Electroplankton (DS)

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Everyday scientists are researching new technologies to take them deeper into the unknown depths of the ocean in order to discover fascinating new species of fish and other aquatic life forms. Creatures with no skin or colour because they have no need for these things in this dark water hidden far, far away from the harsh rays of the sun. Little did these scientists know that a Japanese musician and game developer, Toshio Iwai, had discovered a new species of his own, Electroplankton!

At first look one might think that this game is not a game at all, but rather just a show piece to promote the features of the Nintendo DS. On further inspection one would be pleasantly surprised to find that it is not all just random noises coming from their system, but rather that the Electroplankton are singing and collaborating in tune to the conducting strokes of the player’s stylus and vocal directions.

In this watery world live ten breeds of Electroplankton, each with their own unique way of interacting with the player. These range from Electroplankton who record the player’s voice or noises coming from the outside world (such as a dog barking or a toilet flushing) and place the sounds seamlessly into a four track loop (Rec-Rec), to a set of six Electroplankton which follow a pathway drawn by your stylus to create a totally organic piano concerto (Tracy). Although whenever I connect the DS up to the sound system and give concerts for my friends there will be the odd one or two people who refer to this as “noise.”

Below is a brief explanation of what a few more of the other Electroplankton can do:

Hanenbow – These little guys are launched from the water towards a plant that usually has six leaves. The player can rotate the leaves in order to get the Electroplankton to bounce off and hopefully hit another leaf, with each collision the Electroplankton plays a note on what sounds to be a vibraphone. If a leaf is hit frequently it will become red, and should every leaf of the plant become red a special surprise is presented to the player.

Luminaria – Definitely one of my preferred Electroplankton, they move around the screen following the direction of the current. There are four Electroplankton to play with this time, each moving at a different speed. You can change the direction of the current in a cell by tapping it with your stylus or a simple press of the D-pad can change all the current cells at once.

Sun-Animalcule – Presented with the whole screen to play with, you can plant tiny seeds of these Electroplankton and watch as they “play” out their lives, excuse the pun. Depending on where you have placed the seed will determine the note the Electroplankton plays. There is a day night cycle that changes the way the plankton react and sound. Sun plankton are placed during the day and have a light crisp sound whereas moon plankton, placed at night, have a deeper more brooding tone.[PAGEBREAK]

Nanocarp – It took me a long time to work out exactly what was going on with this form of Electroplankton, but I finally got it. Swimming randomly around the screen you will find eighteen little plankton. There are three ways to control them: clapping; blowing; and singing. You might not want to play this one in a public space because there is a high chance that people around you might think that you have gone insane. For example, giving three successive claps will cause the Electroplankton to form a circle or five successive claps would cause them to form a house. The same applies to blowing: blow on the screen for two seconds and a heart will form; if you do it again you will see the heart starts to beat. If you can’t sing a clean note to save your life then you may find the next bit hard. Singing a combination of do-re-mi or mi-re-do or even do-do-mi will have different effects on the plankton formation. You might even see the elusive formation of a man doing jumping jacks, however, you will need some skill for this.

Like you would expect to find in a music game, the sound quality is excellent. After playing this game for a while you will feel like you really are at the bottom of the ocean, although some might find that with the constant trickling sound of water in the background they will need to visit the bathroom more frequently.

Unfortunately the game does not allow you to save or record any of your musical masterpieces, although you could hook the DS up to a recording device via the headphone output and record the sound that way.

For what it is, Electroplankton is a surprising little game that could keep you occupied for hours with mindless “fiddling.” If you can’t stand a game that does not have a directive in terms of a start and finish, you might find Electroplankton a bit too much of a bore. For the rest of you though it will go down as one of the classic games that only the DS could accommodate.

Pros: Unique gameplay; pick up and play game
Cons: No direction; longevity

Final thought: It may not be your first choice when presented with the great catalogue of games the DS has to offer, but if you are into music and are in the mood for something really different, give this game a thought.