Following up on their success with the PlayStation Network favorite Flow, thatgamecompany returns to the PlayStation 3 with Flower, a game that attempts to capture the poetry of a flower petal riding the wind.
Utilizing the PlayStation 3's tilt-sensing Sixaxis controller, Flower casts you as a flower petal cast into the wind, traveling multi-colored, abstract fields, colliding with other flowers in order to achieve various goals, such as returning color to a desaturated world. It's a very simple premise that gets more complicated the closer you look at it, much like a flower itself.
Is the answer blowing in the wind, or does Flower simply blow? The game critic community sews the seeds.
In the words of developer thatgamecompany, Flower is a "videogame version of a poem, exploiting the tension between urban bustle and natural serenity", and while the brief, sensuous journey through the game's six levels is worthily conceived and executed, inviting interpretation, its high-minded origins also have the potential to derail it, albeit not in the eyes of "the audience of pretentious fawning fops that have turned the PS3 into the equivalent of a f***ing beatnik poetry bar", as one of our readers put it when we previewed the game in January. However, the result is pleasantly innocent and uplifting, and perhaps unexpectedly its best qualities are those of a very good videogame.
The game is not overly complex and yet tantalizes with a rich palette of colors that the player controls. Each level is an environment and the player is the wind. You pick up petals from blossoming flowers and, using the motion-control of the SIXAXIS controller, push and steer the petals throughout the environment, over other flowers that have auras around them (in some levels there are not flowers and you decorate with glowing bits of light). As you complete the circuits you bring lift to the environments; grasses will change colors and trees will blossom.
That I'm even hesitant to talk about the game in terms of "levels" or "objectives," yet feel entirely comfortable speaking in terms of emotions — which are both powerful and absolutely tangible — should hopefully speak volumes about the kind of experience that's provided for your $10. There was also a reason why thatgamecompany and Sony were so careful not to show off anything beyond the first three levels, for it's in the latter half of the game that things get a lot more story-like and become a bit more of a game than the early bits which are just about slowly swimming through the air and restoring life to areas. As you move more toward an overall enemy (or at the very least what serves as an antagonist in this world), things race toward a conclusion that's as satisfying as any game I've downloaded on the PSN.
Controls are some of the best SIXAXIS ever implemented. Flying becomes second nature in a matter of seconds. The entire game manual is amusingly summed up by three symbols before the game even starts. Anyone from 5 to 105 years old can experience Flower. Puzzles are more about discovery and thorough examination of the world. One white flower left untouched will keep the secret green flowers from sprouting and there are all sorts of unique elements to explore in each chapter.
While its gameplay is uncomplicated and enjoyable, its Flower's presentation — which works in perfect harmony with the game's simple controls — that sets it apart from other downloadable titles. Visually the game is stunning, with picturesque environments and more colors than Van Gogh and Davinci's palettes combined. But even more dynamic is the music in Flower. Overall, the mood of the game is meditative — even uplifting — but depending on the level the melodic sounds of a guitar, piano and even wind and rain will leave gamers feeling tense, scared and excited — all in the span of a few seconds.
Granted, Flower will not be for everyone. These "artsy" PlayStation Network titles never are. But if you've had a rough day at work and really need to unwind – and perhaps even have your mind tugged at, ever-so-slightly – there's currently no better way to do so on the PS3 than with Flower.