Review: Big Bang Mini (DS)

Is that a rocket in your pants or are you just pleased to see me?

Modern videogames can be rather depressing sometimes. As the industry becomes evermore concerned with reaching as many gamers as possible in order to generate the most cash, we’ve seen imaginative concepts fall by the wayside as ‘sure fire’ hits fly onto store shelves with discouraging regularity. Thankfully, every now and then a game pops up that attempts to score a blow for innovation, and for all its faults Big Bang Mini is definitely one such title.

The concept is devilishly simple – in order to finish each stage you have to collect stars by eliminating enemies that appear on the top screen; this is done by gleefully hurling deadly fireworks in their general direction. ‘You’ are a small object on the bottom screen that can be moved around using the stylus. Your firework projectiles can be launched using a simple swish of said stylus, and your ability to fire these weapons of pyrotechnic destruction is thankfully not tied in with your location on the bottom screen. As long as you remain untouched you can continue to chuck rockets at the enemy from anywhere on the screen.

Enemies will attempt to take out your fragile on-screen avatar by loosing projectiles of their own, and whenever one of your own fireworks fails to hit a target it scatters debris down onto the bottom screen. As you can imagine, Big Bang Mini soon becomes a rather frantic boiling pot of objectives; not only do you have to make sure your fireworks hit their mark, you have to also reposition your on-screen character to ensure it doesn’t get vanquished by enemy fire or the fallout of your own missed shots.

Every now and then you’ll come across enemies that possess shields impervious to your rockets, and it’s at these moments when you really have to be accurate with your attacks. Thankfully there are various power-ups available to you that make life easier and balance out the challenge somewhat.

The game is divided into several different ‘worlds’, which in turn are split into separate stages that can be tackled one by one. Boss battles also make an appearance, but to be brutally frank they don’t really deviate from the core concept of ‘shoot, move, repeat’. Each world is beautifully rendered in 3D and contains its own distinct breeds of foe. If you’ve played the Playstation 2 launch title Fantavision then you’ll have a fairly decent idea of what to expect; this looks like a much wackier version of that title. The design of both the stages and the enemies contained within is exemplary; it’s obvious that plenty of thought and care went into the aesthetic side of Big Bang Mini.

Sadly, the gameplay fizzles out like a soggy firework after prolonged scrutiny. While the opening levels are enjoyable and allow you to ease into the unique nature of the game without putting on too much pressure, by the time you advance to the third or fourth world things start to get almost unmanageable. Enemies become increasing crafty in their attacks and generally defend themselves with plenty of shields and other obstacles. Their rate of fire also increases, as does the speed of their projectiles, which means you have precious little time to aim your own rockets before you are called upon to swiftly navigate your avatar through the hail of missiles that rain down from above.

Because you have so little time to successfully aim your shots, the only option is to furiously launch fireworks with little thought for their eventual destination; while this works to a degree, it inevitably results in a shower of ‘friendly fire’ falling onto the bottom screen, making survival even more difficult. This issue essentially breaks the game and combined with the merciless ‘one shot’ deaths you have to endure (dying means you have to start over the stage again) it renders Big Bang Mini an intensely frustrating experience.

There will be those of you that will revel in such a demanding challenge and it’s possible that with plenty of practice you might become accomplished enough to overcome the somewhat infuriating game design, but we doubt that the average gamer will have either the skill or the saint-like patience to do so.

Conclusion

Giving a game like Big Bang Mini a negative review feels like betraying a close friend; it simply doesn’t feel right to be disparaging about a game that was so clearly coded with such passion and affection. Sadly, not enough thought has been given to the way things operate and while the concept has merit on a certain level, it’s impossible to overlook the inherently botched nature of the core gameplay. Hopefully the developer can tweak things for a sequel, if the opportunity arises.