Big Bang Mini comes with plenty of soul and very little character—the art, the fireworks, the mechanics, the price, and the variety of modes give it plenty of life. After you spend time with it, though, it feels like going to a parade alone.
BBM is an easily accessible shoot’em-up—you control a spinning or pulsing orb or square or triangle that must avoid plenty of projectiles and falling debris. To attack, you flick the stylus as you would strike a match in the direction you wish to attack, each strike sending up one shot. However, if that shot doesn’t hit (or isn’t absorbed by a cloud or shield or whatever), it explodes like a firework, and the debris falls back down and could kill you. You must also use the stylus to move the ship out of the way, so you must either attack or evade, but never both.
The main arcade mode features 90 levels, organized into ten sets with different locations, enemies, techniques (one section lets you make bullet-absorbing vortexes), and boss stages.
It starts off as easy, fooling you into thinking you are skilled with your stylus, but the game will brutally crush anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience playing games where you must dodge projectiles. Each level is short, but it takes only one hit before you fail. Some of the enemies spray showers of 20 projectiles at once.
There are other modes, such as a mission mode that comes with 25 preset achievement-style challenges, a versus mode that allows you to play against other players (one cartridge only) and a challenge mode where you can post your high score online. There is a secret mode and a relax mode to unlock—the relax mode puts on a fireworks show and music for you while you watch and can appreciate the art. You have to clear all 81 bonus stages to do that.
The games’ furor makes you miss its soul; I found Paris and Abyss particularly difficult and kept losing to sheep, paper airplanes, black cats, fish, and underwater mines. I am an advanced gamer, and it only took me about 5 hours to clear the arcade mode, but there was a lot of failure involved. It will be much more challenging for casual or non-aggressive players. It requires a volume of attempts and requires persistence more than it does strategy or puzzle-solving.
The controls are easily BBM’s strongest feature–they are flawless and superb, allowing the player to savor Big Bang Mini’s unique features.
Still, Big Bang Mini won’t be for everyone. It’s good for bite-sized gaming, it’s a nice challenge, and shmup fans will love the unique spins it takes, but if none of those are incentives, the challenge and strict dexterity requirements may drive you away.
ESRB: E for everyone. Fireworks and psychedelic hippies, clouds, and superheroes abound.
Plays like: a shmup where all movement and shots are directed by stylus
Pros: Superb controls, unique, challenging, variety of modes and challenges, and quirky, memorable beats
Cons: Highly challenging, unforgiving, somewhat short; the experience leaves you forgetting what happened when you’re done, which is something that is rare and undesirable