Review by LunarSonata
Every now and then I get the urge to play something different from the norm, something different from the everyday explosive action adventure featuring hardened space marines. Sometimes I want an experience which I can play at my own pace whilst simply sitting back and admiring it. This kind of mood and game don't come around often, but when they do it really is a refreshing change. Flower for me was the perfect fit for this mood. You play in the dream of a flower, drifting lazily across vast field blooming other flowers in your path. A strange concept is it not? Weird it may sound, but simply put, it's a unique and emotional experience unlike anything you've ever played before.
The first level kicks off in a lush field. You guide your flower petal around using the sixaxis, and pressing any button to accelerate your petal in the direction you are headed. Push lightly and you'll go at a slow pace, push a little harder and you'll drift at a reasonable speed. This control set up has disaster written all over it, but somehow the sixaxis manages to hold up quite well. Actually, it's rather fantastic. These are some of the most appropriate motion controls I've ever experienced in a game, which is quite humorous considering this isn't even a Wii title. It takes a small amount of time to get used to, and when you do there isn't any trouble at all darting around in the wind.
You come across a track of flowers, which are yet to actually bloom. You soon sort that out by flying over them, and when this happens some petals join into your train of petals. By the end of a level, you'll have a vast array of different coloured petals following you, making for a majestic appearance indeed. To progress through a level you'll need to bloom a certain amount of flowers, and this will usually open up a new path somewhere in the environment where you can progress.
There we have it. That is the general formula of the entire game. Each of the 6 (well 7 if you count the credits level) adds a somewhat unique twist however. In some levels there will be lots of windmills for example, in another you can effectively paint the ground with a luminous light which lights up the surrounding darkness. That by the way is one of favourite sections of the game.
No doubt some will be worried this all sounds slightly, well you know, pretentious. It's difficult to analyse such a concept though. What really is the game's overarching message? Does it even have a message? The story (yes, there is a hint of a story tying the levels together here) suggests there may be. I definitely think it has an aim of relaxation, but we'll get to that later. Having said that it may just be a game trying to be a breath of fresh air, and by all means it completely succeeds.
As for relaxation, Flower offers this in spades, apart from the much disliked level 5. This paragraph will contain some light story spoilers, so be warned. Basically midway through the game, the gorgeous field environments vanish and a murky urban landscape begins to creep in. This is first introduced with incredible impact at the end of the 4th level. It catches you off guard and its simple concept shocks you. Level 5 develops on this concept, with some hazards along the way. Some find this level dark and frustrating, but I didn't really feel this way. The game suddenly gives you a sense of purpose to bring colour back to the dark city. It's such a contrast from the rest of the game, and somehow it sets up a somewhat intimidating protagonist in the form of the city. The story comes full circle in the fantastic final level, which ends up leaving you with a feeling of triumph and satisfaction. It's uplifting. The fact that Flower manages to leave you with all these feelings with such a minimal story and game play is amazing to me.
As for other emotions you will experience, well that is down to who you are on a personal level. There isn't anything in this game which you make you emotional on face value, at least not for me. However, playing Flower made me reflect on myself. I replayed the first few levels in the beautiful fields, and my mind began to drift. I still played on, but the game play is so simple and nice to watch it almost becomes hypnotic as you reach into your own thoughts. If I had to draw some kind of comparison, it would be like listening to your favourite music whilst taking a walk or falling asleep. I almost wish I could just run the game as a background on my PS3 profile, but alas. Flower is what you make it at the end of the day, and if you can't appreciate it's generally laid back nature you won't fully appreciate it.
Oh god, now I'm the one who sounds pretentious. Who knows if this was the intended nature of the game, but it's how it works for me. I haven't even mentioned how great the game looks yet with all this waffling, but rest assured it looks fantastic. This is the kind of high standard I like to see on a PSN title. The music also completely stands out, adding to the other hypnotic aspects. It's very majestic sounding, and you even add your own little sounds in as you bloom other flowers throughout the game.
Is it worth buying? Of course if you're into this kind of thing. It isn't the longest of games, but it's only a downloadable title so there should be no complaints, Flower is worth the small asking price. Replay comes in the form of replaying for the pure joy of it, but also in the form of trying to find all 3 hidden flowers in each level. This certainly makes it feel more game-like so is a welcome addition, although it somewhat disagrees with the notion of relaxation and free flow flying about. If I had one main complain it would be that. Sometimes there were so many flowers to bloom I almost felt worried I was missing some, and I would occasionally fly backwards trying to find them all. Maybe this is my fault for having a bit of OCD, but it does ruin the flow of the game sometimes.
None the less Flower is easily worth it, and I give it a very high recommendation. Here's hoping some form of expansion comes out soon.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 11/30/09
Game Release: flower (EU, 02/12/09)
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