Let me point out that this is a review of the Japanese Import Electroplankton. If the game sees a US release at some point, some of this info might be different. This is to help those who are thinking of importing. To start with, you need not worry about the language barrier. The game's main screen is the only one that uses language, and the menus are already translated into English. What doesn't help however is that you'll find with the game a thick manual - all in Japanese, which explains what the various 10 types of Electroplankton do. The good news, is that with the Japanese text in the manual, there are little pictures/diagrams which are pretty self explanatory. They demonstrate various ways to interact with the Electroplankton. In addition, I quickly found out that with a little experimenting, and some intuitive thinking, I found myself delving into Electroplankton like a champ. The point being - the game is very user friendly. The Main Menu breaks down into "Performance", "Audience", and "Sound". Performance is where you choose which electroplankton to play with, and create your own music with them. Audience lets you sit back and have the electroplankton randomly play tunes for you. Finally Sound lets you toggle between the DS speakers, and headphones. Performance mode is the real meat of Electroplankton where you get to experiment to your hearts desire. Some basic controls to remember: The X button has the DS topscreen zoom in on the electroplankton, while the Y button zooms out. The B button will take you back to the previous screen. And you can press the Start button to take an "intermission" from play. Now let's break down the types of Electroplankton you'll find... 1. Tracy: Like the name implies, you'll be tracing lines, shapes, patterns and paths for the 6 Tracys at your disposal. Each makes a Harp like sound as they move through the paths you draw for them, and will change tone/tempo depending on where you draw the path on the screen, how shapely the path is, and how fast/slow you draw it. You can also increase/decrease the tempo of all the Tracys by pushing Right (increase) or Left (decrease) on the D-pad. Finally, you can erase all the patterns you've drawn by pressing the Select button. 2. Hanenbow: The name implies nothing to English speakers. I really couldn't tell you if it implies anything in Japanese - I can only assume so. The Hanenbow are little tadpoles which jump from a leaf sticking out of the water toward a plant (with multiple leaves) sticking up from the water. Each time they hit a leaf, they make high scale piano sounds. Your involvement comes from being able to position the leaves around to create whatever melody you choose. You are even able to position the leaf they jump off of so they are angled toward certain other leaves. Pushing the D-Pad here will increase/decrease the rate of Hanenbow that get released depending if you push Right (Increase) or Left (Decrease). Also what I found was a nice surprise was the use of the A button to bring up numbers connecting to each leaf. These numbers represent the angle each leaf is pointing toward. Math is interesting; who knew? Also, should staring at the same plant not interest you, you can push the Select button to change between 4 different plant screens, with plants of varying heights, or more than one plant to shoot the Hanenbow toward. It should also be of note, that the more times a leaf gets hit in succession, it turns from green, to a yellow, to an orange, and finally red. If you're Hanenbow make all the leaves on the screen red, you get a little surprise. Visual art folks! 3. Luminaria: The 4 Luminaria live in a puzzle-esq world where they are compelled to follow the direction of arrows. Everytime they hit an arrow, they resound their tune. Some move fast, some move slow, and depending on where they are on the screen, and how fast they are hitting an arrow changes their tone. The fun part is making paths with the arrows for them, each of the 36 arrows can point in 8 directions, just tap the arrow of your choice to change where it points. Or if you are feeling frisky, try holding your stylus to an arrow, and watch as it becomes a spinning arrow which will send the Luminaria in a random direction when it crosses paths with it. With Luminaria, the D-pad uses all four directions to change all the arrows on the screen to some preset patterns. Feel free to let your Luminaria loose, then just keep changing the patterns and listening to the music they create. If you want to start over fresh, pressing the Select button will reset Luminaria to the way you found it. 4. Sun-Animalcule: This weird electropankton is sun shaped... except when it's not. When you initially choose Sun-Animalcule all you'll see is a colorful screen, with bubbles floating to the top. Not so interesting. However, upon touching the screen, you cause a Sun-Animalcule to be born. In fact, keep touching the screen and many many will be born, and depending on where they are on the screen, determines the tone of their steel drum-like sounds. Each will continue to ring out it's dulcet tone and continue to grow larger and larger till they pop. No more Sun-Animacule. It would end there except for the very fact that sometimes a Sun-Animalcule can best be described as a Crescent-Animalcule. Notice that colorful screen? Look closer, and you'll notice it cycling ever so slowly through reds/oranges and blues/black. When it's in the red - Sun-Animalcule is born. If it's in the blues, Crescent-Animalcule are brought to life. Note, that you can have both on the screen at the same time - highly recommended. The D-pad allows you to cycle the colors faster to create the Animalcule of your choice, while the Select button pops all Animalcule on screen. 5. Rec-Rec: This one could get a little crazy depending on what sounds you have at your disposal. But basically you get 4 Rec-Rec who move along the screen to the beat. Touch one, and on it's next cycle through the screen, it starts recording whatever the DS Mic picks up. Repeat 3 more times, and you've got a bit of a weird hip-hop vibe going on. You can even do your own rap for the Rec-Rec to Rec-ord. Pushing Up or Down on the D-pad will cycle through the beat you can use. Or you can increase/decrease the beat by pressing either Right (increase) or Left (decrease). Pushing Select of course will erase all your hard recording work. 6. Nanocarp: These little guys are more responsive to sound than through touch. The Nanocarp will wander around the screen on their own, or you can press the Select button to line them up. If you touch the screen you can send out little ripples which will make them ring out. Or by tapping a direction on the D-pad you can send waves through the water. But you get the most out of using the mic. I've found blowing, talking, humming, clapping, and yes, even singing into the mic will get them to respond. They will make varying shapes and then you can tap the screen or D-pad to get them to ring out in that pattern. The most interesting thing I noticed is when I tried clapping. I would clap once, and they would form a circle for me - which, neat, but what else. I noticed if I clapped at a medium pace, over and over, the circle would contract, move around the screen, and expand. The real fun of Nanocarp doesn't come from their sounds, but from what your own sounds make them do. They are fun to experiment with. 7. Lumiloop: These 5 donut shaped electroplankton are good for spinning and spinning. The faster you spin them, the more noise they make - which can best be described as sort of a humming, almost like chants - very soothing. Their tones change depending on if you spin them clockwise, or counter-clockwise. Pressing the Select button will allow you cycle between a black background, a white background, and a background that changes color. Along with the background changes, the Lumiloop will change their pitch. 8. Marine-Snow: Who knew random piano keys could be both fun, and harmonize? As you tap the Marine-Snow (which yes, does look like snowflakes) each will play out a piano note, and exchange places with the last Marine-Snow you tapped. It continues this way to where they get pretty mixed up cycling around the screen. Amazingly enough, they make a nice harmony. This is not a 5 year old banging away keys on a piano noise. Feel free to not only tap each Marine-Snow with the stylus - but drag it across and all over the screen to get several playing at once. What's really interesting with Marine-Snow is pressing the Select button will cycle through different shapes, and Piano/Xylophone notes/types - like what you would find on an electric keyboard. After you cycle through the first 3 types, it seems to be random which combination of snow-shapes and notes you'll get. But it amplifies the point that experimenting is fun. Something fun to try is dragging the stylus in patterns through the Marine-Snow for some interesting sound combos. 9. Beatnes: The 5 Beatnes sway along with pre-programed tunes (you'll recognize the first instantly as a classic Mario number) while you press them, or any links in their chain to add extra notes, and sounds to the mix. As the song cycles through it repeats the presses you've made as you can add more. It's sort of a free-flowing music mix. At any time you can press the A button to stop the playback of your notes. Or you can increase/decrease the speed of music/playback by pressing the D-pad, either Right (increase) or Left (decrease). Also with Beatnes, you can press the Select button to cycle through 3 other tunes. You'll have to forgive me that I'm unsure of where they come from, although one sounds like a Donkey Kong theme, and another a Tetris tune. In any case, each Beatnes will play a different variety of sounds/notes depending on which song you are playing. 10. Volvoice: These electroplankton are a fun little experiment. Simply tap the Volvoice in the middle (or press the A button) to start recording. You can record about 15+ seconds of your own voice, some music, sounds, and what have you. You can either record the maximum time, or if you only want to record a few seconds, just tap the Volvoice (or press the A button) again to have it stop recording. Then the fun begins... You have 16 of these electroplankton to select from. You can either select them using the stylus, or cycle through them with the Left/Right D-pad. Each Volvoice will then distort in it's own way whatever you've recorded. They can, speed it up, slow it down, break it up, lower/raise the pitch/tone, play it backwards, or just generally make it wacky. No longer do you have to spend long hours figuring out the backwards lyrics to your favorite underground albums - Volvoice is here to help - Record the backward track into Volvoice, then play it backwards... which will sound forwards... confused yet? But it's all fun... and did I mention wacky? I honestly got quite a few laughs out of what Volvoice is capable of doing to my own voice. When you wanna try something new, you can either start recording again, or press the Select button to erase the recording. And that is what you can do with Electroplankton on the DS. But why stop there? One of the neat things is that by using a male/male cord, you can plug one end into the DS headphone jack, and another into the Line In (mic) on your computer. Then you can record your Electroplankton tracks for the world to hear... or just your friends... save the embarrassing Electroplankton rap album for yourself. But in essence it opens up alot of possibilities as you can buy/download programs which allow you to mix your own music. You can combine your electroplankton into whole symphonies if you choose. Electroplankton carries alot of potential as a musical device; and is fun to play around with on top of that. Now on to my scoring... Gameplay is a tricky subject as Electroplankton isn't a game. But if you're talking about interactive - it meets the criteria, and is fun as well. Graphics are top notch for Electroplankton. Plus each of the art styles for the different types of electroplankton flow well together and create a nice package. I only took off because the top DS screen is only used to zoom in and out, and I pretty much ignored the top screen all together. Sound was of course excellent for a game relying on sound. Very crystal clear, and the stereo vs. headphone option showed noticeable difference and increased optimum performance. Also the first copies of the game come with free headphones. They aren't much - just exposed ear buds in a translucent blue color. But it was a nice touch and are easily portable. I didn't really figure them into the score though because eventually Electroplankton will be sold without the headphones. But like I said, they aren't much so don't feel you have to import right now just to get them. I much prefer larger earphones myself. Value can be subjective. Some people will just play with Electroplankton on their DS, others will be using it to record whole albums. Electroplankton is truly what you make of it. Reviewer Tilt? I loved Electroplankton, and cannot stop experimenting with it, and am just getting into recording my own tracks on the computer and mixing them. It's truly a great experience. Overall, I'm having fun with it, and it's a unique innovative title if I ever saw one. I'm sure many people will get alot of joy from what Electroplankton has to offer. It can really draw out the musician in you.
Toshio Iwai is a Japanese interactive media artist. He specializes in blending music and visuals. His recent work includes the Nintendo DS program Electroplankton. Iwai first began producing games for the Famicom Disk Sy... Read Full Review
I was looking forward to this one after Rez et al, and was not disapointed. At first the basicness and limited option worried me and I didnt quitre understand the point of not having a save option. But after weeks and... Read Full Review