Big Bang Mini DS Review
When I search for Arkedo on Wikipedia I find no one has cared enough to make a page about them. The site asks did I mean ‘Albedo’, which I click on to find out is something about diffusing reflective light from the Sun.
If Wikipedia was kind enough to inform me about the joys of light reflection, then it really should really tell others about Arkedo Studios. Who are they you ask? Well, they just so happen to be developers of both Nervous Brickdown, one of the most underrated DS games of 2007, and Big Bang Mini, the object of this very review.
If you’ve never heard of Nervous Brickdown, it was a game in very much the same vein as the Atari arcade classic known as Breakout. It added a handful of refinements to the old brick breaking formula, and also took advantage of the DS’ dual screens to make the genre feel somewhat fresh. But ultimately it was just a clone of that aged title, although a very good one I hasten to add.
Big Bang Mini, Arkedo’s latest title, is different though, as it is an all new take out the shoot em up genre, instead of being just a mash-up of old ideas which are far too numerous to even begin to start listing. What makes the game unique is the way that it’s played, as it uses the touch screen to both move and fire shots from your craft.
To move your craft you just touch it with the stylus, then drag it around where you want to go. To shoot you make upward slashes with the stylus to send projectiles to the top screen to kill the enemies that have made it their home. Cleverly, you don’t have to shoot from where your ship is positioned on screen, and are allowed to make slashes from anywhere, at any angle.
However, even though you can fire from anywhere, and have an unlimited supply of shots, you cannot fire willy-nilly, as projectiles that do not make contact with the bad guys explode into pieces and come back down ten-fold to make your life hell on the bottom screen. However, when you do make contact with an enemy they explode and drop a star, which you then have to move and collect as it falls. If you collect enough stars, then you beat the level. All in all, it’s a simple but highly clever system, and uses the unique abilities of the DS very well.
But with such a system, there are a few obvious pitfalls that could affect gameplay. The most obvious one being that you cannot both move and shoot at the same time. Thankfully, this is not as prevalent as a problem as you’d think it would be, and despite it being one of my biggest fears before tackling the game, it never seemed like a flaw when I was playing.
Another possible niggle you may expect would be the void between the top and bottom screen on the DS. For some games, when an character moves from one to the other, it can be off-putting. However, in Big Bang Mini the small delay as the objects move from one screen to the next, disappearing in the small netherworld between the two screen for a few short milliseconds, seems nigh on perfect.
The game does have one small problem though – it gets chaotic far too quick. Even on just the second stage it all gets quite hectic, with a ton of stuff happening on screen, oodles of enemies to avoid, and a collection of obstacles coming from all directions. Of course, hectic, twitch gameplay is a staple of the genre, so this is to be expected, but it’s arguable that the move to frantic, fast paced action comes far too early. Thankfully, due to the way the levels in the game are split up into small chucks, with none taking in excess of 5 minutes to beat, you never feel all that bad when you have to restart one.
To mix things up a bit, enemies, their attack patterns, and the shape and look of your craft changes as you move through the nine separate locales the game is set in. One takes place with a snow filled backdrop, with you controlling a snowball. In this level the wind is more prevalent than in others, so much so that it can blow your projectiles off course. This same level also gives you the ability to create a vortex on screen to suck up enemy projectiles, thus giving you some breathing room to fire back.
As you move on, the game also gives you homing rockets to fire, and also adds more hazards, with walls closing in on the bottom screen should you fail to dispatch the bad guys quickly enough. Other levels change the graphical look completely, with the enemies, the bullets, the backdrop, and your ship adopting awesome dot-style graphics that looks nothing short of amazing.
Furthermore, each of the nine stages have their own unique theme music, with quite a few of them catchy enough that you may find yourself humming afterwards. All in all, there is more than enough to keep things interesting as you advance, so you’d hardly even notice the game uses the same basic gameplay mechanic throughout.
However, even in saying that it’s not a game that is going to grab your attention for hours on end. You’re not going to miss the bus because of Big Bang Mini or get so engrossed that you forget the DS battery has to be charged, and then wonder why the screen just went blank. And you are not going to sit on the loo that bit too long playing it, resulting in your whole arse going numb.
You are however going to end up loving Big Bang Mini for what it is, and that is a highly accessible and unique top down shoot ‘em up with distinct style and variety. It is one of the most perfect examples of bite-sized gaming, giving you a pleasant feeling of accomplishment even if you were just looking to kill time for 5 minutes. Be warned though, as battling though the game’s 90 levels is not an easy task. However, with the amount of levels on show, and the challenge they provide, it goes without saying that you’re getting good bang for your buck with this budget priced title.