Want to know a secret? The DS isn't really for games. Of course, it has games on it, very good ones, but that's not what it's for. It's actually for stuff. Everyone's already bought a Game Boy. Or ten. And right now, Nintendo is reluctant to plough a billion or so into a next-generation portable games machine. So it's left with the DS. And a massive untapped market of non-gamers. Many of whom like the idea of a portable machine that can go on the Internet, for free, offer voice-over IP calls, for free and send a receive emails. For free. And do stuff.
So Nintendo was left with the poser of what stuff non-gamers want. Aside from functional stuff, creative stuff would likely be a great selling point for a somewhat homeless portable computing device. And so Electroplankton was born.
It isn't a game, it's a thing, loosely based around music creation within digital art? Sound a little highbrow? That's because it is. Though accessible to anyone able to hold a stylus. There is no goal, aside from growing the occasional flower. It sounds pointless because it is. However, once you pick it up, you'll notice an inability to put it down. Many are drawn to shed a slight tear when using Electroplankton. We are dealing with an enigma, something totally new, exuding brilliance within its ten sections. You're confused right now because you're reading a game review about a non-game. And yet you can tell it's good. Allow SPOnG to explain.
The first thing that drew SPOnG to Electroplankton was the packaging the title seemingly deserved. It's a double case, with a glossy cardboard metallic slip revealing two internal sections: one for a boxed DS game and one for the free blue earphones that come with the bundle. Stylistically, Electroplankton even manages to trump Nintendo's own Band Brothers (Dai Gassou!), quite a feat!
You are offered upon boot two modes of play: Spectator Mode and Conductor Mode. Spectator allows you to watch the CPU operate Electroplankton, with Conductor putting you in charge.
Perhaps the best place to start with Electroplankton is with what SPOnG believes is its strongest and most compelling offering: Hanenbow. Perhaps because it is the section most like an actual game. Hanenbow sees the player manipulate little plankton as they pop out of the water from a leaf chute. You then manipulate a plant, moving its leaves using the stylus, with the goal of bouncing the plankton between them for as long as possible. The point of impact of the projectile on the leaf dictates the note of the Japanese harp voice accompanying this section and as more and more plankton hit the leaves they turn red, until eventually a flower bursts from the top of the plant. SPOnG understands that this does sound a little rubbish. What's the point? The point is probably the way that the slightest movement of any leaf affects the loop of sound generated, with the frequency of plankton dictating its intensity. As you struggle to balance the flow of this game, you slowly become hypnotised by the beautiful looping noise feeding directly into your brain. When you get it right and the flower opens, something changes, not in the game but inside your brain. You realise that this title is not an attempt to grab the evaporating zeitgeist of modern electronic music, (in spite of Nintendo of America's horrendous presentation of Electroplankton at E3) it is a stunning and unique piece of art.