Every once in a while, we get a title that isn't designed to fall into any category, but its simplicity is so unique and inspired, we remain intrigued. And when we want a completely new visual experience, we can sometimes turn to these games; games that have had names like Fantavision. Well, it appears the PS3 is going to have something just like this, and it just might have massive appeal.
Forget about uber-realistic graphics and forget about intense blood and gore; entire flOw, a quirky yet elegant little game for the PlayStation Store that actually began as a thesis project flash game. Right off the bat, everybody will notice the inherent beauty of this lovely game, which features some breathtaking and "flowing" computer-generated artistry. Even the still-frame screenshots are hypnotic and captivating.
You control a sea creature in a mesmerizing underwater environment (of sorts), and as you feed on other sea-going organisms, your body grows and becomes more elaborate and intricate. But "feed" is perhaps an inaccurate term, because the feel of the game is designed to be leisurely and relaxing. According to IGN, one onlooker during the TGS demo even said that flOw could be used "as a therapeutic tool" to combat depression. That may be a bit of a stretch, but you never know...
The PS3 version should be greatly enhanced over its original flash inception. There will be four creatures for you to control, and each will have its own campaign, even though these campaigns all follow the same bizarre formula: you work your way down to the bottom level (the ocean floor, perhaps?), where you must eat a boss. Then, you proceed to lay an egg, which eventually becomes your next creature, and after the "birth," you can play as your new "character" whenever you wish. That's just too good of an idea to fail, isn't it?
You'll be able to take control of the game via the Sixaxis motion sensitivity, or you can just use the analog. As you embark on your mission to devour all those decidedly vibrant creatures of the deep, you may even encounter other aggressive animals who try to eat you, so you're gonna have to keep your eyes peeled. But even if you "die," you just go back one level to try again, and you won't lose all the creatures you'd eaten up to that point.
Unfortunately, the release of flOw won't feature any multiplayer option, but Sony plans to make that available with a future system update. Apparently, they're working on a pretty tantalizing competition mode, so that ought to be something worthwhile. In fact, Sony wants to offer continual updates for the game, perhaps as often as once every month, but for now, we'll just be happy with some form of multiplayer.
Lastly, it seems that sound will be a large part of the flOw experience. They're pushing for a THX license, but beyond that, the player will actually create a variety of tones by the actions they take on screen. So as you move through the game, you'll orchestrate your own soundtrack based on your creature's movements, and that's something we find quite interesting.
Although initially scheduled for November 17, the game seems to have slipped a bit, but should still be available some time this month. There hasn't been a set price tag yet, either, but Sony has already announced that all PlayStation Store games will be $14.99 or less. So when you have the option, you may want to sign on and check out flOw for yourself; this one could prove to be wildly addictive. At the very least, it's going to be a singular experience.
11/13/2006 Ben Dutka