We at PSXE are psychic. Really. We can read your minds. The very first question all of you are going to ask is, quite simply, "what is this game about?" Well, for about five minutes, we weren’t quite sure how to answer. We controlled this flower petal in the air, all the time asking, “okay, soooo…” But then, our petal touched an unopened bud, the flower sprang to life, another petal fell in behind the original, and in all manly honesty, the smile was irrepressible. We will elaborate on this in due time, of course, but for now, let’s just say that we’ll probably end up recommending anything thatgamecompany does in the future; if they’re capable of flOw and Flower, they’re not likely to let us down any time soon. Furthermore, they’re really helping the PSN shine, because it’s titles like these that will make gamers all the more likely to log onto the Store. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure, Flower is well worth the $9.99 price of admission, if only to infuse your television with a healthy dose of beauty.
You know, there’s a reason we examine things like graphics and sound separate from the gameplay, but in this particular case, it might make more sense to toss everything together. See, the graphics and sound factor into the gameplay more so than most any other game we’ve ever played, and that’s a testament to the entire package. However, we can start off by telling you that Flower is both vivid and colorful; it’s a gorgeous presentation that becomes all the more alluring when you realize that you will control the impending explosion of reds, whites, blues, purples, pinks, and of course, greens. And if you consider the fact that each blossoming flower contributes to the background soundtrack, you will quickly recognize the need to address everything together in one complete analysis. But perhaps you’re still dying for an answer to the aforementioned question, and if this is going to retain any semblance of a normal review, we should definitely oblige you.
You really may be confused when you first start. Just accept the possibility. …er, or you could just read this review. You will first be presented with a potted plant on a windowsill, in what appears to be a small city apartment. You tilt the controller to hover over the unopened flower, “hold any button,” and after getting a glimpse of the dark grays and blacks of the inner city, you are taken to a pristine field in the middle of nowhere. Yes, developers, we caught the contrast between the artistic implementation of the city and the field where we’ll be spending our time, so…you know, kudos to both of us, I guess. Anyway, in the middle of this field, you will see a single flower that has yet to bloom. You press X, and a petal pops free and begins to float on the breeze. You may not realize it immediately, but you can control this petal because – wait for it – you are the wind. That’s right, your “character” in this particular game is the wind, and thatgamecompany’s ingenious plan to make said “character” visible is to allow the petal trail to signify the wind flow. Or, maybe you're just the individual petals and you go with the wind. It's hard to tell.
You will obtain these petals in your colorful train by opening new flowers, and all you need to do is guide the wind over unopened buds. You will do this using the motion sensitivity of the controller, so provided you have a steady set of hands, this won’t be a challenge. It will, however, be absolutely fascinating. You need to open a certain number of flowers in order to fully restore life to the surrounding landscape; you can see the “unbloomed” flowers from afar because they have a small halo around them. As an added bonus, each flower emits a particular sound, be it a wind chime or the strike of a crystal chord of sorts. This enhances the already fitting orchestral soundtrack that flows along with your movements, and sometimes, you’ll find yourself wanting to open flowers in rhythm. It’s hard to do, but it’s all part of the appeal. If you’re looking for a way to relax, this could be the ultimate “leisure-based” title for everyone who needs to let the stress melt away after a long day at work. It’s a very different experience than getting your frustration out by blowing crap up…in fact, it’s the exact opposite.
As for the setting, each field and area is good-sized but not huge. The entire landscape isn’t open at first: you must open up certain key flowers in order for more areas to become available. As you progress, once-dead patches of grass will spring to life, boulders will fall, and even trees will return to full vitality. Once the last piece of nature has enjoyed its splendid resurrection, the little quest is over, and you are returned to the windowsill in that apartment. There, the flower in the pot blooms, and you get the option of trying another flower. It’s as simple as simple can be, and there really isn’t much more to explain. Now, our gripes are minor but they need to be mentioned- firstly, we sometimes couldn’t see too well through the throng of petals, even when the camera automatically shifted so the delicate train was to our left or right, and not in the center of your view. We also thought some of the levels could’ve been a little larger, and in all honesty, you spend a little too much time on the ground. With all the beauty there is to see up high, it was a little disappointing.
Basically, all you really do is swoop around, opening up flowers so life can completely return to this miniature world that apparently exists inside a single flower in a small city apartment. There’s nothing else. But there really doesn’t need to be: the experience is almost indescribable, and even if you’re not a big fan of motion sensing (and we’re not), you will smile throughout your experience. You may not even realize the smile is there, but you might notice if you play long enough…and trust us, this game can hold your attention. It’s just so captivating. It’s like playing a painting; restoring life to a drab picture with the small movement of your wrists. And that, without any shadow of a doubt, is both an excellent achievement and a nod to artistic creativity in an ever-burgeoning industry. Flower is…well…flowerful!
2/12/2009 Ben Dutka