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Electroplankton review

AT A GLANCE
  • A collectible oddity with fun ideas
  • Brief moments of impressive structure
  • Cool instruction book. Really
  • Can't combine plankton to make something large
  • Even your slickest scores are gone forever
  • Too expensive for what it can(not) do

What happens when Nintendo puts together a completely nutso piece of musical software that's so out of the ordinary it's not even carried on retail store shelves? After playing with a gaggle of fish-like creatures that react in musical ways depending on how you touch them with the stylus, two GamesRadar editors dive into Electroplankton:

Dan Amrich, Working Musician:  Electroplankton struck me as the handheld equivalent of a toy xylophone. It's got lots of pretty colors and anybody of any age can walk up, hit it with a mallet and make a noise. But that's not the same as making music, so it's tough for me to call it a "music creation game." More like a "music-themed creative digital interactive funspace."

Brett Elston, Devoted, Tone-Deaf Gamer: Right when you turn it on you're thinking, "Oh cool! Little underwater musicians!" But after spending mere minutes with each of the 10 plankton, I couldn't help but wonder how the next one would sound. Some emulate real instruments while others let you record your voice and screw around with it. A lot of instant gratification but no depth, I felt. The Beatnes plankton were pretty cool, though. Touching segments of their bodies lets out classic sounds from NES games, like the coin twinkle from Super Mario Bros. I heard a few things from Duck Hunt and Kid Icarus, too. You could set a pattern and have it repeat. That probably held my interest the longest.



Dan: Mine too. As a musician, I had the most fun with the two modes that offered pre-recorded backbeats: the fish that acted like a four-track recorder and the Beatnes creatures. But even with Beatnes, I don't think there was a way to keep one pattern going forever; you create a cool pattern on one of the plankton's bodies, and it repeats a few times. Why not let it repeat forever, until I get bored and want to change the beat? The music was constantly evolving, but I wondered why it had to.

Brett: Exactly. I'd randomly make something that sounded cool and look for a way to save it, but couldn't. Imagine my sadness as I stood up and ran around an empty office thinking "Oooh ooh! Someone listen! What? No one?" That moment was lost forever. It does level the playing field with the musically idiotic though. Even if you have no concept of structure, you can manage to squeeze something cool out. Most non-game games at least have something that brings you back repeatedly.This is more like trying to hold together a crumbling sandcastle made of music.

Brett:When Nintendo demonstrated this to the public for the first time, they hired a professional DJ to create these interesting, overlapping soundscapes ... using four DS units at the same time. That's not something most people can or will do. Sure, if you and three friends jam, you can work together, but it's not something that a single copy of Elektroplankton can achieve, and it's still not permanent.
Ultimately, I want to recommend it to everyone just for the experience, but I know almost no one will want to play it, myself included. It's something collectors and niche gamers will really dig but it's too expensive for the fleeting moments of creation.

Dan: I think you're right. People will goof around with it a little bit, go "Huh. Neat" and walk away. It's tough to recommend for purchase. Gamers are going to be disappointed at the lack of structure while musicians will dislike the lack of permanence. It's a toy.

Brett: So how do we apply a game scoring system to a toy?

Dan: Well, we score on a scale from 1 to 10. How about a smiley face? An infinity symbol?

Brett: How about a question mark?

Dan: Sold.

More Info

Release date: Jan 09 2006 - DS (US)
Available Platforms: DS
Genre: Family
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo
ESRB Rating:
Everyone

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