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Review: Animal Crossing and Electroplankton

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the well-it's-not-really-a-horse dept.

Portables (Games) 117

When is a game not a game? Because it's software designed to run on the Nintendo DS, Electroplankton and Animal Crossing: Wild World are packaged and sold as traditional games. Despite that, they don't have many of the elements we normally associate with games; Electroplankton has no measure of progress, and Animal Crossing is more Sims than SimCity. Neither of them have a win condition. While they may not be your normal Friday night rental, both of them are potent tools for having fun. Read on for my impressions of these distinctly different titles.

  • Title: Animal Crossing: Wild World
  • Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
  • System:DS

Most games present you with clear goals, give you the means to complete your objectives, and set you loose. In good games these short-term achievable mileposts are accomplished in entertaining ways. What separates game activities from real life tasks is the entertainment value; If being a file clerk had a snappy tune and involved matching colourful patterns, it would probably be a more enjoyable position. Animal Crossing blurs the line between entertainment and some of the boring parts of real life. Through your little virtual avatar you work for a living, maintain social contacts, and live without save points if you screw something up. How does a game where you have to pay off a mortgage end up being fun?

Every player who starts a game of Animal Crossing is actually creating a miniature world. By answering some simple questions on a cab ride into town, you establish your identity and your little avatar's personality. Dropped into the town in front of the establishment of one Tom Nook, you're immersed into a reality that exists just for you. If you asked me to describe to you what you 'do' in Animal Crossing the answer would be something like this: "The player works to get out of debt to real estate tycoon (and raccoon) Tom Nook by performing odd jobs for the town's citizenry." Jobs include fossil hunting, bug catching, and fishing; All of them are accomplished through simple mini-games.

That's what you do, but that simple description belies the reason you'll want to play Animal Crossing. The mortgage hanging over your head is a very kind one. No one will break your kneecaps if you don't spend your every minute working towards a debt-free life. As such, you're free to explore the world you've created. Complete with a 24-hour clock that matches day and night cycles to the real world, Animal Crossing is a place you'll want to visit for a number of reasons.

In my town (Madison), the humorous animal citizenry were a huge draw. Besides the owl running the museum, Polly the Postmaster, and anti-RIAA music-dog K.K. Slider, my neighbors included a big jovial bear, a scatterbrained kitty, and a surly penguin. Each of them had very different personalities, with their own tastes and hobbies. The penguin liked to go bug collecting at night, for example, while the kitty was always camped out by my house with a fishing pole. Even while you consciously understand these are just figments of your handheld console's imagination, you can't help to connect with their goofy avatars. I honestly found myself wanting to make sure they were cared for. We'd send letters back and forth, often giving each other little presents that would help us personalize our homes.

The customization element in Animal Crossing is another draw. You can design T-shirts for your little avatar to wear, collect furniture and ornamental pieces to spruce up your home, and make deals with Tom Nook to expand your floorspace once you''re completely out of room. Shops only sell a given selection of items every day, and so you'll find yourself coming back to the game for short sessions every day. A typical play session will see you hopping on to check Nook's for a piece of furniture, running a quick fossil digging sweep for Blathers the museum owl, and returning some correspondence to a well-wishing neighbor.

Therein lies the fun. Instead of boxing you in with quests or time tests, Nintendo gives you the chance to live in a fully realized place. The longer you're in a town, the bigger impact you'll make. Fossil turn-ins will improve the museum, chores done for neighbors lead to civic improvements; Play long enough and you'll see some friendly faces move on to other towns and new animal-folks move in to take their place. Via an online component you can even visit the towns of friends, meeting their animal buddies and checking out what they've done for their community. Overall the online element is underwhelming, though. The joy of this game lies in being a member of a tiny, cute, furry community.

Animal Crossing is not for everyone. Even folks who played the original title on the Gamecube may not appreciate the re-envisioned Crossing; the collectable NES games are missing here, for example. If you can get past the seemingly absurd nature of the game, you'll find a kind of calm warmth can be had from participating in this goofy little neighborhood simulation. The portability of the DS makes interacting with your town during a spare twenty minutes an ideal way to play. That bus trip or waiting room interval is just long enough to make a few bells, file a mortgage payment, and send a dirty letter to your next-door neighbor. I loved it. It has everything that the usual gaming experience doesn't offer. Animal Crossing is all about community as a reflection, and in the commitment you make to some tiny animal buddies you may just find out something new about yourself.

  • Title: Electroplankton
  • Developer/Publisher: Nintendo
  • System:DS

Where Animal Crossing pushes the boundaries of what can be considered a game, Electroplankton leaps them easily. You're left wondering where exactly you've found yourself. Consisting entirely of interfaces you can use to manipulate musical elements, Electroplankton is as much a game as a guitar or a keyboard. The fact that it happens to be on the Nintendo DS means that a lot of gamers are going to end up encountering it at some point, poking at the swimming plankton in amusement and confusion.

This unique offering from Nintendo is a new way to experience music. There are several different types of music-making tools, referred to as plankton. Each plankton is a type of tiny 'living' creature that makes sounds as it moves about the world. The sounds are greatly varied in nature, and travel the gamut from remarkable recreations of instrument noises to digitized version of sounds that the players makes into the DS microphone. Making music is a matter of manipulating the plankton in new and different ways. The Hanenbow creatures are probably my favorite. They're launched from a small leaf-tube at a plant. The plant itself can be in various shapes, and each of the leaves on the plant can be oriented in 360 degrees of movement. When a Hanenbow plankton strikes a leaf, the chord is not unlike a harp being plucked. When it strikes a leaf, it ricochets off of the surface and (if other leaves are oriented to catch it) can continue to sound notes as it bounces from surface to surface. By orienting leaves appropriately beautiful melodies can be created. The Electroplankton site (flash) has flash movies of the Hanenbow and other planktons, and can give you a better idea of what the experience is like.

Some plankton are more one-trick ponies, but most of them have enough variability that you'll enjoy seeing what sort of musical experience you can get out of them. Playing with the plankton is an oddly soothing experience, as you watch the little guys moving about the DS screen while your musical arrangement echoes from the tiny system. There's something very Zen about the act of composing via plankton, a simple quiet that you don't get with more typical games like Mario Kart or Kirby.

The actual experience of play is something that should be experienced at least once. Younger people, who many never have been able to create their own music before, will be awed by the power the simple tools offer. Older players will appreciate the quality of design and the calm the experience exudes. Frustratingly, that moment of peace will not last forever. As sublime a design as Electroplankton offers, the lack of practicality it shows is infuriating. When you wish to return to real life, plankton-less, you'll be disappointed by an inability to save your compositions. There are no goals, no unlockables, nothing to goad a buyer into playing more of the game. It's absolutely nothing like a game at all, and in the United States that tactic is going to lead to lackluster sales. Without the power to save your work, working with Electroplankton is an entirely transitory act.

For me, my time with Electroplankton was introspective and enjoyable. I enjoyed the opportunity to make music, to experience something on a gaming system that wasn't reward-driven or fast-paced. In truth, I hope we see more experiences like Electroplankton in the future. Burnout is a wonderful game series, but gaming for the quiet moments is a worthwhile endeavor as well. That said, this is not a title I'd want to take on the bus and will not be something I'll be glued to months from now. As therapy or Zen-inducing music experience, Electroplankton is without equal. As a game, the title just goes beyond what I'm looking for in a software purchase.

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MMORPGs (3, Insightful)

HTL2001 (836298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726175)

MMORPGs generally don't have a win condition either.

Re:MMORPGs (2, Insightful)

voice_of_all_reason (926702) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726238)

I always thought it was "pkill [insert_enemy/guild_name_here repeatedly" until they can no longer play the game

Though, my MMORPGs I've played all included a death penalty, making the above very possible.

Re:MMORPGs (1)

hkgroove (791170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726260)

This one does, but only when you successfully create an egregious Human-Animal Hyrbid.

Re:MMORPGs (2, Funny)

subl33t (739983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726447)

"MMORPGs generally don't have a win condition either"

Not for the subscribers anyway. The vendors definitely have THEIR win condition... $$$

Re:MMORPGs (2, Insightful)

packeteer (566398) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726529)

This isn't entirely true. There are many "mini win conditions". Clearing all the way through a dungeon, or getting the perfect set of gear are current wint conditions. Just becuase you win though doesn't mean you need to stop playing the game. There are many non-MMO games with replayability factors that keep you coming back even after you have killed the hardest boss in the game. Back to MMO's however i believe you need to enjoy the game when you play it, not just after you beat it.

Re:MMORPGs (3, Insightful)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726642)

You raise a really interesting point, because Animal Crossing also consists of "mini win conditions." Paying off your house to Tom Nook is one, finishing up museums, or visiting friends to get different fruit trees, or collecting the various sets, or making lots of money on the stalk market... They're all ways to "win" in the game.

I suppose the one major difference is that it's a lot easier to see how to "lose" in an MMORPG. You can die, have your stuff stolen, and be in a situation where it's more work than fun to progress. In Animal Crossing, your ability to progress is based on how much time you put into the game -- there's no way to die, and it's quite hard to lose money.

Re:MMORPGs (4, Funny)

orthogonal (588627) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726747)

MMORPGs generally don't have a win condition either.

Not true!

First player to stop playing MMORGs, successfully escape his mother's basement, and get a real girlfriend wins.

Unfortunately, the winners are very few....

Re:MMORPGs (1)

TheKeeper (212278) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728603)

aww, can i get partial credit for 2 out of 3?
now to kick this ffxi habit...

Re:MMORPGs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14728778)

Moving upstairs and having a "realdoll" delivered does not satisfy the express or implied conditions for winning.

Re:MMORPGs (2, Insightful)

Yaztromo (655250) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727344)

Neither did Pac Man for that matter.

I guess the "young 'uns" around here forget that having a definitive end state in a game hasn't always been the case. For a very long time, video games were simply set-up to see how far you could go, and who could get the highest score in a repetitive system that simply became more difficult as time progressed (usually by simply running faster). Games were often as much about concentration and a test of reflexes, with a bit of path planning here and there, and rarely had any semblance of story. You just kept playing, trying to get your name up on the high score list, knowing that the only end was when your last life was consumed (or the last of your quarters :) ).


Re:MMORPGs (1)

foxwitt (307404) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728252)

But Pac-Man did have an end of a sort, as in the original game, if you managed to hit level 256, the byte that stored the level would roll over to 0 and it would become unplayable as the game tried to draw too many fruits.

Pac-Man page on Wikipedia []

ZONK: (0, Troll)

CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726177)

Take your faggy gaming stories and SHOVE THEM UP YOUR GAPING ASSHOLE. asdfasdfasdfasdfsdafsaefasdfasdf

Re:ZONK: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726527)

especially about games written by that llama fucker Yak.

FROST PORT!!1111 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726178)

fp. slashdot is gay with computers! []

Sim City? (1)

ro_coyote (719566) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726186)

"Electroplankton has no measure of progress, and Animal Crossing is more Sims than SimCity. Neither of them have a win condition."

And Sim City does..?

Re:Sim City? (1)

Quaoar (614366) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726221)

Of course it does! Just go below -100,000 in your treasury, and the game ends!

Re:Sim City? (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726467)


Re:Sim City? (1)

krakelohm (830589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727581)


Yes. Become a Megalopolis (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726420)

Become a Megalopolis is the win condition. Of course, you are free to keep playing.

Re:Sim City? (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726440)

AFAIR it did. You need to have the city to stable and prosperous enough to bring enough profit without extra attention to sustain itself, and generally "run by itself" (or something around these lines) plus 98% or more popularity. Then the game displays something about you being the most likely winner of the country's presidential elections, and then you're free to continue playing :)
(quite a few games dump you into a world "after victory" letting you explore, play minigames etc. You won but you can still play around.)

Re:Sim City? (1)

binkzz (779594) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726475)

Actually, you needed to get a score of 1000 to win, but it was impossible to get a score that high.

Re:Sim City? (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726556)

hehehe, a game with an impossible winning condition? :D
I wrote a pacman clone for my calculator. I managed to finish it in the normal mode, even though last 3 levels were a hell. (just imagine Pacman with most of the walls removed and no energy balls :) Then the game was switching to "expert" mode where after every life lost all the dots on the level would respawn so you have to start chomping anew. I never finished it.

Re:Sim City? (1)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727390)

Depends on which version you're talking about. I remember in Simcity2000, in the scenario mode, you could manage a city where a random nuclear reactor would meltdown and you had to clean up and restore the city. However, if you simply paused the game as soon as it loaded, bulldozed all your nuclear reactors and built new non-nuclear power plants, no nuclear meltdown would ever occur and you would 'win' a few months later simply because you 'cleaned up' the city so quickly. Lame method but it worked.

Re:Sim City? (1)

yanos (633109) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726524)

Well yes, Sim City has a goal: to be a good mayor. If you are not, then nobody will want to move to your town and you won`t be able to make enough money from taxes to expand. Essentially, if you reach that point, you failed.

In Animal Crossing, you don't even have to pay your mortage! You could just mess around and and keep all the money you made to yourself and the game will never punish you for doing so.

Animal Crossing supports wi-fi (3, Informative)

Chris_Jefferson (581445) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726195)

Probably should also be mentioned that animal crossing supports wi-fi. While the game is great without it, it's really nice to be able to pop and see your friend's towns, and trade items with them. If you have a few friends who play the game, it adds a lot, and makes you keep your town super-tidy :)

Re:Animal Crossing supports wi-fi (3, Funny)

idonthack (883680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726265)

Which is probably why it was mentioned in the review.

Re:Animal Crossing supports wi-fi (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726586)

They missed it though.

Having a "central town" where you can buy stuff or interact to find new people to visit would have really expanded the game.

although I do not think that the DS can handle drawing a thousand avatars on screen.

Create a interactive way in game to find others to mail, post notices, etc to would have made it way over the top.

Re:Animal Crossing supports wi-fi (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726748)

Way easier to visit other towns via wi-fi than to swap GameCube cartridges, IMHO.

This is very fun!

Re:Animal Crossing supports wi-fi (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14730112)

With the Wi-Fi, do your townspeople ever leave, never to be seen again? My son got rather upset when his favorite neighbors hit the road in the Gamecube version.

Animal Crossing has always been like that (5, Interesting)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726219)

there is no goal, other than what you provide.

Sometimes, I've gone on a tree-chopping crusade across villages, sometimes I've been a master gardener building a wide variety of fruit trees (and the ever elusive strawberry tree, or cherry tree with its blossoms), sometimes I've been a t-shirt collector, sometimes I've been out for gold making gold trees by burying sacks of 10,000 bells at a time.

Other times I've been a music collector.

Sometimes I've wanted lots of neighbors, so I've planted flowers and weeded everything to look nice - other times I've been a recluse, so I've put pitfall traps in front of my animal neighbors houses and laughed as they fell into them, and planted trees so they can't get out, while destroying all the flowers.

It's like the real world, except noone ever dies, they just move away and leave you to wallow in your pit of despair.

The Pit of Despair... (1)

smithsfan (681881) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726638)

... don't even think about trying to escape.

The experience (3, Insightful)

BigZaphod (12942) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726223)

I think certain game makers are starting to really exploit the idea that a game is about the whole unified experience and not about what you do or how you do it or even what the little pieces look like. It's about a kind of interactive virtual total-immersion. Trying to explain why a game is fun in terms of how you play and what the avatars look like is a bit like claiming poker is a great game because the rules for getting a full house are so simple and the little hearts on the cards are cute.

Atari? (3, Funny)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726225)

Have you ever played an atari game? More specifically an Atari 2600 game? Apparently they were so low on space, they just excluded optional things, like an ENDING. I mean, even Adventure... it has an end, but it DOESNT EVER END! You just keep running around. And what about Mario Bros. I spent 7 hours once trying to get to an end. I got to level 91 before kicking the damn console with a rage only matched by a scorned woman.

Re:Atari? (2, Interesting)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726395)

Level 50 of River Raid could be considered the last: the game doesn't change after that, the level of difficulty remains. H.E.R.O. has about 16 levels, from which last 4 run in a loop. Boulder Dash, AFAIR shows some congrats, then dumps you back to level 1. Blue Max plays a nice mellody, then loops you seamlessly back into the same route. IIRC, Moon Patrol has 3 worlds with 3rd looped around. Behind Jaggi Lines never ends. Montezuma has that last room where you multiply your items, but then you can go all the way back (to the beginning of darkrooms where the ladders seem broken) and kill everything that moves with multiplied swords, and then you're left in the empty world. Frogger just grows in difficulty towards impossiblity...

Personally I dislike games where you have no winning condition whatsoever... but they were quite common in the past.
Actually, unset frag limit, unset time limit and start deathmatch in any FPS, and you don't have a win condition either.

Karate Champ (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14729223)

My favorite along these lines was Karate Champ. Every round you won, the computer player would simply get faster while you stayed at the same speed.

Eventually, the computer player would get so fast that it could dash across the screen and hit you before you could even get a move off. That's how you "won". You got groin-kicked by the Flash.

Re:Atari? (1)

kisrael (134664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729331)

Hey there....
do you have a cite for the River Raid info?
I've always wondered about that... in fact I worked with a guy to try to map the thing out [] ... one time I used an emulator w/ a hacked ROM w/ infinite fuel and no collisions...I let it run over night, and when I came back the game was showing "impossible" configurations, with items where they shouldn't be viz a viz on water or land...

Re:Atari? (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14730608)

There were several implementations of River Raid so if you used a (any) ROM then it was likely other implementation than the one I was loading from tape (at 600 baud, argh!)
I cheated too, and in my version after level 50 it would just loop through several "typical" levels at the same difficulty (I got bored around lvl 150, as nothing was perceivably changing).
I guess the thing is, with each level the river grows more narrow, my version had a hard limit, your got to negative width values :)

Re:Atari? (1)

PyroPunk (545300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726398)

I used to love this game on Atari 2600 called Megamania. I played it until I got a score of 999,990 and then the game just stopped. I thought the game had frozen, but that was actually how the game ended, the score field wouldn't hold 1,000,000, so the game just stopped.

Re:Atari? (1)

HTL2001 (836298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726545)

The (built-in) hunting game for Sega Master System did almost the same thing... IIRC it could hold more than that in the score feild, but not in the "Goal" feild. Basicly, I had over winning score 2 levels before the last one (IIRC that was aroud 65.... maybe 64?)

At the end, it plays the "game over" music but prints out something telling you to go out and try real hunting I think

Re:Atari? (2, Funny)

Ykant (318168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726509)

You quit Mario Bros. at 91??? Dude, you only had 8 to go!

Re:Atari? (1)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726554)

They weren't really supposed to have an ending. Like Tetris and other games of the era, the older arcade and Atari games were designed to be played indefinitely. As far I know, video games that actually end came about with Nintendo - and in point of fact, some of them had no ending either, like Duck Hunt with that damned giggling dog everyone in all creation despised.

not true... (1)

BTWR (540147) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726740)

E.T. had an ending. He rebuilts his ship and goes home.

(and, contrary to an urban legend I've seen on slashdot, it IS beatable - it's just not a good game)

Re:not true... (1)

StalinsNotDead (764374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727454)

How'd you get out of that pit?

Re:not true... (2, Funny)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727556)

All you had to do to get out of the pit was press the joystick button, which raised ETs neck, then wiggle the joystick and he floated up. I mean... there were only so many things you could have tried with a 1 button joystick.

Re:not true... (2, Interesting)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727611)

And actually, you can do it in 5 minutes.

There are 3 (or 4) pits with phone peices in it. Get them. Then you run back to the screen where you started. Somewhere on that screen, while moving around, you will see a pizza pie thing appear at the top of the screen. Pushing your button activates this. All it is a counter to count down to when the ship will arrive. Run left one screen. Look for a little icon to appear at the top of the screen that looks like a helicopter landing pad. Just stand there. A ship comes and the game is done. The funny thing is, you cant figure ANY of this out without reading the instructions. For the longest time, I thought I was simply missing an elusive piece of phone. I just needed to go get the countdown pizza and wait for the ship.

Re:Atari? (1)

customizedmischief (692916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726758)

Sorry to hear that. There's a spectacular cinematic victory sequence when you beat level 95.

Re:Atari? (1)

rbochan (827946) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727033)

This is slashdot... what is this "woman" you speak of?

Re:Atari? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14730645)

Like a mare but with 2 legs and worse attitude. And costs more.

Mario Bros ending.. (1)

paullyjunge (953573) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729114)

You were so close! It actually ends at level 92, you should never have given up, its the coolest ending ever!

I'm waiting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726227)

You can design your own t-shirt logos in Animal Crossing DS. You can also design your own logo in Mario Kart DS. I'm just waiting for someone to pixelate the focal point of hello.jpg and give the kids a nasty surprise.

Life like games (1)

coolmaniac (867258) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726236)

Will we have a game like in the movie jumanji?

There's a word for this sort of thing... (4, Interesting)

santiago (42242) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726253)

It's called a toy, as opposed to a game. While Animal Crossing seems like a very open-ended game, Electroplankton is definitely a toy. It's a neat thing that has certain properties and lets you do stuff, and you can play around with it to see what's possible and what isn't. Given the historical popularity of physical toys, it doesn't seem that surprising that virtual ones are gaining ground.

Re:There's a word for this sort of thing... (1)

xMonkey (154829) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726306)

I agree with you, ElectroPlankton should be considered as a toy. A very cool and fun toy.

I love both of these games on the DS.

SimAnt (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726418)

It's called a toy, as opposed to a game.

Now that you mention it, this phrase was used in the SimAnt manual. It said something like: "This isn't a game, but a toy. A game has rules, but you can play with a toy however you like".

It may be worth mentioning that I got bored after playing SimAnt for a while :-/ There were no challenges.

Re:SimAnt (1)

Shadarr (11622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726784)

Heh, so did I. And at the time I loved ants.

The thing that makes Animal Crossing (I've only played the GC version, but I assume it applies) a game--and keeps me interested--is that although there is no pre-scripted story and you don't ever really "win", there are still goals and challenges. You have a mortgage, so there's a reason to try to earn money. Your house gets a rating, so there's a reason to try to improve it. Same with the town. It keeps track of every type of fish and bug you've caught, so there's a pokemon aspect.

Conversely, I played Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for a while and lost interest very quickly. There were all sorts of ways to make money, but there was nothing to spend it on so there wasn't any real reason to make money. If your farm had had a million dollar lien against it I probably would've played a lot longer than I did.

Re:SimAnt (1)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726864)

It may be worth mentioning that I got bored after playing SimAnt for a while :-/ There were no challenges.

This is why I played "The Sims" on the XBox far more than on the PC. The XBox version had a bunch of objectives to fulfill, whereas the PC version was nearly entirely open-ended. Having the objectives there prevents a lot of the "well NOW what?" feeling.

Incidentally, I was addicted to WoW for months until I got that same "well NOW what? I'm really not ACCOMPLISHING anything..." feeling, then quit and haven't been back since.

you just wait and see (2, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726256)

Neither of them have a win condition.

No win condition?

No win condition?

Well you just wait and see; Tom Nook's head will hang upon my wall.... Oh yes, it will.


Need a port of SimTunes... (4, Informative)

kisrael (134664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726262)

ElectroPlankton was by the same guy who wrote "Musical Insects" at the San Franscisco Exploratorium, which got redone by Maxis, called "SimTunes"...
here's a Wired article about the artist [] and here's a review of the software [] .

SimTunes was a paintprogram of sorts, except the canvas was transversed by 4 bugs, each could be mapped to a different instrument. Each color then would make the bug play a different note or sound effect, and there were also square modifiers to change the direction or motion of the bug.

It still had a sense of playfulness, you could just focus on making pretty pictures, but could be used as a semi-serious sequencing tool...unlike ElectroPlankton, pretty much any tune could be ported to it, plus there were some interesting tools like limiting the color pallete to a certain scale...

anyway, SimTunes only "kind of" installs these days and runs poorly. I'd love to see a port of it to a game console or better yet as some kind of web app (with a way of SAVING results, unlike Electroplankton...)

Re:Need a port of SimTunes... (1)

kisrael (134664) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729286)

A few updates to my original post:

The guy doesn't have much of a web presence, just an old site and the odd reference here and there.

The Exploratorium piece is Music Insects [] , not Musical...

Also, I forgot about the lost game of Toshio Iwai -- also by Nintendo, "Sound Fantasy"...sometimes described as a precursor to SimTunes, but some descriptions mentions "subgames", as opposed to SimTunes which was a single tool...maybe it was more like Electroplankton, then...

On Behalf of All Fans of... (-1, Flamebait)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726269)

...First Person Shooters, may I be the first to point out that these sorts of "games" are completely pointless and provide no entertainment whatsoever. If you can't frag anyone, it's not a real game. Period. ...Adventure Games like Myst and Riven, may I be the first to point out that these sorts of "games" are completely pointless and provide no entertainment whatsoever. If there's no bourgeois culture in the game, then it's not a real game. Period. ...Strategy Games like Starcraft and Diablo, may I be the first to point out that these sorts of "games" are completely pointless and provide no entertainment whatsoever. If there's no power or gold to attain and no enemy to overthrow, then it's not a real game. Period. ...MMORPGs, may I be the first to say, Thanks! I've found another way to spend 75% of my life doing nothing even though I think I'm doing something! Oh wait... that would be all gamers, wouldn't it?


Tom Nook is a Crook (4, Funny)

idonthack (883680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726286)

He won't break your legs? I was under a different impression [] !

Win conditions (1)

starX (306011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726326)

To some extent, I can see the argument of a lack of a win condition applied to the classic arcade games (Galaga being my current favorite). The sole point of playing these games is to continue playing them, at least in their modern incarnations where high scores tend not to be persistant or viewed by anyone but the sole proprieter of the game. Who cares if you've got the record high score if you're the only one playing? Yet we play anyway, more out of a sense of zen fulfillment than anything else.

Hmm... the path to enlightenment as revealed through video games... there may be something to that...

Re:Win conditions (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726661)

"Who cares if you've got the record high score if you're the only one playing? "
well, you should. How else do you track progress? How else to you test new strategies?

Re:Win conditions (1)

starX (306011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727190)

By how much Zen I achieve while playing, of course :)

Re:Win conditions (1)

OzPhIsH (560038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727473)

Playing for the high score is coming back in a big way thanks to online leader boards and services like nintendo Wi-Fi and X-Box live.

great review... (1)

ptorrone (638660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726359)

these are my two favorite "games" for the DS, nice overview.

Games are games. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726374)

Just because they're unconventional doesn't mean they aren't games. There are countless games that lack win conditions or a measure of progress in the traditional sense.

At the most basic level a game is played for some kind of emotional feedback triggered by the player's actions, ideally it's positive feedback, usually as stress relief or as an escape I suppose.

Those DS games are great, but let's not blow things out of proportion here.

Re:Games are games. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726707)

"At the most basic level a game is played for some kind of emotional feedback triggered by the player's actions, ideally it's positive feedback, usually as stress relief or as an escape I suppose."

that is called entertainment.
A game involves a score or win condition.

Man, people have some wierd thing about this.

A better question is... (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726380)

When is a sim or puzzle not a game? Last I checked, a "game" wasn't required to have an ending or have you earning points. Something is a game if it is fun (although that is arguable with some of the bad "games" we have all played). The only condition in which a game isn't a game in the traditional sense if it is used for some sort of training, which I'm quite sure these games most definitely aren't.... Sure, there are probably a zillion definitions of what a game is that are quite different then mine, and many will probably argue with my definition, but all in all, I think fun is the only requirement.

Re:A better question is... (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726695)

"Last I checked, a "game" wasn't required to have an ending or have you earning points."
Check again:
Game []

A puzzle has a goal you achieve.

A sim where there is no goal, is a toy.

There is nothing wrong with either of them.

Re:A better question is... (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729198)

And that same page also says "An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime: party games; word games." as the main definition. Most words have dozens of definitions, but it appears the main definition of game means something of entertainment or amusement. I've never played either of these games, but they sound damn fun. I will admit some of my comments may have been ignorant (Since I have no idea how Electroplankton works), but in general, they are still games. And games are often considered toys by many that didn't grow up with them.

Re:A better question is... (1)

7Prime (871679) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727763)

The only condition in which a game isn't a game in the traditional sense if it is used for some sort of training...

Since when? Many games have a purpose outside their entertainment value, which it seems you are referring to. Explain "theatre games" to me then? Everyone tends to agree that they're games, yet they're used to train different dramatic and theatrical responses. I don't think the qualifications of a game have anything to do with it's connection to real world material.

Re:A better question is... (1)

ShyGuy91284 (701108) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729349)

To sum it up, for me a game is fun or entertainment, and that is the only goal for the player. That opinion may be wrong to many though. Theatre games sound like education disguised as a "game" with your definition. Although what defines a game is pretty debatable I guess. But if I were to title theatre games as a game or a learning activity when education was the goal (and not as a learning game as it could be categorized), I'd consider them to primarily be a learning activity. But that depends on how they are used. And I'm well aware this sounds contradictory to my other reply, but the games in the review are games since they are played for entertainment and not education. Theatre Games used for training are more of an education exercise since education is the goal. Something can be both, but there's usually a primary reasoning behind their usage, and that's how I categorize what something is.

No furries pls (2, Funny)

AEton (654737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726402)

The joy of this game lies in being a member of a tiny, cute, furry community.

Not in public, please.

Safeguards in place! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726460)

If you try anything kinky, your DS alerts the Department of Homeland Security and sends out a squad of Human/Animal Hybrid Ban enforcers.

Animal Crossing is great for non gamers (2, Insightful)

saboola (655522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726407)

My wife is about as non-gamer as you can get. Well, I bought Animal Crossing for the Gamecube a few years back. She played it for months, eventually losing interest of course, but still for someone that did not usually play games this was quite a feat. I would highly recommend Animal Crossing or Animal Crossing Wild World for anyone that is not traditionally into games. As for Nintendo, I applaud them for this and other attempts at pushing the envelope and can only hope this goes on into the future. There should be more games like this. Not everyone wants the next GTA or Halo.

Re:Animal Crossing is great for non gamers (1)

J3M (546439) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727270)

My fiancee wasn't a big gamer either and I too got her hooked on Animal Crossing. So much so, that she was disappointed when I paid my last loan off first (got the gold statue). Everytime she plays now, she makes a comment about her "little silver statue". I've since lost interest, but it is a great game.

I also got her hooked on playing the Gameboy SP. She has beat more games on it than I have. Makes it much easier to buy games now if I can hook her on them as well. So thanks Nintendo! :-)

Re:Animal Crossing is great for non gamers (1)

blixel (158224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727476)

01001100 01100001 01101101 01100101 00100000 01010011 01101001 01100111

Lame indeed.

Mix a little fantasy and reality (1)

Dutchmaan (442553) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726517)

Make the game a reflection of your *real* life.. where it's bank account is your *real* bank account... and when it's paying bills it's REALLY paying bills... ;) and you can compete with other people as to who has the most efficiently managed life for incentive.

Who knows.. if people showed the same dedication to RL as they did their avatars, our world might actually improve a little!

Re:Mix a little fantasy and reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14726603)

Ever played Second Life?

Re:Mix a little fantasy and reality (2, Funny)

calethix (537786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727231)

I think my neighbors might get mad when I fill their back yard with trees and then pay off my mortgage selling all the fruit from those trees. :)

Re:Mix a little fantasy and reality (1)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727275)

You can't create a save point in real life for when you make a mistake or lose something.

Saving music (3, Interesting)

Tringard (595737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726519)

I thought I found the link on Slashdot, but perhaps not. A Nintendo rep recently explained [] a way to save your compositions to your PC (bit of a hack, but seems to work).

From the link:
For a very simplistic way of saving your compositions to your computer, get a male-male 1/8" audio cable ($3-$4 at your local electronics store). Plug one end into the DS headphone jack and the other into your PC's mic input. Then use a program such as Sound Recorder to capture the audio. Or research sound capture on the Intrynet using a search engine.

Re:Saving music (1)

VisiX (765225) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726664)

Of course he is ignoring that most people want to save their compositions to continue working on them later, which is not possible using this "solution".

Not the mic input, you fool! (2, Informative)

MS-06FZ (832329) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727046)

For a very simplistic way of saving your compositions to your computer, get a male-male 1/8" audio cable ($3-$4 at your local electronics store). Plug one end into the DS headphone jack and the other into your PC's mic input. Then use a program such as Sound Recorder to capture the audio.

If you connect your headphone jack (stereo) to your mic input (mono, most likely) you'll short out one of your sound channels and possibly blow the DS's audio amplifier. Plus the mic. input is attenuated for microphones, not line-level input, so it'll sound like crap. What you want is the line-in.

Besides which, this method of "saving" compositions doesn't allow things a true save feature would, like re-editing later.

I've only played the WMB download demo of Electroplankton (Beatnes) so I don't know if the full game is also like this - but in that demo any music you input only gets looped like 3-4 times, then it stops. So to create a continuous, full tune you pretty much have to keep inputting more notes. This goes beyond "no save function"/"no later editing" into the realm of the experience being completely momentary.

Re:Not the mic input, you fool! (1)

calethix (537786) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727337)

I've only played the WMB download demo of Electroplankton (Beatnes) so I don't know if the full game is also like this - but in that demo any music you input only gets looped like 3-4 times, then it stops. So to create a continuous, full tune you pretty much have to keep inputting more notes."

I also played the demo before buying it and I wasn't that impressed. The full version definitely has more to offer and includes some of my favorite modes that weren't in the demo.
I'll admit, I was hoping for more features like the ability to save and some basic editing but it was still worth it for me.
I can elaborate on some of the other modes if you're interested.

Other modes in the game (besides BeatNES) (1)

MS-06FZ (832329) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728620)

Knock yourself out.

I did enjoy BeatNES, and I know just a bit about the other stuff that's in the game - but it's still largely an unknown to me. If you'd like to elaborate on other features in the game I'd be interested in hearing about it.

The future of applications... (1)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726614)

A lot of people have to do relatively boring jobs which are now done in front of a screen. At least in the past there was limited activity involved - real interaction with fellow workers, handling real files and physical books.
Douglas Adams kind of predicted what I'm presenting here, but I think he had a point. This is the idea that eventually game technology will merge with business applications to produce "skins" around the applications that fit into a virtual world. For instance, doing your accounts (or even online banking...) will give you the option of doing it via metaphors ranging from the present field/dropdown/button to an immersive virtual reality in which you enter a virtual bank and interact with a virtual teller.
Why are we going to need this? Because otherwise what are the majority of people going to do for the rest of their lives? As the other well known Adams- Scott - has pointed out, the few interesting jobs going will gradually reduce in number and become available only to the most intelligent. Pulling in a third dystopian futurologist, Aldous Huxley, in Brave New World he speculated that many jobs would specifically not be automated to provide work for everyone. That works in a world with a small population, but not in ours. We need plenty of work for middle rank people that does not involve large expenditure of resources.

Virtual reality applications could address some of this. You can imagine a virtual reality in which the underlying messaging is pure business, but the metaphors are different at each end. The buyer may interact with the seller with the buyer using the metaphor of a marauding Viking and the seller using the metaphor of a bazaar in a Middle Eastern country, but the messaging will do the translation. When people get bored with their jobs they will change the metaphor or go to a company doing similar work but with a different corporate virtual world.

The main problem (and opportunity) with this as a concept is that the US way of doing business is to try to make the rest of the world behave like Americans. But the Chinese, the Indians and newly emerging trading states like Dubai won't wear this. Virtual reality metaphors could help facilitate world trade.

Also, by making it possible for people to do business in an interesting way while staying at home, they could significantly reduce world energy demands.

Any venture capitalists out there with a few spare billions and the urge to fund the next dotcom bubble - just post a reply and perhaps I'll get back to you. Or not.

Animal Crossing Online (1)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 8 years ago | (#14726673)

If you are looking for a place to find people who play Animal Crossing online I recommend [] . They have tools for sharing information in AC that are rather cool (like Turnip Watch [] ).

Hope you see you there.

nintendogs (1)

metroplex (883298) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727118)

isn't Nintendogs another game that hasn't got a precise goal?

Re:nintendogs (1)

Swanktastic (109747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727673)

isn't Nintendogs another game that hasn't got a precise goal?

Nintendogs didn't send Zonk a copy with a $100 bill tucked into the manual.

Have it .. Yawn. .. (1)

Computeradam (948872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14727435)

I have Animal Crossing, and ya, its a never ending game, but how much Animal Crossing can one play ?? Can't wait for New Super Mario Brothers and the Nintendo DS Lite!

When is an gaming editor not a gaming editor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14727540)

You would think an editor would know that a word can encompass multiple meanings.

And you would also think that a gaming editor understood what the word game [] means, and that these two games fit the word perfectly, even in its traditional context.

Apparently, you'd think wrong.

Re:When is an gaming editor not a gaming editor? (1)

Relic of the Future (118669) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728177)

Well, we are talking about Zonk; who redefines "editor" in general and "gaming editor" in particular in his own... umm... special way.

animal crossing is great for kids (1)

jwjcmw (552089) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728648)

Two of my kids, ages 7 and 9 (girl and boy) are absolutely addicted to Animal Crossing. They never have really gotten in to any of the more "action" oriented games that we have bought (Tak...which is very cool, and one of the Harry Potter titles...which was lame). They were kind of cool to Animal Crossing at first...but recently they have started playing it a couple of hours a day.

I don't know if it is related, but both of them are high functioning autistic, and I think the "life" in the game with it's very simple and clear set of rules is very appealing to them.

They also love Pikmin, but not like Animal Crossing.

I've also been wanting them to try Harvest Moon: It's a Wonderful Life. And Chibi-Robo.

mod do3n (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14728802)

The ASPCA should investigate Animal Crossing! (1)

Psykechan (255694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14728897)

I'm petitioning the ASPCA to investigate Nintendo's Animal Crossing for creating conditions that lead to virtual animal negligence and other cruelty. I am not directly referring to the animals in Animal Crossing as I seem to think that they are capable of taking care of themselves.

Unfortunately, the time that one must devote to gathering bells to pay off loans to that cursed raccoon causes the poor pups in Nintendogs to languish around the virtual house waiting for their owner to return to feed them, bathe them, and take them for walks. Yes, many 'dogs status are currently parched, famished, and filthy.

Won't someone please think of the Nintendogs?

Frist 4s0t (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14729173)

create, manufacture numgb3rs. The loss

Electroplankton a game and an artwork (2, Interesting)

mattr (78516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14729612)

Caveat, the author is a friend of mine. Toshio Iwai is a well known digital media artist who has done a number of works in which you compose music in one way or another, often using some kind of objects you can manipulate. Sometimes as simiple as a bouncy bal, other times you are herding a fleet of lights bouncing musically through a matrix like sound fireworks. So some of the things in the game are evolutions of some of his works. For example the donut spinners.. in recent years he has worked with displays projected from above onto a white table or in this case a white turntable.. you spin the turntable with your hand and something like a donut in the game appears. These displays are neat because you can make virtual controls sensed from above or below, giving an interesting non-crt tactile feel. Anyway, I also wanted to save things I made but it seems this may have been an artistic decision.. or possibly a technical limitation. One thing you may like to know is that at the Electroplankton launch in La Foret hall in Harajuku, Tokyo, the president of Nintendo came and gave a talk with Iwai and said the DS was made to a musical and interactive specifications so that it could play Electroplankton. There is also a wikipedia article [] about it. Incidentally a FAQ [] at gamefaqs says it is not a game because "Electroplankton has no measurable objective; you can't 'complete', 'finish', 'win' or 'succeed' at playing it." However I got a massive amount of enjoyment out of it and electroplankton is the necessary and sufficient reason I'd have for buying a DS, I think this definition of game and need to fit into even one's idea of what will sell is unneccessary. For example I went to XBOX Live! which is a large bar lounge Microsoft set up in Omotesando, Tokyo (near La Foret) and tried a couple games for the XBOX in particular one where you direct armies to fight each other and you have magical berserker powers. Without instructions I found it initially interesting but so hard to win, so shallow, and so painful on the fingers that after 30 games or so I just gave up and never want to look at the place again. For me anyway Electroplankton beats that "showcase game" hands down.. a different audience perhaps. I'd rather thank Nintendo for doing it and hope it sells enough for them to make more like it! P.S. also it beats hands down the Fly Pen I got my nephews for Christmas, by about 100x. It would be worth it to figure out how to hook up an amp to it and record to a pc.. heck worth buying a DS for them too I think. And better for their brains than yet another Harry Potter adventure though they love those too.
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