Review: Electroplankton Trapy (DSiWare)

A bit outside the lines.

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 Trapy is probably the easiest of the Electroplankton titles to pick up and play, but it's also the most one-dimensional of the group as well. In Trapy you basically have five plankton to work with, each a different color and tone. You must touch the desired plankton with the stylus and then draw a line for it to follow. How the line is drawn will determine the musical notes the plankton will play for you. You can draw them in straight lines for a more consistent musical scale, or draw then in wavy lines or even in circular patterns to get a more rangy musical performance. You can even adjust the speed of the plankton's movements using the D-pad if you want to further customize the experience. If you want to change a particular plankton's performance all you have to do is tap one of the circles on the line and it will reset the plankton for you to draw out again.

While you'll find the play control in Trapy extremely easy to pick up, it does tend to get repetitive fairly quickly. Drawing the lines is fun at first, but once you've experimented with them for a few minutes they tend to offer very little in the way of incentive to come back to them. It might have been nice to have had a little more variety in the different sounds of each plankton, not to mention a few more to work with. It's still a decent playing experience, but doesn't feature anywhere near as much depth as some of the other entries.

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. Couple all of this with the ability to create your own harmonies using your stylus and what you have is yet another unique audio/visual experience available for the system.

Conclusion

Electroplankton Trapy tends to make the Electroplankton experience very simple for the user - maybe a bit too simple, you could argue. While it's certainly fun to draw the lines in circles and hear the sound movement of the plankton as they move around them, once you've toyed with the various types of lines, you'll soon find little else to keep your interest. It's still a decent title, but easily one of the weaker releases overall and is unlikely to hold your attention for very long.

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