Developer – Nintendo
Publisher - Nintendo
Touch Screen compatible
This is one of the toughest reviews for me to write in sometime. This is not because Electroplankton is a bad game, but the reason it is so tough to write about is that this game really isn’t a game at all as it is more of just a sensory experience that has to be experienced to be understood.
I cannot get over how some of Nintendo’s neatest looking games are just so simple but yet look so good. Electroplankton is another one of those games. Sure it really doesn’t tax the DS hardware, but then again I don’t think it really should. As one would surmise from the title, Electroplankton has an aquatic theme to it so there are many sources of marine themed visuals from plant life to air bubbles floating through water. Colors play an important role in this game too. The tones seem to pop off the screen, but not in an overly loud way. The game is meant to be relaxing and the colors really help convey the atmosphere. As for the actual planktons, they are comprised of simple polygonal shapes but they have an uncanny knack at presenting to be a cute little lifeform. I really can’t think of anything negative to say about the visuals of this game as they are part of an overall package which really seems to work.
The audio in Electroplankton is in someway more important than the visuals. As you will find out you are in control of what music comes out of the DS’s speakers. This music is composed of various sounds, such as pianos, drums, symbols, synthesizers and even your own environment. Add to this some nice atmosphere sounds, such as bubbles, and you have a ‘trippy’ and soothing sounding game. Everything sounds pretty good coming from the DS’s stereo speakers too and it is even better in a nice pair of headphones. Again, as this is a relaxing game nothing is over represented here and everything has such an equal balance it does its job well.
Picking up the game case for Electroplankton and reading the back of it gives some warning that you are not in line for your typical gaming experience. The back of the game case looks like that of a CD as the 10 types of Electroplankton are listed like a listing for the tracks on a music CD. Open the game and start playing and you are even more aware that this is not your typical gaming adventure. There are no levels to beat, no bosses to defeat and no objective in sight. It is just you and 10 different types of plankton to make music with. For those that cannot wrap the idea that this is not really a game, the 10 types of plankton can be equated to 10 different modes or toys to make music with. These different types provide different types of sound and experiences that allow you to make music. Playing with the different planktons is an experiment in how you move and interact with them. Depending on what you do you get very different forms of sound leading to different types of music. I could spend lots of time listing them all off but I am only going to mention a few as I really do not want to ruin the experience of exploring what this game has to offer.
The Tracy type of plankton is a group of six that create piano tones as they follow the lines that you draw. The pitch and tone of these plankton are affected by the shape of the line and the speed at which you draw them. This is the first form of plankton and it seems to be an introduction to the basics of what this game has to offer. Higher up the list you will come across the Sun-Animalcule form of plankton. Here you tap the touch screen to place them on a spot on the screen where they will begin to pulse with light and sound. Their sounds vary depending on where you place them and how you group them. Another form of plankton is called the Rec-Rec. These little plankton scroll across the screen while a drum beat plays, however tapping one of the four plankton will cause it to record whatever sounds the DS’s microphone picks up in the room and combine it into a musical melody of some sort. The final plankton that I will mention is known as the Nanocarp. Not to be outdone by those plankton who utilize either the stylus or microphone, these guys swim around the screen and when you tap the screen with the stylus it will start a wave that will trigger any of these plankton caught in it. Here you also use the D pad to cause similar waves to wash across the screen trapping more plankton who will also react to clapping, blowing or singing into the microphone. These little guys utilize a lot of the DS’s features.
You can spend a lot of time just playing with the various forms of plankton contained in this game. And although this is part of the strength of this game, it is also its weakness. As mentioned, there are no objectives in this game. You just sit and make music with the planktons you are provided. So once you are done making music that is it. There is no reward and no score. It should be also mentioned that you cannot save your musical creations. I found this to be a big disappointment as I would spent a lot of time tooling around to finally get that perfect melody, however there was no way to save my work. Why Nintendo thought not allow anyone to save their work is beyond me.
As mentioned in my introduction it really is hard to classify Electroplankton as a game as it has no objectives, no leveling up and no final boss. Regardless of how you classify this title though what it really shows is that Nintendo wants to keep innovation flowing and they continue to encourage game designers to push the boundaries of traditional gaming. However as this game has really no direction I think the casual gamer may not appreciate the overall scope of what is presented. I also think that the omission of a save feature also a big disappointment considering what kind of work can go into making music. That being said I have never played a game (if you can call it that) like this before and I think it will be sometime before I do again.