Flower, developed by That Game Company, a studio based in Santa Monica, CA, has allowed me to look into and play a part in the dream of a flower. Seems lofty, and superficail right? If any other studio/publisher would have attempted this game I think I would be saying that too.
What separates Flower from just another artsy attempt at interactive art? Almost everything about it. Its just a unique experience unlike any other game can give.
For instance, the only text you will ever read in flower (up until the credits that is) are the instructions when you hover of the game in the XBM, the ‘Hold any button’ to select a level (indicated by flowers in pots on a table, not by level names), and whenever you pause you’ll notice a "press Start to resume". Otherwise, it’s all about the flowers, the petals, and the wind.
I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of Flower, but that really only shows you how beautiful the graphics are, there’s nothing quite like being fully immersed in the dream of a flower.
To sway in the wind
Hold any button
In case you have been living under a rock, Flower is only on the PSN, and for a very fair $10 price tag in the US. Also, in case you didn’t know all the controls are with the Sixaxis. But fear not! This is no Lair, the PS3 game that flopped awfully because they tried a similar control scheme. I had to play it to believe it, but after the first few minutes in flower, controlling the wind is like second nature. In fact the control scheme, in my humble opinion, makes the game.
The only other control you have over the flowers is the speed of the wind. You can press any button to soar forward and pick up speed. This includes the analog sticks, however I don’t suggest you use them as it threw off my perception of where my flowers were going, I would be using the analog stick to turn just out of habit and instead of turning I would just soar in a straight line. So stick to a button, the triggers in the back work well because they are sensitive to the touch and you can better control your speed.
So here we are, a simple presentation with a simple control scheme to go along with it. Where does that leave you? Well if you have the sound on and you have a gorgeous TV it will leave you fully immersed in this world of absolute beauty. The tilting of the control finalizes the feeling that you are taking part of this amazing story.
Did I say story? Why yes… yes I did. Didn’t think a game about flower petals riding the wind could have a story? Don’t forget, this is a game of collective dreams from the flowers in the ‘main menu’. I use quotes because the main menu is also the pause menu, because there’s no text they just give you pretty graphics. There’s also no options, or … anything really, it’s all about the simple presentation.
To live and die as a flower
Flower is what gaming has been waiting for. It couldn’t have come from a big publisher because the suits are scared of innovations and making too many big changes that people won’t buy. But publishers let this be a message to you, just go look at the Top Downloads list on the PSN. What is at the top? A game about flowers. Who would have thought that hardcore PS3 users would want to play a game about flowers?
Well you are listening to the words of a ‘hardcore’ gamer whatever that means, and I haven’t played a game this year that has surprised me or delighted me more than Flower. I was surprised at how the gameplay could be more than just hitting flowers with other flower petals, even though thats what you will do at first, the developers added more gameplay mechanics than you would think.
The sound, oh the sound. Turn it up to 10 guys, the sound is part of the immersion process. The orchestra as you hit flowers will relax you past a point you thought video games could take you, and without killing a single person! From light-hearted to dark the music matches the levels perfect and makes you understand the story further.
With no words, with no voice overs, and no text to lead a narrative, how did ThatGameCompany accomplish telling a story with wind,petals, and windmills? I would hate to spoil it so I wont. The use the medium of sound/very very short animated clips of the city that the main menu is taking place in, and what your flower does in each level traces the plot arc. You may not believe me, but each level has a different feel, and each level evokes a different emotion, and by the end of the game you just feel like a flower with a cause.
I can’t be any less vague in case of spoiling things, but this game has raised the bar on DLC content for me, and for games in general. But even after you are done with the story you will be begging for more Flower, enough so that you go back and play the levels all over again.
For you ‘I want to collect everything in every game I play’ people out there, there are 3 flowers in each level are that ‘hidden’. They are 4 leafed clovers and if you find all three in a level, the flower that you chose to dream through in the main menu will blossom to its fullest.
So good hunting stalker.
More flower… please?
The Rating (5 out of 5)
Its difficult to review a game that sets new standards for what can be considered a game. But here’s my two cents:
The graphics are simply astonishing, and when your flower petals rush through the grass and push blades of grass aside, which push other blades further it is simply breath taking.
The sound is soothing, and dynamic for specific levels and it really ties the experience together. From the musical notes you hit when opening a flower to the background music, it all flows so well together.
The gameplay is instantly engaging, the learning curve is very low, and the dynamic of the gameplay changes with each level. I don’t want to spoil anything but you aren’t just picking flowers, even though you are kind of just picking flowers… but seriously there are other gameplay antics.
Overall Flower has been the best thing I’ve played, and I’ve played the Killzone 2 demo. It is a relaxing experience that puts you in a state of awe due to the immersion it enacts upon the player. As an interactive art piece I would give it a 10, but as a video game I only give it a 9.9 with its one flaw being, there’s no more Flower to me to play.