For a game that appears so simple, Flower feels incredibly poignant. There seems to be a weight of ideas behind it; some sort of message that isn’t delivered through speech, but through a combination of vibrant colour, sound and a unique approach to gameplay.
Flower is beautiful in so many ways, the thousands of individual blades of grass that ripple in the breeze, the multitude of flowers, each one a bright spot of colour, that unfurl as your petals come into contact with them, the light the illuminates the countryside silhouetting the various rocks and structures, the sky, which on one level is a brilliant blue and on another a spectacular sunset red. These things combine through excellent art direction, to ensure that Flower is, aesthetically, a game that stands out amongst the crowds of grey shooters that are this generation’s current graphical powerhouses. This is all the more impressive when you consider that Flower is at heart, a downloadable indie title.
The gameplay is simple; you start with a single petal that you glide across an area of countryside using the SIXAXIS tilt controls, your aim is to bring the area to life by pollinating the many flowers that populate the level, to do this you must brush past each one, which will cause it to unfurl and free another petal to join you, until eventually you are followed by a wave of different coloured petals that form a vast procession behind you. The levels are linear, but it’s hard to notice, as you bring to life a certain patches of the flowers more areas become flushed with colour, and more un-pollinated flowers sprout, leading you onward toward the end of the level. This takes the form of a whirlwind of petals, usually standing alongside some object of special interest such as a dead tree or an inactive Wind Turbine, and when activated will completely rejuvenate the level that you are on. This is the best use of the SIXAXIS controls that I have seen so far, but I think this is helped by the pace of the game, and the fact that there is no real need for precision.
There is no storyline to speak of but according to thatgamecompany each level is designed to represent a flower’s dream. The game’s menu screen takes the form of a rundown apartment, and before each level there are a few screens that revolve around chaotic city life, that hint at some underlying themes focusing on environmental protection and the beauty of nature. As you complete each stage a different flower appears on the desk in the apartment, and the general state of the place seems to improve. That being said the game’s primary focus is on relaxation and escapism, and it certainly does not preach at you, yet at the same time it encourages reflection and introspection. Even the way in which it rewards trophies is thoughtful and intelligent in design and contributes to the peaceful tone of the game.
Everything about this title contributes to an atmosphere of serenity, at points the game has an almost magical quality to it. The sound is absolutely spot on, with gentle melodies perfectly matching each moment of exploration, yet never intruding on the gameplay, and the subtle minor effects that can be heard as you brush past a flower, or watch colour roll through an area, perfectly capturing the feeling of wonderment as you watch everything unfold.
Understandably the things that will make this game so appealing to some will be an utter turn off for others. There are no objectives beyond the simplistic, restore the area to life, and it is not an exciting game to play there are no high scores to get, and essentially there is no challenge to the game. In fact it pretty much pushes the boundaries of what a game can be, and will probably be used as part of the “can games be art work” debate. If the idea of floating around as a flower petal sounds horrendous to you, there is little that this game will do to change your opinion.
If you are looking for a different, laid back experience from your PS3, then you will find flower an immensely rewarding experience, thatgamecompany has achieved something really special, following in the spiritual footsteps of Flow, and yet evolving into something that feels much more complete, memorable and moving.
A beautiful game, filled with bursts of colour, the best looking PSN title to date bar none.
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It's simple, and relaxing, which saves it from it's repetitive nature.
The subtle effects and excellently selected soundtrack perfectly suit the game.
It's unlikely you will be playing this for hours at a time, but you might come back it now and again.
A truly unique title, peaceful, elegant, and thoughtful, even if it's simple and short.