Does it qualify as a game if there are no rules, no goals, no levels, no points, and, umm, no point? Take a dose of whatever mood-altering substance allows you to enjoy Teletubbies (or Everybody Loves Raymond), then fire up the Nintendo DS exclusive Electroplankton and haltingly answer, "Huh? Were you talking to me?" A game (?) so unusual and mesmerizing that it's more like a shiny bauble, Electroplankton has the foresight to include something called "audience mode," wherein you don't even have to press any buttons—you just watch. Unless you're really wrecked, though, you won't be able to keep the stylus off the touchscreen for long. Electroplankton offers 10 different modes of play, each involving various shapes (plankton, fishies, snowflakes) that you manipulate into making hypnotic, occasionally beautiful, often chaotic music. "If Björk were here," you might think, "she could totally sing some shit over this."
Created by bona fide Japanese artist Toshio Iwai (he's collaborated with director Hayao Miyazaki and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto), the sounds and images are simple but almost shockingly addictive. Like samplers for elementary-school kids, several modes ("Tracy" and "Rec-Rec" among them) are loop-based and quickly interactive. "Rec-Rec" uses the DS' microphone to grab four sounds—your voice or whatever you input—which then loops. Fish swim by. Most of the sounds are sonically advanced ("Marine-Snow" is like playing a piano, but with snowflakes), but "Beatnes" offers a past-blast via the original music and noises from Super Mario Bros.
Beyond the game: Iwai suggests that you "place your DS nearby and watch and listen to Electroplankton like a CD player. And take part in the performance whenever you feel like it." Can't do that with GTA3, can you?
Worth playing for: That incredible feeling of knowing you're doing something completely pointless that just feels good.
Frustration sets in when: There's little to frustrate, but you might drop your Zen-like state and get bored. Also, you can't save your freaky-good compositions to send to A&R guys. No one will believe that killer tune you came up with, either.
Final judgment: Like those children's books that make noise or the shiny gum wrapper you can't stop folding and unfolding, Electroplankton is strangely addictive and impossible to keep your hands off once you've started playing.