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

1.5 stars

Bottom line: Flower is Katamari Damacy for people who don't have a sense of humour.”

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.

Action Button Dot Net


14 Responses to flower

  1. Yeah, that’s pretty much the impression I got from the demo.

    Also, I got major lol’s on the “Tom Hank’s “Bigger.”” I hope they make that movie (even though I haven’t seen Big. Is it any good?)

  2. Tim Rogers, HAS YOU NO SHAME!?!? I indirectly alluded to the awesomeness of the ‘er’ in Flower over a year ago! (http://bit.ly/fW0z3S) Don’t you know that my tweets are copyrighted intellectual property? I demand a full letter of apology!

    just kidding, looking forward to the re-redesign.

  3. hah! man, while i was at e3 last year, i made that exact same joke — in out-loud conversation.

    i guess you beat me, though, by putting it in print, so i will take this review down 🙁

  4. :/ So, are you gonna put up my review of Flower (****, game of the year 2009) or do I need to passive-aggressively copy paste it here?

  5. all in good time!!!

    guys this review wasn’t written by tim fyi*
    unless you think tim spells like one o’ them crazy europeans

    *or was it? . . .

  6. Having played a bit of flOw, I think we can now put games on the political spectrum. Flower would be on the furthest left side. Spacechem (which is jonesing for Game of the Year 2011) would be furthest right.

    (Less from actual beliefs than temperament. Could just as easily pin Flower as the essence of girl-mind and Spacechem as the essence of guy-mind.)

  7. That’s a conveniently cynical hypothesis about the developers’ motives. And anyway, their bid at depth isn’t simply ‘Capstone the whole thing with something vague and morose’. It’s vague the whole time, and morose by the midpoint at latest.

    Also: “Flower is an interactive entertainment software program about the center of a high-definition television screen pretending to be the wind.” What if you play it on a standard-definition TV? More palatable?

    Having said that, Flower isn’t that great. It’s fine. It’s neat, for a while. It’s innocuous. It’s not something I’ll ever play again. Rez is significantly better.

  8. I can’t tell who wrote this review. Did Tim? Who is the “we” and “us” in Action Button Dot Net?

  9. A typical review of this game is the result of the writer throwing out as many dime a dozen buzz-adjectives he or she can possibly muster (visceral, lush, immersive, lavish). After they go on for a few paragraphs about what a “rich, unparalleled” experience flo(O?)wer offers, they’ll end the review with the confession that they basically creamed their pants (possibly twice). I half expected a pleasantly attractive woman to bust out of my television set (Ring style) and start blowing me when I first played it, but instead I was given a midly entertaining waste of about an hour or so before removing it from my HDD (as expected).

    It’s refreshing to see someone just talk about the game like this. Pretty nice review. This “Journey” game they’re supposedly cooking up seems like it might be a bit interesting.

  10. I liked the synopsis you chose and I kind of made me want to bring something up that I haven’t seen mentioned about Katamari Damacy. Every review or piece of criticism I’ve ever read about KD talks about how as you progress your ball grows. Of course this cognitively that is the conclusion, you pick up more things, and the things that were too big earlier are now collectible, but I think that the cathartic experience many people seem to have about he game comes from what KD actually presents to us visually. It isn’t that of a growing ball but of a shrinking world. There are many implied metaphors to that I think we personally apply on an emotional level. Mine personally was the feeling I get when I think about how the thing I call “I” or what could be called a sense of self doesn’t appear to change though unquestionably I have changed a tremendous amount particularly over the past 34 years. My perception is that the world or whatever particular object I have had an emotional connect to has changed.

    Alright I’ve run out of steam. Feel free to comment if you think that my experience is anywhere near yours. I’m kind of curious. I have no gamer friends IRL or online and haven’t really presented this observation before.

  11. Thanks, that kind of a high compliment but unfortunately I’m pathologically lazy and a poor writer in the sense that I never developed a voice beyond a college undergrad essay voice.

  12. I like this review of flower much better than the other one up on AB.net
    And chekhonte, I feel the same as you. It’s about growing and changing, much like aging in real life. Learning how to do new things and making things you’ve done a thousand times [or just conquered mentally; by mustering courage or mastering skill] feel trivial. I also think you should write a review for a game you enjoy, for this site.

    [I just registered to post this comment]

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