90It didn’t take long for the first great 2D shooter of the year to arrive, as the Arkedo developed and SouthPeak published Big Bang Mini fills that role admirably. This shoot ’em up is unique in its style and challenging enough to have you coming back for more; not that you needed anymore encouragement to do so, given the game is loaded with various modes, over 80 levels spanning nine worlds and all for the low price of $20. If you’re interested in that kind of value for your money-and trust me, you are–then read on.

Let’s begin with the basics. You control your ship with the stylus, and you also shoot by dragging the stylus lightly in a direction. Want to fire rapidly? Just drag the stylus multiple times in rapid succession. You will destroy anything moving on the top screen if you do this, but be warned: for every missed shot, you’re going to get to see a fireworks display. While that may sound like a good idea, it isn’t, because these fireworks will fall to the bottom screen near you ship. Crash into one of these, and you’re done, the same as if you were shot point blank by an enemy.

Jan. 21, 2009

This adds some strategy into your shot selection, as well as the way you control your ship. You also cannot just fly around shooting and avoiding the shrapnel, because every enemy you defeat drops a star that you need to collect on the touch screen. These stars are the key to filling your gauge on the left side of the screen; once it’s full, you have completed the level and can move on to the next stage. Tougher enemies drop larger stars that fill up more of the gauge, so when fighting them you need to leave yourself in a position to collect the prize.

Every level you receive some upgrade or another, some of them permanent (homing shots that are weaker than your regular attack) and some of them not (different kinds of shields you can draw, ricocheting fireballs). This keeps the pacing fresh and makes each location that much different in ways other than the background and the enemies you fight, and Arkedo did a wonderful job coming up with fun ways to defend yourself or go on the offensive.

Arkedo has developed nine unique looking worlds, each one a neon-infused, colorful take on a familiar location. Hong Kong’s skies light up with monkey’s, Chinese dragons and loads of fireworks that come from your own ship, the Sahara is full of living tribal paintings that want to shoot you out of the sky, and New York’s skies are loaded with mask wearing criminals that throw knives at you in between alien invasions, and words that look like they are straight out of a comic book streak across the sky when you destroy enemies. The game is charming visually, and in many cases, the environments are gorgeous to behold, with backgrounds that look like stylized paintings.

The game is at its best when it’s in motion though, with the most chaotic moments filling up the real estate on both screens with fireworks, lasers, enemies and stars. Fans of shoot ’em ups are going to be thrilled with what they have here; the levels start out easy enough, in order to teach you the basics of moving and shooting, but by the time you get halfway through the game, that mercy can disappear, and you will need to react rather than think.

The sound in the game is also a strong point, with different sounding explosions letting you know you’ve either missed or hit your target-a godsend considering you may need to stare at the bottom screen nonstop on occasion to keep from losing-and music that fits the environments as well as the look and feel of the game. Each level has its own unique sound, and like many shoot ’em ups, they are the kind of tunes that get stuck in your head as you make your way through the levels.

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About The Author

Marc Normandin was gaming editor of Blast from 2008 to mid-2010. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @Marc_Normandin

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