Review by yodaslightside
"Is everything rosy in the garden? Not quite - there's a couple of nasty weeds..."
Flower is one of the newest games available through the PSN. It has been touted as a poem in videogame form, a break from the conventional gaming, a refreshing and new approach to play. It's certainly different, but spend your money with caution.
Aim of the game
So, you're the wind, whistling through various landscapes, brushing by flowers as you go and picking up petals, thus releasing the flowers from their slumber and colouring the world as you go. There's an overblown and faintly ridiculous theme of combatting urban sprawls as you go, giving the land back to nature, but it all comes off as a bit trite and insulting. There's one level where you have to batter electricity pylons out of commission, as they sprout from the sides of buildings, like metal tentacles. In another level, however, you are required to use flower-power (bear with me here) to actually galvanise the pylons, creating electricity to smash a barrier. The game can't seem to decide if electric power is a good thing or not. Seeing as it powers the PS3, enabling me to play the game in the first place, I think I'll side with the electrons here. In the same level, you have to switch on, wait for it, electric fans, in order to get to the top of a building. The game just can't settle down.
However, this environmental theme that the game is built around is handled in such a clumsy and overbearing manner, that I found it becoming one of my chief annoyances with the game, and it just got worse as it went on. Rolling around fields making the flowers grow I can get on board with, but flying down a highway, making daffodils sprout from the tarmac? It's like Day of the Triffids, but nicer. Overall, the impression is quite insulting to your intelligence and almost comically overplayed.
Much has been made of Flower's harnessing the PS3's power to animate each and every blade of grass that inhabits the gameworld. And when you have the opportunity to whiz through the rolling fields, it's certainly pleasing to watch the greenery unfold before you like you're some kind of wind-powered Moses. The flowers that you're required to touch are usually clear and easy to spot. They also usually follow lines, so your direction is almost always clear. The effects that frequently occur when you've achieved a particular sequence of flowers, or completed some task, are quite cool, like fireworks on the ground, but happen a little too frequently, jarring against the pitch of the game. Night time levels are a little trickier to navigate, as you can't see very far, but following glowing flowers will usually help. For my money, the night time levels don't look as nice as the daytime stages, but this may be a personal thing.
Music and sound
Definitely the high point of the game. The orchestral sounds are very relaxing, for the most part, and themes and moods are expertly explored. Each petal you pick up lends a note to the symphony, which is a nice touch, and always seems to 'fit', no matter how fast or slow you may be travelling. Things build to an impressive crescendo with the progress of each level, and you never get bored of the music.
Gameplay and controls
The game is one of the few on PS3 to make extensive use of the motion sensors in the Dual Shock 3. It's pretty simple - you press x to go forward and then 'steer' by tilting the pad this way and that. Now before I go on, there's something you must do, if you haven't already. Go to gametrailers or youtube or some other site, and look at some trailers for the game. What you'll see is a beautiful ribbon of petals, soaring over the landscape with wanton abandon, releasing flowers in an effortless cornucopia of speed and grace, easily tilting this way and that, majestically and seemingly without difficulty.
Man, they did an awesome job of selling the concept with these trailers. It's true, there are a few moments in the game where you get the space and opportunity to do exactly what you see in the trailers, hold down x and just go for it, and it really is a blast - for the four seconds or so it lasts. Most of the time, you're forced to turn in tight, slow circles, tapping x as you move painfully slowly around - and then again, if you missed just one flower in the sequence. The grace and freedom promised in the game, and to be expected - you're playing the wind after all - just isn't there. Progress is one difficult revolution after another, leaving the gamer endlessly twisting the pad in ever more exaggerated motions to make another tight turn at a snail's pace. And then another. And another. It becomes hugely frustrating and annoying, despite the game's attempts to relax and calm you. In all honesty, I felt calmer getting thrashed in Killzone 2 multiplayer, than I did trying to get through a couple of stages of Flower.
I really tried to like Flower, and recognise that games like these need support, or the industry will stagnate, and we'll all have to put up with Gears of War 5. But the concept is so poorly executed, the controls don't really cut it and there's so little incentive to replay it, you really have to question whether it's worth the, admittedly small, asking price of ten bucks. There's so many better games for the same price available on the PSN that I really can't recommend this to anyone; if you're going to spend ten dollars on the PSN, get Pixeljunk Monsters, Age of Booty or Super Stardust before this; they'll last longer and you'll have a whole lot more fun.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 03/17/09
Game Release: flower (US, 02/12/09)
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