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Big Bang Mini on the DS had our various family writers clamouring to do the review for us. Rather than cause a family bust up we thought we get each of them to write their thoughts and bring them together for you in a super family review.
So here we have our Mum, Dad, Teen and Twenty something gamers to bring you their very different thoughts on what is fast becoming the poster child for DS specific shoot 'em ups.
My shoot 'em up playing goes all the way back to Nemesis, R-Type and Flying Shark in the arcade. In more recent years I've enjoyed Ikarigua's awesome simplicity and visuals, and had my fair share of Geometry Wars on 360 and Super Stardust HD and Everyday Shooter on PSN.
But on my DS I've never really hit my stride. Nanostray 1 and 2 offer something close to what I'm after but still make clunky use of the touch screen. And whilst Geometry Wars: Galaxies DS came close to combining rapid shooting action with touch screen controls, Nintendo's hardware simply struggled to keep the frame rate up when the screen was ablaze with bullets and enemies.
Enter Big Bang Mini. I was initially a little suspicious of what appeared to be a novelty driven experience. The game is controlled entirely with a stylus on the bottom screen. You learn to flick your fireworks up to the top to hit the various enemies. The angle and trajectory of the motion determines the resulting firework bullet.
Before long these detailed controls soon had my old school shooter juices flowing. I loved the fine control you have over the direction - and found that by focusing on the top screen I could keep track of what was going on a lot better.
Whilst I still missed that sense of digital connection you have from up/down/left/right D-pad and buttons, I couldn't deny this new approach had its benefits. In addition to the angle at which you can also control the trajectory. On later levels this becomes key as cross winds swirl through the play field and need to be compensated for.
My aging brain struggled with the addition of enemies on the bottom screen. It reminded me of being asked to pat your head whilst rubbing your stomach at school - I struggled to get my hands to do what I wanted them to.
Big Bang Mini may not be the DS's answer to a a classic shoot 'em up. Instead it sweeps away all those gaming protocols and creates a language all its own. It shows the way forward for how shooting can be creatively tackled on Nintendo's flexible handheld hardware. While I'm still waiting for an old school DS shooter - this more than makes up for the wait.
Best: Slick controls and unique visuals.
Worst: Slightly loose feel compared to buttons.
I've always loved fireworks. Our family goes to a display most years. Failing that we do our own thing in the back garden. So when I heard about a firework shooting game on the DS I put my name down for review straight away.
The first thing to say is that the game really delivers on the pyrotechnics. Not only do the fireworks all look like the real deal, but they also offer a wide variety of effects. Plug in some headphones and you have the sounds to go with it - all those glorious pops, futts and bangs.
Now, I have to admit I did play quite a few games without really understanding what was going on - just enjoying the display. But after things kept coming to a premature end I spent a bit of time reading the instructions and was soon making a little more headway.
As the others will probably say in their reviews, you control things with the stylus and shoot the various bods that appear on the top screen. What they may not say is that each world has it's own look and feel. Not only the backgrounds, but the enemies and music are unique to each area which progress through a variety of city names.
I loved the way this gave the sense of a constantly changing environment in which to play. I got quite addicted to unlocking the next city to see what it would look like and what special attacks and hazards would be introduced.
I'm probably not the worlds best shooting game player, I played some Galaga back in the day (miss-spent youth and all that), but I didn't find the going too hard. I think my 80's arcade years helped me as things are essentially the same here - time your shots to hit the bad dudes. There were a few stages that had me stuck for a while, but a little thinking and trying out different strategies soon had me on my way again.
I found that the attention required to play the game made it better suited for evenings when the kids were in bed. Even then in fact, after twenty minutes or so I had had enough alien bashing. My play habits seem to have continued like this. But I am still checking in with the game each day - which for me is a good sign.
Best: Create your own firework displays.
Worst: Needs a lot of concentration and the rest of the family hogging the game.
Big Bang Mini has one of the coolest game boxes I've seen for ages. It has some bright pictures, but also features one of those fake animation things. Like they used to do on rulers - so when you tilt the box it looks like its moving.
After such a great box I was really looking forward to playing the game. First thing I noticed was the great plink plink sound the menus make. It sounds like you are tapping with your stylus on glass and works really well.
Once I started the first level it took me a while to realise I wasn't supposed to use the buttons. You just control everything with the stylus. You move your ship on the bottom screen by moving it around and first by flicking in a direction towards the top screen.
Each level has a theme that dictates the background and enemies. Both of these look pretty good. As you work through each stage in a level things carry on like this, but the enemies get harder. At the end there's a big boss to fight - which took me quite a few goes to figure out.
I liked that I didn't have to go back to the beginning when I died - I could just restart the level I was on.
Things get harder as you go on because new levels have different things to work out. The second world is windy and your bullets get blown around the place. You can also use different special moves, like the whirlwind one. When you draw a spiral it creates a little whirlwind that sucks the bullets in. I liked these and am looking forward to discovering more of them.
The game seems like it will last a long time for me, and at the moment I'm playing it every day. I'd recommend it for kids - my younger brother (ed: three) could play it without too many problems, although he's not as good as me.
Best: Really neat box and simple controls so everyone can play it.
Worst: Can get a little samey and takes a while to get into.
I've always loved shooting games. But not only for their fast action and demands on the reflexes. For me it's the co-operative strategies that emerge when you play with other people. From the joys of combining a helicopter and jeep in SWIV to the black and white bullet scraping of Ikarigua, its that ability of these games to demand two people to synchronise their firepower that I've always enjoyed the most.
On the DS this is of course a bit of a big ask. Two players obviously can't share the same handheld console, so it is down to the game to offer a suitable link up mode. Unfortunately though the Wi-fi function is limited to uploading scores rather than live multiplayer. So with a lightly sinking heart I press on with the single player.
Apart from these co-operative desires, the single player game is remarkably solid. Not only are the controls well judged, but the visuals, sound and general staging of the experience make it really stand out. There is no denying that this is a quality production.
I was a fan of Nervous Brickdown DS, their previous game, so was not surprised to find another polished experience. It's been said elsewhere, but that first game was for one reason or another was overlooked by the public at large. So, I hope Big Bang Mini does better for them and perhaps even sparks a renaissance for Nervous Brickdown. They certainly seem to be putting more PR wight behind it which is great to see.
The game as a whole demonstrates how you really can't treat the DS (or Wii for that matter) as another console to churn out the same games on. Their new controls seem like an obvious iteration on shooting games but, as you realise playing through the game, have far reaching consequences in every aspect of play.
The speed and attack type of enemies has been cleverly honed to the reduced reaction times brought about from a analogue touch screen interface. But where this has been toned down, the developers were able to up the ante in terms of dodging bullets because of the increase level of fine control offered by the stylus.
These features all come together to create a satisfying game, even if it is one that doesn't solve the cooperative problem for me yet. Watch this space.
Best: Adjusted game difficulty to suit controls and audience and a unique experience on the DS.
Worst: Multiplayer options are limited and more power ups would be nice.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: