Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Review: Flower

I picked up Flower as part of the Journey Collector's Edition, but if you pick up the digital PS4 edition, you'll get it for the Vita and PS3 as well. Given that Journey is a great game, the collector's edition is worth getting as it gets you the soundtrack as well as a few other specials.

You play the wind (or maybe the spirit of Spring) in Flower, picking up flower petals by making flowers bloom. That's it. It's a simple mechanic, made only more difficult because rather than using joystick controls, the game uses motion controls using the Playstation controllers. (I bet most of you didn't know that the Playstation had motion controls that weren't associated with the Playstation Move, did you?) That's not a good thing, because those controls are imprecise, but on the other hand, this is not a game that calls for a lot of precision.

The first few minutes of the game feels puzzling. You almost feel like you're in a tech demo, rather than a game, as there seems to be no purpose. Then after a while, the game picks up and you learn that yes, there actually is a goal, other than floating around swirling petals and admiring the scenery, and there's even a story. It's not a very human story, as there's no dialog, but you also notice attention to detail at the game's level. For instance, there's background music to the game, but you add to it every time you make a flower bloom, and depending on how you control your speed, you can bloom flowers at varying rates, so you're contributing to the soundtrack as well as the game play. This is so beautifully and naturally done that I didn't notice it until I missed making a flower bloom at one point and then the music sounded different. Not wrong --- there's no real punishment for mistakes, but different, giving the game a different mode. Very well done.

The game's story leads you through 6 chapters, though you can go back and replay any of them in any order. Bowen loved the first and second chapters, and made me replay the first 3-4 levels over and over. They are beautiful, and the controls are a sheer joy. The 5th level is where it gets serious and you can actually take damage, and it can be much more confusing as to what you're supposed to do. However, even that level is not very long, and you're unlikely to get stuck in it. The final stage is enjoyable once again and a lot of fun, even exhilarating, and all too short.

As an experience, Flower isn't as strong, long, or contemplative as Journey. However, it is short, and very accessible for even toddlers. I can recommend it for everyone, but do not consider it as much of a "must play" as Journey is. Judging by the trajectory of the developer, thatgamecompany, I'm looking forward to seeing what they produce for their next outing. I don't think there's anyone else doing the type of games these folks are doing.

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