Big Bang Mini DS Review

In SouthPeak Games' Big Bang Mini for Nintendo DS, you actually use fireworks as weapons to blast enemies out of the sky while collecting stars to move on to the next level. It's tricky, but after a few minutes, you'll party like it's the Fourth of July.

You control a little icon on the screen that you'll use to snag stars from enemies. At the same time, you'll draw upwards on the touch-screen to launch fireworks. Each firework that misses its intended target explodes, with debris flying downward that can destroy your icon if it comes into contact with it. If that's not enough to worry about, some enemies also rain bullets that you must avoid. Once you collect enough stars, you move to a bonus stage that consists of connecting the dots as quickly as possible.

Big Bang Mini's Hong Kong levels are simple enough, as you get a hang of the gameplay and the numerous power-ups. These include homing missiles (launched by pressing the shoulder buttons) or drawing a spiral on-screen to absorb bullets. As you progress to other locales, including wintery Aurora and warm Egypt, the difficulty picks up. The game lets you play with unlimited lives, so you can always try again.

Once you get through the main Arcade Mode, you unlock other game types. These include a Relax Mode, where you sit back and shoot off fireworks displays, and a Challenge Mode with even more enemies and obstacles that get in your way. There's also a Versus Mode, where you can battle a friend using only one cartridge. There are various rules for each of these two-player challenges, including a variety of power-ups and settings to play around with. All of these modes are sure-fire fun, even though the gameplay remains mostly the same. The Alarm Clock mode is also nice, in case you feel like waking up to the game's soundtrack.

Our only major gripe has to do with the shooting. You draw in a certain direction to destroy bad guys, but sometimes it goes flying off just a little bit to the right or left. This is no big deal, though, as you can draw another successful shot right behind it. Besides, you'll need a steady hand to survive the game's later stages. We're talking a dozen or so enemies on-screen at once.

Developer Arkedo Studio did a great job with the game's presentation. The visuals include neon-lit Geometry Wars-like shapes, cute little snow icons (who knew penguins could be so dangerous?) and would-be superheroes surrounded by kitschy comic effects. (POW!) The soothing music is great to listen to, even if it gets mildly repetitive.

For $20, you get your monies worth from Big Bang Mini. Multiplayer actually serves a purpose here (rather than being a tacked-on gimmick), and the single-player modes will keep you busy for hours. The best part? You won't lose any fingers.

What's Hot: Terrific mix of shooting and defensive gameplay, a number of enjoyable modes, beautiful graphics and fun music, Relax Mode is a great stress reliever (once you unlock it), $20.

What's Not: Shooting controls are sometimes inaccurate, too much can happen on-screen.