At first glance, Big Bang Mini doesn't seem like a traditional shoot-'em-up. Given that the genre is best known for tiny spaceships blasting their way through thick fields of alien fire, you'd be forgiven for wondering where fish skeletons, pirate snowmen, and fireworks fit in. But don't let the charmingly oddball presentation fool you: Big Bang Mini is an evolutionary step forward for the genre. Ship movement and shooting are completely independent of each other. You can launch shots from anywhere on the touch screen, regardless of where your ship is positioned, and this innovation breathes new life into the frantic action. The smooth learning curve makes the game very accessible, but later levels and extra modes provide a tough test of your stylus mastery. Bound together with wonderfully vibrant visuals and an infectious soundtrack, Big Bang Mini earns its shoot-'em-up stripes and a place among the top games on the Nintendo DS.
The unique controls are at the core of Big Bang Mini's appeal. Unlike traditional shoot-'em-ups in which projectiles are fired from your ship, Big Bang Mini lets you launch fireworks from anywhere on the touch screen. Simply flick the stylus as if you were lighting a match, and a shot will light out along that trajectory. As your foes appear on the top screen, you are free to bombard them from any and all angles with fireworks galore. Shots that destroy enemies will explode in a colorful spectacle; however, shots that don't hit anything will explode when they hit the edge of the screen, raining down dangerous debris on your vulnerable ship. This danger pushes you to make more accurate shots, a goal easily accomplished thanks to the responsive and accurate stylus controls.
In fact, the controls are so responsive that errant strokes can get you into trouble. In addition to launching fireworks, you control the position of your ship with the stylus: just touch it and drag the stylus to move it wherever you like. If you try to launch a shot too close to your ship, you may end up moving it inadvertently. Likewise, a desperate swipe to move your ship out of danger can result in a badly aimed shot and a dangerous explosion. Big Bang Mini demands precision in both firing and maneuvering, two separate but equally important tasks. And you won't just be moving your ship to avoid danger: each destroyed enemy releases a falling star. If you collect enough stars to fill up the meter, you pass the stage. Balancing the necessary firing, dodging, and collecting is engaging and exciting. It can also be tricky, but fortunately the first few levels provide a smooth ramp-up in difficulty, ensuring that Big Bang Mini doesn't have the difficult point of entry that many of its genremates boast.
As you progress through the nine levels of the Arcade mode (each with nine stages and a boss), you'll encounter new power-ups and hazards. In one level, you can create a vortex that will absorb enemy shots by swirling the stylus around, but stiff winds will affect the trajectory of your fireworks. In another, you can lay down a reflective mirror shield with a horizontal swipe of the stylus, but certain clouds (which normally absorb your shots) will reflect your own projectiles right back at you. The beauty of these power-ups and hazards is that they are complementary, so as you become more powerful, the level becomes more dangerous. Big Bang Mini gives more as it demands more, and this makes each new level freshly challenging.