That Game Company are no strangers to oddity software, whilst also being responsible for the unusual, yet mesmerising flOw. Now they're back with a title that continues to challenge the definition of what a game is.
Flower is more than just a technical demo, it's an assault on the senses. Beginning a level in flower is like sweeping into a dream – escaping from what is the grim reality of the world; it is very welcome change from the killing in Resistance Fall of Man, or the bloodshed of Killzone 2.
The point of Flower is to make a grey drab high-rise city flat colourful, warm and happy (and this is also how the game makes you feel). The player starts off with a single petal, and using the wind (and six-axis controller) as a guide, must touch the wilting grey plants to brighten and tint the world. It's like painting by numbers, Pleasantville style. Flower shows that it is possible to use the tilt-motion of the six-axis in a serviceable way; there's no awkwardness, just natural motion which suits the sweeping movement of the petals floating on the wind – it simply works.
As each flower is touched, the lonesome petal soon gathers friends in a rainbow of colours, it's such a relaxing experience with a wonderful interactive score. There are definite nods to Rez here: as the petals touch a flower, and the entourage grows, the orchestra plays different notes, encouraging the player to extend the composition with each pass through the meadow of grass.
All flowers with halos have to be touched, and although it seems as if the game world is there to be explored, it's pretty much an on-rails experience. It's never possible to escape off a map, or go the wrong way, instead the game cleverly moves the stream of petals with a gust of wind, to point the gamer in the right direction. In this way the game never removes the player from the experience, in fact it simply adds to it.
There will be some that won't understand the point of flower, and the game isn't for everyone; there are no menus to speak of, no high-scores, no rankings – the idea is just to experience the environments, to enjoy the colours and music – to just be. Indeed, leave the controller alone for a while and things will go all screen-saver; allowing the player to drift away with the calming score.
If there is anything negative that could be said about flower, it would have to be its length. With only seven areas to explore, all of a similar theme, the experience will be over in just a couple of hours, but what hours they will be. Flower is a game that can bring a smile to the face of the most hardened and miserable old man.
One word can sum up Flower, and that would be tranquil. The classical interactive score is soothing, and the graphical opulence is breathtaking – there are moments of shear beauty in the striking sunsets. Flower is like sitting in the middle of a huge field of poppies in the height of summer, miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city, with just the warmth of the sun on your skin. It's a wonderful addition to the PlayStation Network.
Marty has been gaming since the heady years of the ZX-81 and still owns most of the gaming systems purchased since those days, including the Atari 2600, ZX Spectrum, SNES, Jaguar, Dreamcast and GameCube. Being a collection junkie (or more accurately, hoarder), he buys more games than he can possibly play, far too many of which are still sealed in their packaging. Marty favours RPGs and Driving games when it comes to genres, and is possibly a little bit too addicted to Disgaea. When not gaming he’s out frightening OAPs on his motorcycle, clad in black leather.