Arcade games are really a dime a dozen.  You really don’t have to put much effort into them.  Make aliens/monsters and have a method of killing them.  Expand into 100 levels and you’re done.  Rare is the game that really excels or gives a crap about the genre.  Enter Big Bang Mini.

 

In Big Bang Mini, you’re a little…ball…thing.  Don’t ask questions.  Anyway, you reside on the bottom screen, shooting fireworks at your enemies on the top screen.  If you miss, the fireworks blow up, sending deadly shrapnel your way.  The plot’s not Proust, but arcade games usually aren’t.  There are some flaws with Big Bang Mini, but by and large this is a solid effort.  Let’s take a closer look.

The graphics pull you in almost immediately.  There is a fine mix of 3D rendering and 2D sprites.  The 3D is mostly in the background, which is rendered as if you were passing by the area in a train.  If you look at them closely, you’ll see some cool backgrounds, but they never really get in your way.  In other words, if you want to notice them, you can notice them.  Otherwise, you can ignore them and focus on all the action going on in the foreground.

 

In the foreground there are always lots of things going on, but it’s still easy to keep track of everything.  The enemy sprites look bright and noticeable and the projectiles they fire at you are easy to keep an eye on.  I had one problem in one of the worlds where I had difficulty noticing my shrapnel, but that was about it.

 

Another point of note is the diversity of the levels.  There are 10 worlds in all, and each one looks amazingly different.  They changed everything in these levels, from the look of your character to the look of your projectiles.  It still works, because it’s all the same basic theme:  You’ll always know who you are, and you’ll always be using the same motions and movements to kill your enemies.

The sound and music in Big Bang Mini is phenomenal.  This is one of those games that you don’t want to turn down.  The sound will always give you great audio cues as to what’s going on even if things get too hectic.  I absolutely loved the music.  It grabbed me from the first level in Hong Kong and kept up the tempo.  Even the tracks that seem lame at first build and get better.

You move your character by placing the stylus on top of it and moving it around.  You shoot fireworks by flicking anywhere on the screen with the stylus in the direction that you want the firework to go.  I was nervous that the firing mechanic would be unwieldy, but it’s very good.  There are times I shot a firework in the wrong direction, but for the most part it works well.

 

As the game goes on, they throw in some special powers that are essential to survival, but also easy to use.  They’re usually accomplished by doing a simple task, like drawing a circle on the screen or a horizontal line, although one does require you to hold down the R button while firing.  These aren’t bad and help mix it up a little bit.  My only major complaint with the control scheme is that sometimes you’ll flick the screen and end up nicking your player, moving him into the path of an onrushing bullet.  That’s annoying, but it doesn’t happen that often.

Big Bang Mini is divided into 10 worlds with 9 levels apiece.  After you beat the 9 levels, you fight a boss and are able to pass to the next world.  In some of the levels, you might have the ability to set up a shield to reflect enemy shots back at them.  In other levels, you may have to use your homing missiles to shoot a firework around an obstacle.  The levels are usually brief, ranging from about one to two minutes to complete each one.  If you get hit once, you’re dead and have to start the level over.

 

I like what the developer, Arkedo, has done with this game for a couple of reasons.  When you start the game, you get one brief splash screen with the publisher and developers name and then you’re on the title screen where you can choose what game mode you want.  That’s it.  No intro cinematic, no pressing start 12 times to get to the main menu.  It’s so basic, and yet most developers make you sit through screen after screen.  It’s not much, but I left that it was worth it to mention it.

 

Next, when you die in the game, the game stops and “Quit” and “Retry” appear on the bottom right away.  If you hit retry, you’re right back in the level from the beginning.  Once again, this is really basic stuff, but so many developers don’t get this.  My hat is off to Arkedo for understanding that when you lose you don’t want to sit through a “Game Over” screen and have to go through menus to get back to the level you just retried.  Arkedo, even if other gaming rags didn’t notice, we at Gaming Trend did.  Thank you.

 

There are a few flaws though.  For instance, with 9 levels in each world, you can tell that sometimes they just plain ran out of ideas for what to do next.  They’ll fling different patterns of enemies at you, but it’s basically the same thing over and over.  They mixed it up by changing up everything having to do with the world so it at least feels like you’re doing something different, but underneath the hood it’s the same thing:  Kill the enemies until they’re all gone, then move to the next level.

 

On top of that, some levels are much harder than other ones.  One level in the third world particularly vexed me.  Throughout the entire third world, the walls close in on you during each level, and every enemy you kill opens the walls back up, essentially rewarding accuracy.  During one level there are only two enemies at the beginning and they’re both protected by clouds that absorb your fireworks.  I almost gave up there, assuming that every level was going to be difficult from there on out.  To my surprise, that was about as hard as it got, at least until the next overly difficult level.  Still, it took me about 15 levels from the beginning until I died once.  This is not a hard game, but it just would have been nice to have a little more balance.

 

Still, when all is said and done, most of Big Bang Mini is solid work.  Is it simplistic?  Yeah, in theory.  You’re essentially playing a variant of Space Invaders, except that the enemies mostly don’t encroach on your playing field.  There’s not a lot of extra points for originality in that respect.  But what they’ve done with the basic template is excellent.

As you progress through the worlds you unlock more game modes, like a Challenge mode that’s just pure arcade action, with online leaderboards and everything.  There’s single-cart multiplayer in here as well, and with 90 levels it’ll take you a while to beat them all.  Once you make it through the arcade mode, there’s a mission mode as well.  In other words, you could play this for a long time.If you play arcade games, you know what you’re getting into here.  Sure, you’re going to be doing nothing but shooting, but when it looks and plays as well as Big Bang Mini, that’s not a problem.  The great graphics and sound will grab your attention, and the diversity of the worlds and the ability to pick up and play will keep it.  I enjoyed it, and if you like this style of game, you will too.

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