Review: Electroplankton Hanenbow (DSiWare)

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.

Conclusion

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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