In addition to new challenges, each level brings a new, wildly different presentation. From the neon techno pixel landscape of the Egyptian-themed Luxor, to the bawdy colors and trippy musicians of Rio de Janeiro, each level in Big Bang Mini is a treat for the eyes. Attractive backgrounds scroll by smoothly, and the unique (often bizarre) enemies and explosions are a pleasure to look at when you can spare a moment. Underscoring these impressive visuals are some excellent musical tracks that range from snappy electric beats to mellow atmospheric melodies. The level of artistic quality and variety in Big Bang Mini is truly impressive, and the presentation alone is reason enough to recommend the game.
As if stellar presentation and exciting core gameplay weren't enough, Big Bang Mini offers a number of extras to keep you interested. At the completion of each stage (bosses excluded) you'll get the chance to complete a bonus stage. These are connect-the-dots minigames that will light up the top screen with a firework constellation should you succeed. Each level features a different twist (some quite clever), making these bonuses a pleasant palate cleanser between stages. Completing the Arcade mode is no easy feat, but doing so will earn you access to the Mission mode. This mode imposes tough challenges on stages you've already played, so you might be charged with clearing a certain stage within a time limit, using a certain number of shots, or never missing a shot. These conditions force you to adapt your well-honed strategy, so even skilled players will find a challenge here.
For those players who prefer to match their skills against human opponents, Big Bang Mini offers two ways to do so. The Challenge mode harks back to Big Bang Mini's shoot-'em-up roots and is the only mode in which you'll earn points. The core gameplay mechanics are the same, but the enemies, visuals, and music are completely new. Once you perish, you can post your high scores to online leaderboards and see how you stack up. If you prefer a more immediate competition, the Versus mode lets you challenge another DS owner to a shoot-out with only one game card. In Versus, you hold the DS sideways and shoot volleys of fireworks at your opponent on the other screen. Various power-ups and environmental hazards spice things up, and battles can get very heated, especially given that players can tap each other's projectiles to send them rocketing back where they came from. These extra modes provide great opportunities to flex your competitive muscle, while the unlockable Relax mode (watch and control fireworks displays) and Alarm Clock (actually cool, thanks to the stellar music) offer fun rewards for dedicated single-player play.
Big Bang Mini is an excellent shooter with an innovative control scheme that will please newcomers and veterans alike. To fully experience each level's uniquely awesome aesthetic and face the delightfully clever end boss, you simply must play the game all the way through. Once you've done so, there is plenty more to do whether you thrive on competition or just want to live it all again. Add it all up, and you've got one of the most accessible, most entertaining, and most attractive DS games in recent memory. Then consider the $19.99 price tag, and it's a no-brainer: Big Bang Mini is a must-buy.