Graveyard: Big Bang Mini

Out back of the Hardcore Gamer office you’ll find our Graveyard, where countless long-dead classics lie. We come here to pay our respects, to reminisce, and to wonder aloud what a passing mad doctor might be able do with all these corpses and some high-definition lightning.

The DS may have an extensive library of diverse games, but Big Bang Mini (no, there’s not a regular-sized Big Bang) has shone brightest to me years after is inception. Arkedo’s colorful shooter is hearkens back to a simpler time where high scores were king and flash was warranted. I happily revisit this title frequently, and it’s time others did as well.

Though it’s billed as a shoot-‘em-up, you won’t find the traditional diminutive ship or space environments here. Across ten locations, the objective here is to collect stars while avoiding enemy fire and letting off some of your own firepower. And even if there were a ship, shots wouldn’t even be fired from it. Using the stylus, you can flick upward on the touch screen in order to hit enemies and targets on the top screen. You aren’t limited to where your location is on the screen – you can fire from anywhere on the screen. This calls for some real strategic gameplay. Straying even further from the norm and staying true to the game’s title, you aren’t firing lasers, beams, or even bullets. You’re shooting fireworks.

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When enemies are defeated they’ll yield stars, ranging from small to large. These stars must be collected in order to reach the end of a stage. As they are racked up they fill a gauge located to the left on the lower screen. To make this process a bit simpler, each stage will offer special power-ups and upgrades to take out the competition a bit easier. These include awarding the player with homing missiles, bullet shields, or explosives that will reach all of the enemies onscreen.

There’s no boss at the end of stages 1-9 of each world. Only the tenth stage of each world presents a boss. There are ten worlds with ten stages each, so collectively there are ten bosses to defeat. Often, boss stages are comprised of multi-stage battles that will strip you of any power-ups you may have been provided with. No problem, all that’s required is a lot of fancy shooting!

Sure, this is a shooter, so what will you be shooting? Well, that’s a good question but an even better one is, what won’t you be shooting? Big Bang Mini is a host to a ton of different targets. You’ll come across brains in jars, flamboyant dancers, pigeons, colorful shapes, malevolent scientists, thunder clouds, lightning bolts, turtle chefs, and everything in between. The art direction in this game is superb. Vibrant and lively colors combined with creative character design is what really sets the diminutive Big Bang from the rest of the pack. Truly, they are some of the most bizarre creations you will find on a DS game, and that is something to be appreciated in a time where derivation and sequels run rampant. Each world follows a specific motif, such as New York’s spunky comic book theme, and Rio de Janeiro’s flamboyant dancers and musicians. With each world conquered the need grows stronger to keep playing simply to see what else there is to uncover!

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The music ranges from funky to ambient and fluctuates everywhere in between. Some will get you humming along to the beat, while others will elicit a bit of subdued response — they’re downright unsettling, especially in the world “Abyss,” an underwater-themed stage. It’s impressive to note the amount of effort that went into the presentation of this game. Slick production values are seen in both the graphics as well as music and sound — both usual earmarks of successful games. That’s part of what makes this game so special — it’s clear a lot of love went into making it, and it certainly didn’t reach the audiences it should have.

Thinking back now, I’d love to see a resurgence or a remake from Arkedo, on the Vita or even as a console adaptation somehow. It’s a bargain bin find that’s well worth your time and attention if you can find a copy, and you absolutely should.