Sit back for a moment and relax. Go ahead. Take a breather, slouch in your chair and keep reading. Chances are, your daily routine and mandatory schedule don’t offer much in the way of rest and relaxation. Hell, you’re probably procrastinating on some important assignment for an upcoming lecture. Maybe you’re at work, hunched over a stack of paperwork. Or maybe you’ve slept in far past the point of salvaging whatever plans you had for the morning. But whatever you’re supposed to be doing, just forget about it for a minute. In that same moment, just relax and let the stress, the animosity, and the bitter taste of your daily existence leave you. And in that same moment, just close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? How about that low hum of the computer, or the sound of the wind blowing outside? What about the sound of water endlessly dripping from a leaky faucet, or even the sound of your own breathing? There are noises all around us; the trick is actually hearing them. But in case you can’t quite get the hang of it, Electroplankton might help.
Writing captions can be tough at times.
But if you’re looking for some typical handheld adventure/platforming/whatever else game, stop reading and start searching again. Sorry, but there are no princesses that need to be rescued, worlds to be saved, enemies to be gunned down, or objectives to complete. Instead, you are faced with some of the most unusual creatures to ever appear in a video game: Electroplankton. These tiny aquatic beings live a humble existence, simply reacting to the touch and sound of their surrounding environment. You’ll get to meet several species of Electroplankton, including the Hanenbow tadpole creatures, the Volvoice jellyfish, and even Lumiloop donut…thingies. While the names of these beings may sound funny, their actual music sounds far better. Each species not only looks different, but also operates with different noises, pitches, and rhythms. Using your stylus, you’ll be able to provoke these little critters into performing some impromptu musicals and jam sessions. That’s right, all of you wannabe musicians out there. It’s your time to shine.
Especially with games like this.
Playing with these creatures requires little more than basic movements, either tapping specific parts of the screen, blowing on the DS, talking into the little microphone near the bottom of the device, and a few simple button commands. Tapping one of the creatures will usually make them vibrate, giving off everything from low baritones to high-pitched wind chime sounds. Clapping your hands will make the Nanocarp line up in certain formations, thus creating different sounds with each new position. Both the Rec-Rec and the Volvoice Electroplankton record your voice and send it back to you with all sorts of unusual distortions. You can alter the leaves on the Hanenbows’ tree, using the different angles to produce various strings of notes and melodies. Sadly, the game lacks a save feature, forcing you to start from scratch each time you play. In all honesty, Electroplankton seems like nothing more than a glorified tech demo. At least, at first glance. While there may be little effort in dragging your stylus around the Touch Screen, actually creating enjoyable music proves far more difficult. It requires not only a fair amount of attention, but a good ear for rhythm as well. All your instruments are in your hands; what you do with them is your prerogative.
I mean, what does this picture say to you?
Given the focus on the relationship between simple sounds and orchestrating music, it’s little wonder that Electroplankton features some of the most finely tuned audio quality in the entire DS gaming library. Every piano note, crystal chime, drop of water, bubble blown and musical beat is presented with an incredible amount of clarity and detail. To be honest, the DS’s default speakers don’t get the job done. To fully appreciate the sound, there’s nothing better than plugging in some headphones, turning up the volume a little, and immersing yourself in the music. While the audio system may be complex and offers plenty of potential musical scores, it is balanced out by some simplistic graphics. The Electroplankton look like nothing more than tiny blobs of transparent flesh, emitting lights and colors with their harmonic sounds. Some of them have fins and gills, while other sport wriggling antennae or tendrils. Despite their differences, the various species all have the same wide eyes and pleasant smiles, offering a constantly positive atmosphere regardless of the gamer’s mood. While this game may not be the most conventional music maker out there, its unique style is something to be reckoned with.
Aren’t you tired of playing the same kinds of games over and over? How many Grand Prix competitions have you won in all those racing games? How many mindless opponents have you slaughtered in your last FPS session? Hasn’t sneaking around in the shadows gotten old yet? What about mindlessly leveling up all the characters in your favorite RPG, or scoring touchdowns in a simulated football game? Don’t forget about all those intricate movesets from the fighting games, either. Face it, folks; we need something different, some gaming feature or aspect that forces us to think aside from the norm and use other parts of our minds, a concept that few games, if any, have dared to utilize. I’m not talking about overcomplicated leveling systems, highly technical handling, hardware connectivity, or any of that other crap that’s being pushed on us. We already have everything we need: Our ears, creativity and sense of rhythm. Case in point: Electroplankton.