Electroplankton

Who would believe poking little fish could be so entertaining?


The Lowdown

Pros: Authentically unique and creative, Electroplankton stands out as an experience.

Cons: Doesn't have hours of depth, it's essentially ten mini games in a package.

Purchase at Play-Asia

Purchase at Lik-Sang

Nintendo's DS handheld was designed for innovative titles. Games like Kirby: Cursed Canvas, Feel the Magic XX/XY and Meteos are examples of some relatively unique games. Then there's Electroplankton designed by Nintendo and well known media artist Toshia Iwai, that will change your mind about what you think games are. If you consider it a game, which is a big if. Unlike any conventional title Electroplankton has no goal whatsoever. No princess to save, dragon to fight, city to plunder. There's no score, like in Nintendo's other music game Daigasso Band Brothers and there's nothing to unlock. It's easy to jump in and say there's no point to Electroplankton, which is sort of true. Electroplankton is more like a set of musical and visual creation tools. Similar to an unpainted canvas or a lone guitar it's up to the artist to make something out of it. Electroplankton gives you ten separate applications for musical and visual creation.

Tracy is the first option on the menu. In this game there are a couple of triangular plankton on the bottom of the screen. Once you poke a plankton you can drag the stylus to make a path for the plankton to follow. When the selected plankton follows the path it'll make sounds. Blending the sounds of the six different plankton you can make a tiny symphony.

Hanebow is an interesting game where pink tadpole-like plankton jump out of a leaf. Unlike Tracy, you can't directly control them. What you can do is rotate the leaf cannon to aim them towards the plant on the right hand side of the screen. When the tadpole plankton bounces on to the leaf it will make a chime. Players can also change the angles on the plant. This alters how the plankton will bounce and alter what sounds are made.

Luminaria is probably my favorite game out of the pack. You start out with four brightly colored plankton at each corner of the screen. By tapping on one of the plankton it will begin to move along a pre-set path determined by the on screen arrows. Here's the trick players can alter the arrows, which will change the path the plankton moves on. Altering the path will change the sounds that the plankton makes as it hits different arrows. Another thing is that the four different plankton have unique tempos plus sounds. Players will be able to make some awesome compositions with this.

Sun-Animalcule has players poke the screen to set a plankton down. Once set the plankton will make a little sound wave as they grow up into a huge sun or moon. You have the option to plant tons of plankton or just a single one and watch it grow. Sun-Animalcule requires patience, at first the sounds are really minimal, but once the eggs grow you'll get the full experience of the title.

Rec-Rec is one of two games that use the DS' microphone. Rec-Rec is essentially a four fish.. um track.. simulator. You start by tapping on one of the fish and it will record a quick few seconds of audio. As the plankton moves from the right side of the screen to the left they'll play the sound over. With four different sounds and a couple of backbeats to choose from you can do some cool beat box style sampling with this.

Nanocarp has gamers tap the screen to create a small ripple. The ripple will move along the bottom screen of the DS until it hits a tiny plankton. When the ripple hits the plankton, it makes a tiny sound to go along with it. The tiny plankton also makes a small sound ripple that can hit adjacent plankton. Some things you can do with this is set up a chain reaction of sight and sound by lining them up. Or you can activate all of them at once by clapping over the DS' microphone.

Lumiloop is the game with the five round donut like plankton. By turning the plankton it will make a chanting sound and emit a blast of color. The faster you spin it, the brighter the color and stronger the sound. With five different plankton and a two sounds per plankton depending on the direction of rotation there is a lot to do.

Marine-Snow has a bunch of tiny snow like plankton on screen. By tapping on the different plankton you can make a sound. Tapping on the next plankton will make a different sound. By tapping plankton in succession you can go through a variety of pitches. Out of all of the tools this is the most a kin to a piano.

Beatnes is the ultimate tool for retro gamers. You start out with five large smiling plankton that have tails extended to the bottom of the screen. The tails are exactly eight parts down, which give players five musical scales to choose from. Poking each part gives off a different sound that will loop for a set of four measures. Sounds like any other Electroplankton game until you realize that the sampled sounds are from 8 bit NES titles like Super Mario Brothers and the Famicom Collection games. Finally, you can remix NES songs anywhere you are.

Volvoice is the last Electroplankton game. Unlike the other games where you make music, Volvoice alters music you make or your voice. First record a bit from your favorite song a speak into the microphone. After you do that you can alter the waveform by tapping on the different plankton. There are a couple of different ways you can alter your voice with this, even if it's not as in depth as the other tools.

Electroplankton's graphics match it's unique play style. They're not complex, but abstract. You have neon colored smiling electronic doodles similar to Vib Ripple. The backgrounds for the most part are static, with an aquatic feel to them. The bottom screen is what you will be paying attention to, while the top screen has zooms in on the action so you can see the tiny plankton up close.

Electroplankton is defiantly something else. It's something that will draw out a new audience of gamers. It probably won't impress gamers bent on fragging, scoring the next touchdown or seeing the next scene in an epic story. Electroplankton doesn't provide thrills as much as it stimulates creativity. One major disappointment is that while Electroplankton does promote art, it doesn't allow you to save anything. So if you spend hours on creating a musical masterpiece, you're out of luck when you want to create it again. The only option you have is to do a live recording with a headphone cable plugged directly into a PC or tape player. Even though you can save your song you won't be able to replicate the dancing plankton to show people. This may detract gamers with the hopes they can use it for band play like Daigasso! Band Brothers can be used for. If you a DS you should at least give Electroplankton a look to see if it's something you would be interested in. It's uniquely calming to play say in between classes or on a quick lunch break while at work.

Import Friendly? Literacy Level: 0

Poking things on screen to make sounds, is universally easy to understand. English text to go along with the Japanese menus, makes it even easier for importers to adopt this game.

US Bound?

Nintendo has said that they have no plans to bring Electroplankton to America. It seems like importing it is the only way to check it out.

Overall

To say Electroplankton isn't for everyone is an understatement. It's unique Zen like experience hasn't been seen in games to date. If you're interested in something new or like music games check Electroplankton out.