serious points in its mode selection. The standard Arcade Mode pits you against the nine themed worlds and ends with an awesome boss fight that truly exemplifies the game’s style. After that, you unlock Mission Mode. Mission Mode tasks you with completing levels with various handicaps. You might have to beat a level with a limited number of shots, a time limit, or even without hitting clouds. Those clouds are everywhere. For those looking for a tough challenge, Mission Mode will surely deliver. There is even a mode where you can aim for a high score that can be posted to online leaderboards. To top it all off, you have single cart multiplayer, which is simply a great touch.

On the presentation side of things, the game is still a hit. The vibrant colors and trance like songs will appeal to pretty much anyone. I often found myself humming the various tunes as I played. The art design is also something to be praised. You’d think having a giant turtle throwing croissant boomerangs at you would feel weird, but it just ends up being awesome. I can’t state enough how unique this game feels.

What Score Would I Have Given It?

I’d pretty much have to agree with Aileen, though I feel I’ll have to go a little bit lower. The control scheme might be different and paramount to the game’s experience, but that doesn’t stop it from being a bit awkward. Still, I’d have to give the game a score of Good at the very least. It wasn’t the best DS game I played in 2009, but it is up there.

Would It Have Made My Top Ten List?

I would have to say “not quite.” If my list were to be a top fifteen, the game would get in no problem, but games like Resistance Retribution and Bowser’s Inside Story raised the bar.

How Much Does It Go For, in Case You want it?

Good news on this front: I found my copy brand new, shiny box intact, for a mere ten dollars. You can also pretty much find it anywhere. For such a small price, the game is incredibly worth it.


Final Thoughts?

Big Bang Mini falls into the category of “hidden gems” on the DS. You’re not likely to have heard of it because of the small publisher and the lack of marketing. Despite that, the game is one that pretty much every DS owner should try if not own. I’m proud to have it in my collection.

The only thing that would have made it better would be if Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was playing in the background.

Next Time: I deal with a main character so lazy that he won’t even leave his home town to embark on his adventures!

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