|2009-03-02||PS3||Casual||E (Everyone)||SCE / thatgamecompany|
I've heard many people express their dissatisfaction with titles like Flower, those titles that provide a truly unique experience and ask for more from players than simply blowing the heads off of robots or flesh-hungry zombies - games that make you think. After looking at a few screenshots for Flower, many simply shrug, say "I don't get it," and move on. But for those that do "get" what thatgamecompany was setting out to do with this interactive poem of sorts, Flower is a memorable and definitely worthwhile experience.
Flower places you in control of a gust of wind, represented on screen by a single flower petal. As you maneuver through the game's six different levels, you will be asked to guide your petal through flower buds in order to force them to bloom and release one of their petals to join you on your journey.
While the game in its entirety is focused around a central theme of bringing color and nature back into a world where it has been stripped away by industry and the growth of cities, each individual level contains a smaller theme and goal, such as returning life to a dead tree, powering up wind turbines or removing malfunctioning machinery from the landscape.
All of the above is achieved via use of the PS3's Sixaxis capabilities, which provides for the directional movement of your petal, with any one of the buttons (except start and select) allowing you to control your speed.
Adding a real sense of depth to the title is the fact that each level contains two types of flowers, those that must be bloomed (think "activated") and those that are there simply to further flesh out the experience. Mandatory flowers are surrounded by an ethereal glow, while optional flowers are not, with activating groups of mandatory flowers being similar to pulling a switch or pressing a button to trigger a subsequent series of events.
What at first may appear to be nothing more than a beautiful take on a Windows screensaver quickly becomes a grand, emotional journey through nature, as you desperately try to return light and life to an environment almost completely devoid of both. The first three levels take place in vast, open landscapes, connected by low valleys or rock lined trenches, but by the time you begin the fourth level, set in the pitch-black of night, the emotional level is increased ten-fold.
An experience that was once a joyful romp through green prairies takes on a sense of dread as dark, moody music leads to explosions of thunder and lightning in the distance as you race to return power to street lamps and electric lines. These power lines mark a path into the city proper, and in the game's fifth level, everything good and wholesome about the title is replaced with a mechanic that is more than just a bit sinister, and which tasks you with bringing life to flowers precariously located under live electrical pylons, which, when touched, singe your petals and temporarily obscure your view with a cloud of black smoke.
These two levels in particular are worth the purchase price of Flower even if they were all the game contained due to the fact that they induce a real sense of urgency and offer a level of difficulty not found in other levels, especially for those who are interested in collecting the game's 14 trophies, the most difficult of which asks you to make your way into the city without being singed by the aforementioned pylons.
Two other trophies add undeniable replayability to the title, as one asks you to bloom 10,000 flowers, and the other to collect all three secret bundles of green flowers in each level (some are hidden, while the growth of others must be triggered by blooming all flowers of a certain color, etc.).
By the time you return life to the big city, you will have spent around 2-3 hours with the title, which is designed in such a way as to keep you coming back for more even if all you wish to do is sit and stare at the stunning graphical design.
From looking at the first screenshots of the game, it is obvious that Flower is something to behold. Each blade of grass, each petal in your tail has a life all its own and reacts independently to the wind and your movements. The environments are absolutely gorgeous, filled with blue skies or ominous rain clouds, depending on the level, and sound effects that truly bring the experience to life.
The game's soundtrack adds to the magical quality of the title, with a customary mood-setting score being accompanied by individual notes each time you "bloom" a flower, with blue daffodils releasing notes from what sounds like a xylophone, yellow lilies being represented by the ringing of bells or chimes, and red gerbera daisies giving off notes from orchestral violins, just to name a few.
What the game may lack in length is more than compensated for not only by its technical quality, but also by is far-reaching narrative, its juxtaposition of the gritty, desolate urban jungle and the purity of Mother Nature, with the comparison between these two extremes having the potential to spark thought of such ethical and moral dilemmas as to affect each gamer in a different way.
With no written storyline, no structured characters, and in fact very few references to living, breathing humans whatsoever (with the exception of one of the first images presented to players, that being of a congested city street filled with the blur of taillights and headlights), Flower forces players to think about the plight of nature from the perspective of nature itself.
Once you begin, there is no escaping the thoughts of pollution, overpopulation and other environmental concerns that are so heavy on the minds of many in today's society. How players react to this theme within Flower is up to them. Do you feel empathy for the barren surroundings humans now inhabit, and wish to help them learn the error of their ways, or do you side more with nature, feeling that man deserves its sterile atmosphere for having been so thoughtless in its actions?
This entire topic of thought and conversation may seem out of place in a game review, or in the industry as a whole, but Flower is more than just a game, and is without doubt deserving of each and every word of praise being thrown its way. To put it simply, Flower is epic, endearing (even addictive), and well worth the $9.99 price tag. My only complaint is that it doesn't last longer than it does.
Special thanks to Andrew Hussey and thatgamecompany for providing a copy of this title.