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Big Bang Mini shows how a shoot 'em up should be done on the DS. Not only does it lean only on the stylus for controls, but it provides an aesthetic that makes the little handheld console literally gleam.
The game is built around a central shoot 'em up mechanic where the player uses the stylus to shoot fireworks from the bottom screen at enemies on the top screen. While shooting, debris and sparks rain down and necessitate the moving of your spaceship (again with the stylus) to dodge the falling hazards.
The arcade mode takes you through a single player game. Here you work your way a series of worlds each with their own bizarrely themed enemies. Once you have completed a level you are rewarded with a constellation firework display and access to the next stage. At the end of each world is a boss level. This is complemented by a WiFi multi player mode that enables you to try out your skills against a friend. And happily uses the cart sharing function of the DS which means you only need one copy of the game.
The meat of the game boils down to a shoot-move-shoot-move sequence.
The meat of the game boils down to a shoot-move-shoot-move sequence as you first attack and then defend. This almost rhythmic gameplay results from the fact that you can't move your craft and fire at the same time. Some may say this is a fault with the game, but taken alongside its other super simple design choices and it sits more comfortably. It's a restraint that is little seen in games these days. Less is more?
This simplicity enables them to append various other play mechanics to tweak the experience in different worlds. In world two for example, there is a swirling cross wind that needs to be accounted for with the direction of your shot. You can also apply a variety of stylus moves to activate special weapons. A swirling motion for example creates a whirlwind that sucks the enemy's bullets out of harms way.
All this creates space in which to play.
The sound in the game is a delight. From the 20 or so electro-esque tracks to the various beeps and boops of the game's action the sound stage here is impressive. There is an attention to detail in every part of the game that hasn't been often seen since the pixel limited days of the 16-bit Amiga and Atari ST era. The little glass plink noise when you tap a menu give the illusion that the DS's screens are made of iPhone quality glass. The pleasing colours of the world tabs. The unique 3D backgrounds to each environment. The varied and wow-inducing fireworks themselves. All this creates space in which to play.
With all this to the good we hope that Big Bang Mini does well. The truth of the matter may rest with the marketing and PR departments though, as their previous production - Nervous Brickdown - of similar quality never really quite caught on. Second time lucky we hope.
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