PSN gets its shit together and starts growing roses.
I’ve played many games as a gun toting Marine, some as a gun toting car, a couple as a sword wielding ninja and even one as vicious wolf. Never before have I played a game as the unarmed wind, and never have I played a game quite like Flower before. It’s an unashamedly arty game and is about as far removed from most other games as you can imagine. When I first started to play this I was wondering whether or not it even was a game, and questioning how it would stand up aongside more traditional games, but by playing flower it became apparent this was something particularly special.
The opening titles of the game ease you into play without you fully expecting it and before you know the game has started and you find yourself staring at a window sill with a strange looking plant. A slight tilt and a press of a button and you’re into the game. Flower is disarmingly simple in its execution as it uses only one button and the motion sensing tilts of the six axis to control the whole game It is an odd control method and initially it forces you to consciously think about what it is you are doing, but after a couple of minutes the scheme feels natural and relaxing.
Graphical the game is genuinely beautiful with a crisp yet simple style, bold use of colours and prevailing feeling of a haunting loneliness. The way the grass parts as you drift over it and the way the flowers sway and burst open in your presence makes the game come alive, added to this are some lovely understated sound effects which complement the action brilliantly. The sound also comes into play with the way in which you create musical notes when you blow over the flowers, and when you blow over multiple flowers or follow paths of flowers the musical notes chime individually and fit magically in place with the rest of the music. All these different aspects to the game add up to a truly unique experience.
The game takes place in fields and other organic outdoors environments which are initially dying and dark and you are tasked, as seems to be the trend now-a-days, with bringing life, colour and vibrancy back to the scene. You control the wind which you use to swing effortlessly round the map and brushing past flowers, whenever you touch a flower you attract one petal which gets dragged along behind you in a kind of tail. Before you know it you’ll have hundreds of multicoloured petals flowing behind you in a kind of giant kite tail. You need to touch a certain number of flowers before the next area of the map become accessible and you can blow on over to create more greenery.
I’ve recently realised that I buy more PSN games than I do XBLA games. Not too sure why. Perhaps due to the fact that not all PSN games have free trials with them so if you are curious then you’ve got to commit to buy. By this logic does that mean some is more likely to fork out for the tried and true scrolling blaster or the more unique â€œI don’t think a website blurb can really sum up this kind of gameâ€ game. Flower is the latter.
Ostensibly a game where you are making a small bit of fluff fly around checkpoints, all the while making plinky-plonky noises and pretty colours. The more flowers you cause to bloom the more areas that become clear to travel through. As you fly around and bloom flowers the world becomes more colourful (brilliantly so on the later levels). With all the flying you never really feel lost or confused as the camera normally points the right way. The controls must get special reference as I avoid every option to use the six-axis tilt-oh controls in any ordinary game. here they aren’t just essential, they’re enjoyable and remarkably responsive – made me change my view of them.
It’s a game that is rather pretty looking, has a unique gameplay to it and a captivating sound track and a simplicity to it which added to the enjoyment. Not so sure why but I reminisced about Braid as I played this one, unlike Braid however this game makes absolutely no allusion about having no story in it. The 6 levels are varied and keep you playing and if Steve hasn’t already said, the last few levels were certainly a joy to behold.
Overall I’m not sure that I can actually classify Flower as a game. Not wanting to sound pretentious or anything but it was more an experience than anything else and as such I am more hesitant then ever (I probably have said this before) to give it a score. Do you want to try something that is a little bit different?
Secondary Score: 7/10
But it’s not just greenery you create, you can also paint the grass in different colours which you unlock through revitalising certain parts of the landscape. This tool is there for no other reason than to allow you to just sail round the environments painting swathes of colour as you go, and the ability to just sail round the maps forms a large part of the attraction of this game.
I’ve waffled on now about how arty and beautiful this game is, and I stand by the view that this is a major selling point for the game. However the decision to pursue a very stylised game does come with some rather large drawbacks. The common handles we all use in games aren’t present here, and the game suffers from this just as the artistry of the game benefits. There are no identifiable scoreboards and there is no way in which to pursue a higher score or a better run. Also there is no way to die and with no time limits it’s effectively impossible to end the game unless you choose to. There are also issues with the controls and although these work perfectly in wide open environments, there are a couple of levels in which the map closes in on you and the control scheme just isn’t responsive enough. But these niggles are few and far between and are infrequent enough to not ruin the game. The game is very short too being split into five main levels and has a couple of secrets at the end, but all in all the game is very short. This appears to be a conscious decision as it allows each level to have a distinctive tone and style and to serve a different aspect of the story. Whilst this length does mean the game won’t outstay its welcome, it does leave you wanting more and wondering whether you’ve been short changed.
For me it was the last two few levels of this game which made me fall in love with it. You can have all your RPG’s spanning three discs with your ten hours of cutscenes but there are few games which can tell a genuinely affecting story with no words. The progression from green fields to a more urban environment is thoughtfully told with just the right pitch of emotion. These later levels were some of the best I’ve played in any game and will remain with me just as the closing sections of Shadow of the Colossus do.
This game clearly sacrifices immediacy and accessibility in the pursuit of artistic vision, and the actual gameplay does suffer for this. However it manages to carry off the visual, audio and narrative elements with such skill that you come to accept its shortcomings. While not a lengthy game by any stretch it does deliver a consistently enjoyable experience and one which will remain in your mind for a long time. Flower is a welcome bright spot in the general gaming landscape which seems to be made up almost entirely of guns and greys and I applaud it.