- Posted February 9th, 2009 at 11:00 EDT by Steven Williamson
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Flower blooms then wilts away.
- The excellent implementation of the Sixaxis controller
- The vibrant visuals in the first three levels
- The flowing and hypnotic gameplay
- The sudden thematic shift after the third level
- Having only two hours of gameplay with little replay value
From the creators behind the surreal PlayStation Network game, flOw, Flower is ThatGameCompany’s latest bite-sized, downloadable offering that is all set to spread its multicolored love with a fine sprinkling of flower petals, deep sunsets, red skies and lush green meadows just in time for Valentine’s Day. Plenty of debate has circled the net in recent weeks, discussing whether Flower is a tech demo, a game, or simply just a piece of art. In fact, it’s all of those things rolled into one. Although there are no points awarded for your efforts and you can’t ever die throughout its five levels, Flower is certainly a game. There is a challenge, albeit a rather weak one, and there is a storyline. There are also goals to aim for as well as a definite beginning and end to each level. However, it also has elements of a tech demo. It only took me two hours to complete, including the playable credits, and the further I progressed the more it encouraged me to experiment with the Sixaxis controller, twisting and turning it in all directions to showcase the motion-sensing technology perfectly. It’s also a piece of artwork, with bright and vivid colors that explode against the contrasting sepia backdrops and ultimately create a very pleasant and intrinsically relaxing scene. Initially, Flower plays on your audio and visual senses and, in a trance-like way, somehow manages to make you forget about the rigor of everyday life, which can’t be a bad thing.
Flower follows the dreams of five flowers that glumly sit wilted and shrivelled in their pots on the window ledge of a dreary city apartment. Overlooking the oppressively grey concrete jungle, the flowers dream of freedom in the lush meadows from where they belong and yearn to go back to their natural habitat. This isn’t going happen, so among their daydreams they seek to inject some color back into the bleak man-made world where they’ve sadly found themselves living. You achieve this happy conclusion by guiding a floating petal across different locations, collecting other flower petals along the way that then join you on your mission by creating a tail of color that drifts dreamily behind you. The controls are extremely basic. The main game mechanic utilizes the motion-sensing functionality of the Sixaxis controller, with any of the face buttons used in order to create a gust of wind and therefore speed up the movement of the petal.
You begin by collecting petals, tilting the controller in all directions and guiding your petal toward any glowing flower buds on the ground. Once you hit one, you’ll hear an ambient sound like a wind-chime (or similar to a note on a Xylophone) and the flower will bloom. When you open up all flowers of a certain color, or all the ones that grow in a certain area, the dried-out colorless grass where they currently lie turns green and the world around you slowly starts to grow in color, while pathways in the environment open up, or more flowers appear. Hit a bunch of flowers rapidly one after the other and you can create an ambient melody, similar to kind that you’d hear on a New Age CD -- the type of music that people into meditation or aromatherapy treatment might enjoy. The fact that there’s no real pressure, even in the later levels where the wind speeds up or wind machines affect the environment, means that Flower is instantly accessible to all. It also has the ability to make you feel quite content and relaxed thanks to its dream-like flow and the feel good factor that it manages to inject you with when you do such pleasant things as bring a dead tree back to full bloom or spot a rainbow arching impressively across the pale blue skies.
Despite many of the hands-on previews suggesting otherwise, Flower is not all sweetness and roses, but surprisingly it also has a darker side. The gaming press were deliberately given access to the just first three levels of Flower, which just showcase the bright and colorful visuals of lush green meadows, bright blue skies and swirling multi-colored petals. However, the final two other levels offer a total different experience from the relaxing scenes that ... (continued on next page) ----
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