Big Bang Mini (DS) review
"Iíve learnt to destroy heat-seeking cod skeletons with fireworks. Now excuse me while I save the world."
Iíve got a history of games that take over my life at an alarming rate; addictions, I suppose you can call them, that I only ever seem to get on top of via family and friendís violent intervention. I hated them for it, but, once, they distracted me long enough to hide Bust-a-Move 2 then spent the entire week consoling me while I frantically searched for the game to no avail. Recently, Iíve seen the same guarded looks locked on my DS while Big Bang Mini resides there. I fear it might soon go the way of X-COM: Collectorís Edition -- still declared MIA.
Imagine a triangle sitting alone against the neon backdrop of Hong Kong. It glides around effortlessly when you hold the stylus over it, sliding smoothly wherever you wish to nudge it, and it needs all the grace it can muster. The triangle is the hated enemy of melancholy-looking pandas that sit on wispy clouds, lobbing firecrackers while Chinese dragons dance across the screen dropping waves of whirling green plasma. Golden pigs float serenely among the ranks of the psychotic and the surreal, held aloft by ruby red balloons and adding to the projectile cascade. Keeping the stylus on the triangle so you can weave through bullets that drip down at you like hail is vital if you want to stay alive. Youíll only be able to spend around half your time doing it.
These threats will not get bored and wander off should you simply survive their unpure intentions, but, rather, must be eradicated with destructive volleys of your own. However, the triangle is just a simple geometric shape and has no firepower, leaving it up to you, the stylus-holding public, to launch streams of fireworks into their midst by striking lines at the screen in the angle you wish to fire. See the catch yet? So long as your stylus is launching fireworks, it's not helping the triangle dodge.
There's a third complication; if your rockets miss their intended targets, then the fireworks explode in a gallery of sparks, showering a colourful confetti of Doom down upon you.
Rapidly blind fire at the top screen, and expect the prettiest bullet hell you'll ever see as your own misaimed attempts descend, spiralling and spinning, coating Hong Kong's neon skyline in purple, pink and blue. The triangle is weak; it only takes one bullet -- be it a malicious shot from a pair of monkeys grasping an umbrella like a slightly less hairy Mary Poppins or the shrapnel released from your own bungled strike -- and it's game over. You canít easily go on the defensive: just staying alive invites the top screen to fill with nightmarish floating simians and evil bamboo-munchers without obstacle. You canít just heave off a barrage of shots: anything that misses the target lights a match, soaks your downfall in gasoline then checks google for petroleum prices. You canít calmly snipe at targets, making sure each shot hits its target: your triangle stands, alone and immobile, at the complete mercy of enemies that soak up significant damage before exploding and dropping their precious stars.
The neon-traced stars that are born from the corpses of your targets are the way forward. Destroy something, and these stars drop from their corpses and, once collected, starts to slowly fill the star meter at the side of the screen, which you need fill to move onto the next stage. Hong Kong boasts eight levels concluding in a drag-out slugfest with a grinning golem that dilapidates further and further as you plough shots into him, changing his offensive from circular starbursts to heat-seeking swarms.
Then itís on to the icy wastelands of Auora. The triangleís job done, itís retired in favour of a bouncing blue ball that sees the artic winds lash at any projectiles fired, changing their projection, sometimes radically, making incoming fire difficult to predict and your own shots harder to plot. Eyepatch-wearing penguins in pirate hats ride giant snowballs like space hoppers lob globes of snow while cones of ice surge from the bottom of the screen to try and catch you unawares. The ball, though, can utilise a mock-up of the DSís low battery sign to power a swirling vortex by drawing a spiral on the screen that sucks in all enemy attacks for a short while, leaving you free to concentrate on your offence.
Each stage brings with it a new setting and a new power to abuse. The destroyed villains of the Aztec-inspired Savannah strobe the areas in a beacon of light that destroy anything that spends more than a split-second in its gaze. The purposefully-8-bit sheen of retro-Egyptian Luxor throws simplistic serpents that hide behind triangular clouds that spit heavy lasers when struck. Counter this by drawing lines across the screen to make temporarily mirror shields to deflect these blows. Homing missiles are permanently added to your arsenal early on, which need to be employed to make snaking runs around invulnerable objects to explode hidden snipers that cower behind them. Stages come in all shapes and sizes from comic-book themes, exaggerated city silhouettes, and aquatic depths, each boasting their own unique looks, enemies and special abilities.
If thereís any fault the game has, itís that youíll often be so captivated by keeping your random shape alive that you wonít notice the light show in the top screen as your rockets scatter into colourful petals. Sure, petals that effortlessly kill you, but theyíre no less pretty as they flood the screen, intermingling with the exploding corpses of the fallen and their own perfectly personated projectiles.
I found my DS hidden under the couch earlier on today, so it seems the game is on. Iíve beaten the initial arcade version of Big Bang Mini, unlocked extras like the score-hoarding challenge mode and found out what the mysterious ??? Stages are by ploughing through Mission Mode. Iím not going to tell you, though. Some things should be discovered by yourself -- even if it may ultimately lead to mild addiction and a war of wills with people who claim to have your best interest at heart.
Iíve learnt to destroy heat-seeking cod skeletons with fireworks. Now excuse me while I save the world.
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