Game Review

Electroplankton Hanenbow Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Corbie Dillard

Make like a tree and leave.

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 Hanenbow presents you with several variations of flowers, each with a given number of green leaves. These green leaves have strings on them that give off a musical tone when struck by a plankton. One leaf will launch the plankton while the other leaves are used to bounce the plankton around making different musical tones and eventually turning the leaves to a bright red color. You can rotate the leaves to cause the plankton to bounce off in different directions and possibly even strike other leaves on their way down. If you can somehow turn all of the leaves red, the flower(s) will bloom.

While rotating the leaves plays a key role in manipulating the plankton, you also have other functions that can be used to mix up the playing experience. For one thing you can adjust the rate of launching plankton using the D-Pad. You can even turn the automatic launching feature off and instead choose to launch the plankton manually using the "UP" direction on the D-Pad. As if this wasn't enough, you can also zoom in and out using the "X" and "Y" buttons in order to get a better view of the action taking place on the top screen.

The extremely simple play control of Hanenbow makes adjusting the various conditions in each stage simple and intuitive. You'll quickly find yourself trying many different leaf angles in order to get the plankton to hit all of the leaves in an effort to make different musical compositions, not to mention turn all of the leaves red in order to get the flowers to bloom. While the enjoyment of this little experience is quite fun at first, it seems to get repetitive too quickly once you figure out how to get all the leaves to turn red. If you've enjoyed some of the other Electroplankton games, this is one to check out, but it just doesn't seem to stay engaging as long as some of the other releases.

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 planktons themselves offer up some fun visual moments to watch up close and personal on the top screen. Couple these interesting visual touches with some great musical tones you get to be a part of creating and you have what is one of the more unique audio/visual experiences available for the system and one that fits the unique gameplay elements quite well.


Electroplankton Hanenbow is as unique an experience as many of the other Electroplankton releases, but unlike some of the others, the appeal begins to wear off a little too quickly. It's a bit too easy to make the flowers bloom and since that provides the majority of your incentive to stick with the title, you'll likely find yourself moving on to something else after a short while. Hanenbow is still a fun little experience in itself, but if you like something with a little more lasting power, you might want to try out one of the other Electroplankton releases instead.

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User Comments (22)



warioswoods said:

If I wasn't eternally grateful to NLife for the DSi / Nostalgia win, I'd be all over this one.

But I will say this: Corbie's view is well written and perfectly valid from one perspective, and will likely match up with the reactions of many who might download the game. However, an Electroplankton title like this one is a prime example of a "game" that will never fare well when evaluated from a gaming perspective, and that is probably much more appropriately reviewed by someone who comes from an entirely different genre of reviewing. There are some cases where I would say that gaming reviewers are the least equipped to evaluate a product on its own terms, and this is one of those cases (along with Wii Music, for which the most insightful reviews were not from gamers but from those in music education).

Hanenbow is musically sublime if you spend enough time with it (yes, I'd say it rewards replaying more than any 200 point game you'll likely ever see). You can create all kinds of varied textures and melodies by carefully playing with the setup. Not only do the flowers bloom, but the changing leaf colors are more importantly used to change the timbre of the fish sounds, so that carefully maintaining the leaf colors completely changes the overall sound of your composition. Hitting the sides of the stage produces its own unique tone, and the water sound upon the end of a fish's trajectory has its own percussive function if used well.

Wario's musically obsessive review: 10/10, the best out of the Electroplankton series. You'll rarely find something that combines the visual and the musical in such a clever and stylistically unique manner.



theblackdragon said:

@warioswoods: the problem is that they're not so much games as they are sound-manipulation applications at heart. They're much more fun to tinker and toy around with if music and maybe rhythm-based games are your thing. I downloaded Hanenbow yesterday and spent quite a bit of time messing around with the leaves to make interesting noises... it's great for background/ambient sounds. I don't know that i would afford it a perfect 10, but it's certainly fun to mess around with. :3



warioswoods said:


I agree, and that's why I actually find Corbie's review quite valid, if only to say to gamers reading this site: this isn't much of a game, so prepare for disappointment if you expect it to be one. If you're into this kind of thing the way I am, you probably won't listen to any negative reviews anyhow, so no harm done.



Grumble said:

The whole collection is worth $29, not $2 each plankton!! Come on Ninty... get your act together! We're in a recession!!



Corbs said:

I think I could have saved everyone (including myself) a lot of time by telling people to just try one of the $2 Electroplankton titles. If you like it, you'll most likely enjoy the others, if you don't like it, you most likely will not enjoy the others.



warioswoods said:


True, that's pretty much the soundest advice possible on the matter. The only problem for me would be which one to recommend as a representative example; if I'd only downloaded that voice modulation one, for example, I'd have likely avoided the whole set, and missed out on some real gems.



Corbs said:

I thought Rec-Rec was fun and I did some nice drum tracks using my DSi with my drums. I even added some bass guitar on that last one I did. Those fish were rockin'!



warioswoods said:

Oh, that is cool; Rec-Rec isn't all that bad, and it sounds like you took it much further than I did, but I was really complaining in particular about Volvoice, if I remember the name correctly. No tracking, just recording sounds and making them sound weird.



JoeDiddley said:

I hope that these come out in Europe soon.
From what I have read here & in the forums I am glad the game is broken up. I will try the ones that most appeal. If I like them I might get them all.
I'd actually prefer to have the downloads over a cartridge. The DS is a portable system. The DSi means I am carrying around more games glued onto the system along with which ever carts I feel like playing on that day.



JuneBelle said:

I agree with Warioswoods. It is good to make it perfectly clear that this is not something for people looking for an immersive gaming experience. However, the rating should be based on what these are meant to be: little music making apps.

These are not RPG's. These are not puzzlers. These are not arcade games. These are not FPS's. Nor are they Rhythm Heaven.
They are meant for people who like to make music or just enjoy the visuals and sounds that they can make from them. At this they greatly excel. That was probably why it was in limited release in the first place. They knew the audience for this would be fairly limited to musicians. But that doesn't diminish what wonderful apps these are to who they are aimed at.
Just because you don't like Hannah Montana, doesn't mean that there isn't 200,000 little girls out there who would be ecstatic over a Hannah Montana game.
In the same way, just because you don't care to make music, doesn't mean that there aren't 20,000 or so people out there who do.
These are absolutely beautiful apps. I can see myself picking them up and fiddling with them every now and again just to relax, especially this Hanenbow one from this first set of 5. I love how cute the creatures are; and I love the melodies.



SwerdMurd said:

Grr...I keep wanting to like these apps...they just aren't for me. The visuals are amusing a few times (played the old cart) but every single plankton just had that feeling of "ok what is the point of this exactly?" It wasn't musical enough to really be a viable music application and just served to be an interesting tech demo to show someone...there just wasn't any staying power. The Korg DS-10 was much more suited to me and its getting a supercharged re-release that takes advantage of the DSi's extra power...and you can save I dunno it's like one of those kid guitars with the buttons versus an actual accoustic--sure the kid ones flash and look all cool and easily autoplay interesting stuff with little interaction...but the limitations just destroy any attempt at replay value.

And to no one in particular....29.99/10 = 2.999. 2x10 = 20. And its a lot more than that now.



Corbs said:

I think I was fair in rating them as playing experiences instead of true gaming experiences. Because if I had rated these based on my personal tastes, none of these Electroplankton games would have scored above a 2.



Percentful said:

@ballistikboy Actually, If you go to ebay, Electroplankton sells for as low as 65 dollars [lowest out of 3 pages] and as high as 150 dollars. Its a very rare game nowadays.



Percentful said:

I don't think these games are repetitive. I've played Hanenbow for over 10 hours throughout the week and I still love it!



SafariSuz said:

|sf>On the original Electroplankton cartridge, this was the one that stuck out as my favorite. However, IMO Corbie's review was completely fair, as was the grade.

On some level, reviewing the Electroplankton titles is like trying to review WiiWare's My Aquarium. They aren't the same kind of software as the Art Styles series or as most traditional 'games.' They're more like an interactive relaxation exercise.

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