a review of Flower
a videogame developed by that game company
and published by sony
for the playstation 3 computer entertainment system
text by action button dot net
Flower is an interactive entertainment software program about the center of a high-definition television screen pretending to be the wind. You help this mission from the comfort of your sofa. You tilt the PlayStation 3 controller side to side to turn, and tilt it forward or backward to descend or ascend. You press any button to shash forward.
You sweep low over fields of flowers to mercilessly decapitate them in the name of building a big twirling strip of air-garland. Using your strip of air-garland, you can do two things: pick up flower petals, or pollinate little red flowers that, when pollinated, make things even more colorful and swirly.
The primary joy of Flower is in the tactile pleasure of controlling the wind — shashing forward and swooshing around on a button. The secondary joy is visual: things are colorful and happy.
In the last level, as you use your flower petal army to smash ugly gray post-apocalyptic debris in addition to pollinating flowers, the ugly, dead, gritty, gray, brown world trickles to life. The colours are sensational — literally: they feel like something. The grass, all billowy, so fluffy and delicious-like you want to eat it. The music tinkles like a happy magic Frisbee lost in a room full of pianos.
Flower is something of a Jet Set Radio for hippies, or a Katamari Damacy for people who either don’t have a sense of humour or, for various reasons (religious, political) don’t want to admit that they have a sense of humour. Or maybe, seeing the splashes of colour you’re adding to the world often get lost in the vibrancy of all those other colours, maybe it’s more appropriate to call this Katamari Damacy for people who would rather read a mystery novel than go see a musical.
Having said that, in a world where Hideo Kojimas grasp at Tolstoy and wind up with fists full of rotting garbage, it’s nice to see Flower humbly try and succeed at being a thoughtful, interactive music video.
Now, if we may get very positive for a moment: it’s genuinely amazing how the music constantly feels like part of the game. Wherever it is, and wherever you are, and however many flowers you’re dangling, the music always seems to be swelling in just the right places. It’s like magic.
Eventually, the game matures from ‘fluffy entertainment’ to ‘fluffy exercise’. You spend a good portion of time stopping in mid-air, twirling around, aiming downward, accelerating, missing the flowers you wanted to pick up or pollinate, and then grinding back around to give it another go. You only start to appreciate the click of the sudden hair-pin turns after the game has forced you to invent them in these situations. All things considered, this game might be valuable in training the future dental hygienists of the world.
Probably the best part of Flower is how it’s made by a group of people whose first game was called flOw. Their second game fixes a particularly grave typo in the name of the first game, capitalizes the first letter all proper like, and adds an ‘er’. Isn’t that great? It’s like if Tom Hanks made a sequel to the movie ‘Big’, which was called ‘Bigger’.
Have you ever had the experience of there being this one thing you’re so sure you like that when it comes up in conversation with friends you immediately agree you like it? Everyone is always talking about this thing. You say of course you like it, too. Then, one day, you actually try it, and you’re like, ‘Wait, what?’
Flower was like that, for us. Only we’re going through the trouble of admitting it here, in public, rather than confiding in a friend in private (reason: no friends to confide anything in (so lonely)). A quick browsing of internet forums has informed us of what would happen if we confessed to a friend, in private: they would immediately recommend that we finish the game as soon as possible before blabbing on about our opinion. Well, first of all, we did play it through to the end — spoilers: you smash post-apocalyptic debris with your flower-petal army-garland, restoring color bit by bit to a dead, gray city — and second of all:
We’ve seen that one a million times before, most notably with Rez. A developer, parent of an innocuous, maybe-vacuous, tactilely-pleasant game concept and a whole steak of decent-enough level designs, has a marketing pow-wow re: how they can get the bloggers screaming. ‘This thing needs to be championed as a work of art, not just a thing for people to do with their hands’. The treasured answer is invariably ‘Capstone the whole thing with something vague and morose’. If that’s your motivation, really, we’d rather just drink three brandies instead of the usual two and see how our own brains try to scare us.