Back in 2006, a talented and eccentric media artist named Toshio Iwai developed a very unique title for Nintendo's DS system that allowed the user to interact with various forms of plankton on both a visual and musical level. In fact, it was this combination that gave the game its unique feel and ultimately produced one of the more original playing experiences available on the system. While it didn't fare very well as a commercial proposition, it has gone on to garner quite a cult following among DS owners, even costing more now than it did when it was first released. Obviously Nintendo felt the game deserved another chance and has released the first five Electroplankton games from the retail release as individual DSiWare releases.
Electroplankton Beatnes is one of the more creative of the Electroplankton games and allows the player to create a wide variety of music using the five plankton on the DS touchscreen. Each plankton has a head, a tail, and 8 tiny segments in between that make up its body. Each segment of the plankton's body represents a certain classic NES game sound effect or musical tone. A song will play in the background for you to lay your own musical contributions over. You can choose from one of four musical tracks that include tunes from such NES classics as Super Mario Bros., Kid Icarus, and a host of other early NES classics. You can even switch between the various songs at any time by pressing the SELECT button. You can also adjust the tempo of the songs by using the D-pad.
As you tap on the plankton's body segments, you'll notice that they will repeat the note you play in time with the song playing in the background. This allows you to combine notes and sound effects to make some very interesting music that will continue playing for four bars before cutting out. If you don't want to wait for the music to cut out, you can always press the "A" button which immediately cuts out any notes you currently have playing. It might have been nice if the notes would play indefinitely or at least allow you to save some of your creations, but the game basically strives to keep you playing and adding in new notes and sound effects on a continuous basis as part of the fun.
As your musical compositions play out, you'll see the plankton dancing back and forth on the screens. You can even zoom in and out on the top screen to get a better view. There's just something engaging about trying to create different chip tunes using the game's extremely simple and intuitive interface, but the fact that you have to constantly keep updating the music in order to keep it going can be a bit tedious at times - especially for those moments when you create something really unique and catchy. That being said, there's still something rather relaxing about the experience that at times feels a bit hypnotic. It all depends on how you approach this experience as to how much enjoyment you're likely to get out of it.
From a musical and visual standpoint, you have to appreciate what the developers have accomplished with the Electroplankton releases. The individual graphical elements might be very basic and simple in design, but the way they move around and the way they interact with the stylus gives the game a very unique feeling of everything being alive onscreen. Even the bubbles that flow up through the water add yet another relaxing element to the game's visual presentation. Couple these interesting visual touches with some great chip-tunes that should be instantly familiar to NES fans and you have what is one of the more unique audio/visual experiences available for the system and one that fits the gameplay elements brilliantly.
Beatnes might not be the best of the five Electroplankton titles but it's still got enough charm and personality to make it one fans of the series will want to try out. The intuitive play control - not to mention the classic NES chip tunes - give the game a lot of nostalgic charm and other than becoming repetitive a bit too quickly, the game is still a fairly enjoyable experience. If you're looking to kill some time or just kick back and relax with something a little different, you might want to give this unique Electroplankton release a try.