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Critical Reception: Nintendo's  Electroplankton

Critical Reception: Nintendo's Electroplankton

January 12, 2006 | By Quang Hong

January 12, 2006 | By Quang Hong
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This week's Critical Reception takes a look at the Toshio Iwai-devised, Nintendo-published Electroplankton for the DS, an audiovisual manipulation 'game' that adheres to the definition of that word only in the loosest sense, and has been released in limited quantities via the official Nintendo store and other online stores in the West.

1UP's Jeremy Parish takes the issue of Electroplankton's identity to task as he questions: "Is Electroplankton a _game_?' It lacks certain fundamental features that gamers have come to expect from their pastime: There's no narrative, no conflict, no goal, not even a measure by which to determine one's progress. It doesn't tell a story, nor does it offer players any objective beyond what they create for themselves."

Parish, like most reviewers, considers the game more a unique take on an interactive set of musical/visual equipment than a video game, as such. But Nintendo's experiment received a fair reception from game critics, garnering a 79% average rating, according to game review tabulation website GameTab.com.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Yahoo! Games' Russ Fischer describes: "10 species of plankton inhabit the 'game,' each of which is stirred into action by touching the lower screen or speaking into the microphone. Each creature has a unique environment, displayed on the touch screen, while the upper image provides a close-up on the action. Each species has its own behavior patterns, almost all of which are completely intuitive."

The main draw of Electroplankton is the unique multimedia experience of how it easily lets you create music. Yahoo! Games' Fischer raves on how the title has "gorgeous sound and images that break the 'game' mold" and that it "resists bad music" and allows you to "create beautiful spontaneous compositions in audience mode."

Concerning whether or not people will actually like the software, 1UP's Parish suggests: " Electroplankton is an incredibly subjective experience, and it certainly won't be to everyone's liking. Yet at its best, the game turns Nintendo's DS into an odd spin on the iPod -- an intimate, portable, personal musical experience that shifts and changes each time you touch the screen. Is it a game? Maybe, maybe not. But it's definitely unique, and viewed with an open mind, can be incredibly engrossing."

Nonetheless, a major flaw cited by most reviewers is that the game lacks any sort of save feature, as well as the inability to mix different plankton. As GameSpot's Ryan Davis explains, the plankton "...are hindered by the fact that you cannot capture anything that you create ... Electroplankton is so concerned with being in the moment that this is difficult."

While unlikely to be a commercial success, with limited distribution and a high-minded "non-game" concept, Electroplankton may yet serve Nintendo as a halo product for its DS handheld, while garnering a cult following. It is also sure to prove popular with video game collectors in years to come, for those considering whether video games could ever make good long-term collectible investments.


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