Electroplankton is like any great art - brief, alienating, atmospheric, under-appreciated and not for everyone.

User Rating: 9.1 | Electroplankton DS
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 System, an add-on for the NES available only in Japan. His first game for this system was Otocky, which became his most well known game.

Later on, he created another charming sound-based game (this time for the Super Famicom system), called Sound Fantasy. However, its release was cancelled for whatever reason, and it was eventually converted into the PC title SimTunes.

In 2005, he created and released Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS. This allowed players to create music using 10 different types of underwater plankton, utilizing all of the features of the Nintendo DS, such as the Touch screen and the Microphone. As of Mid-2005, Electroplankton is one of the most popular Japan-to-US imports by gamers across the country.

Electroplankton is not a "game", per se, but a musical toy. Have you ever gone to a science museum and seen some kind of projected screen on the floor that you could interact with by stepping on it? Have you seen one that had no goal, but it was amazing to interact with and relaxing? This is strongly what Electroplankton is. An interactive piece of musical art.

The game gives you all 10 Electroplankton from the get-go. Each plankton is unique. Interacting with these Plankton usually consists of using the touch screen and microphone to create relaxing visuals and music, along with using the "Select", "A" and Directional Pad buttons to change settings. These settings actually dramaticly effect the Plankton you are playing with.

As mentioned before, Electroplankton has no goal, so if you're looking for a "Game" game where you fight tons of enemies to save the princess, etc, Electroplankton will not deliver. But that's the beauty of it. Electroplankton is so different that it can't even be classified as a game. Playing it is like diving deep into the depths of the ocean, surrounded by utter silence and hearing the echoing noises in your head.

Playing with the Electroplankton is fun, unique, hypnotizing and musical. The 10 Electroplankton are all different from each other. Some are ambient while others and mysterious and playful. Some are haunting and others are experimental. The Electroplankton consist of 10 "toys", listed below.

01 - Tracy
"Draw lines through the water to make this Electroplankton move. The Electroplankton swim along the lines to create mysterious music."

02 - Hanenbow
"Launch these Electroplankton toward leaves. Hanenbow make noise as they bounce from leaf to leaf. You can adjust the angle of the leaves to make different sounds."

03 - Luminaria
"These Electroplankton stay in constant motion and follow the arrows they touch. Touch the arrows to change the direction of the Electroplankton."

04 - San-Animalcule
"Use the stylus to place Electroplankton eggs on the screen. These Electroplankton emit sound and light as they grow."

05 - Rec-Rec
"These Electroplankton feed on sound. Tap Rec-Rec to change its color and then speak into the built-in microphone to record a sample."

06 - Nanocarp
"Clap your hands near the microphone to make the Electroplankton form shapes. They even respond to your voice."

07 - Lumiloop
"Slide your stylus around the bodies of these Electroplankton to make them shine and emit strange tones."

08 - Marine-Snow
"These Electroplankton look like snow crystals. They make sounds when you touch them. Move them around and stir them up!"

09 - Beatnes
"Beatnes remember the melodies you tap on their heads and bodies. They put an old-school sound to the beats."

10 - Volvoice
"Touch this Electroplankton and speak to fill its body with your voice. Change its shape to change its voice."

These descriptions, however, do abosolutely no justice to the Plankton. Similar to a peice of art, the art may be amazing but the description will always be simple and unimpressive. This is due to the artist wanting you to interpret the art for yourself. The same is true with Electroplankton. Playing with the Electroplankton with headphones on and the lights off with the sound up is an experience, not just a diversion or entertainment.

Discovering the many things you can do with these Electroplankton is only half the fun. Once you realize the many possibilties for excellent melodies, it becomes a whole new way to interact. Interacting with the Electroplankton is nearly perfect. However, one will always wish that there were more of them. Another big drawback is the fact that you can't save your melodies. However this problem can be solved by buying an headphone jack to headphone jack cable and plugging one end to the DS and the other to the computer. You can do this and record off of your computer (Audacity is a good program) to save your songs. You can also just plug in the DS to a stereo and go into the included "Audience Mode", where the Electroplankton preform randomly for you and create melodies, and listen to the game like a CD.

The Graphics in the game are simple but surprisingly detailed. You aren't looking at sprites. These Plankton are made up of many polygons, so you can zoom in as far as you want with them and they will never become blocky and pixelated. The colorful waves and explosions of sound are like unlike any other. You may never have to go to a laser concert again!

The sound in the game is just suberb. This is an Audio-Visual game, so when you are playing it, it just blooms and echoes in your head so perfectly. The audio is very high-quality for a Nintendo DS, and grab a pair of headphones and choose the "headphones" mode at the start menu, and the sounds will surround you. This game is much better suited with Headphones then the DS's built-in speakers.

The game suffers slightly in Value. Once you've discovered all the Plankton and all the things you can do with them, it becomes slightly less fun, and the game might not last that long. However this is definatly the kind of "game" that you can just chill, grab some headphones and relax while making music, and therefore it should have a good cycle between the "real games" in your DS.

If you're trying to decide to import or not, it depends. If you're willing to pay 15 more dollars for some mediocre earbuds and a cardboard box, go for it. However you won't get an english manual or an english game. This doesn't really matter that much because the game really has a very small amount of text, but it's nice to actually be able to read the manual (which, by the way, is colorful and long, one of the best manuals ever). The game itself is virtually unchanged and you get the same manual in the english version (except...well, it's not in japanese) and the box is not cardboard, it's plastic like most DS games. However it's still very nice and shiny, and has slightly better art on it. I'd say buy the US version. It's cheaper, has better boxart, it's in english, it's still "shiny", the game itself is unchanged, and while it doesn't come with the not-so-great earbuds, any headphones will work, and probably better and they'll be more comfy anyway. However if you already have the Japanese version, the differences are nearly zero, so don't run and pick up the english version if you already imported.

Overall, this game is not for everyone. But for the people that can enjoy something completely new and love art in their games, or for people who love music (even people who love music but have never really been able to make it), this game is excellent. Go buy a copy now (The US version will likely become rare, and it is only available online).

Electroplankton is like any great art. Some may love it and some may hate it, but you can't ignore it.