So unfortunately my first gaming experience with the PS4 wasn’t a new game (you can blame Ubisoft for pushing Watch Dogs back). But it was a game that I’ve wanted to play for a while. If you’ve read my previous post about watching Journey, you’ll know that I have admired thatgamecompany’s work from afar. Previously I hadn’t been able to play any of their titles because they were PS3 exclusives. But that’s a problem no more, as you can download Flower directly over the Playstation Network.
Flower isn’t really the sort of game that conforms to the my usual review methods, so I’m doing a quick review where I’ll write a bit about my experience with the game as well as whether I recommend it or not.
I think the easiest way to sum up Flower is by saying it’s what an art game should be. Too often people use the term “art game” in a derogatory manner. Typically when people talk about bad art-games they’re referring to a game that either focuses more on aesthetic design over gameplay or trying to tell a profound story that ends up being heavy-handed. All style & no substance. If you asked me for an example of a bad art game, I’d probably tell you Dear Esther. I know a lot of people like that game, but I’m not one of them. To me it embodies what makes for a bad art game. Well, maybe not bad, but pretentious. I’m all for games focusing on story (I love my adventure games), but it seems to forget it’s an actual game. That means it should involve some sort of interactivity other than holding down W.
But Flower does it right. I’m not sure if calling it a “game” is the best term, because you can’t really lose at it. I think it’s best termed as an “interactive meditative experience.” It’s purpose is to be enjoyed rather than “beaten.”
The story is more than a little sparse — indeed, there’s not a single piece of text in any of the six levels. I guess I could say that you play as the wind, eventually trying to bring life & color back into the city by picking up flower petals. The game starts in a peaceful meadow & eventually makes its way to the ruined & blackened city where you use literal flower power to blast the cold industrial protrusions away, thus reviving the city. Each level involves bringing color back into the world.
The controls are simple but effective. You tilt the controller to change directions & holding down any button will increase your speed. As the wind, you can go just about anywhere, flying through the air, doubling back, or anything in between. I have to admit, I had some trouble with the motion controls, but that was more to my lack of experience with the PS4 controller than a real problem with the game. I often found myself trying to turn by rotating the controller instead of tilting it. I have to remember to think of it like a joystick rather than a wheel. But when I remembered the controls, it worked. But there were a few times in the last level where I’d get randomly stuck. I don’t know if it was me getting stuck on the scenery but it only happened in that one section.
Of course, the best part of the game is the aesthetic aspect. This is where the game becomes very artsy. Visually, the game is beautiful. I think my favorite level was the night level. The contrast between the darkness & my glowing petals was amazing. If I had any complaint about the visuals, it’d be that I wish they’d chosen some higher contrasting flower colors. Some of the flowers can be hard to see against the green grass, like the green or yellow flowers. The musical score is also very beautiful. All of the pieces of original for the game & fits the setting well. It’s gentle & peaceful when you’re floating around collecting flowers, but upbeat & exciting when you’re flying through canyons. As you pick up more flower petals more instruments join in the music, making a richer sound as you progress. Don’t expect any heavy metal guitar riffs, but the classical scores help add to the meditative feel of the game.
I really enjoyed Flower. It manages to be an artistic experience without forgetting it’s also a game. It’s not trying to get across some deep environment message, but I left the game feeling happy… & not a lot of games leave you like that. Satisfied, yes. But I don’t usually leave a gaming session feeling… positive.
Personally, I’d recommend Flower to everyone I know, from hardcore gamer to newbie. But if you’re the sort of person who only likes really violent games, or is afraid to try something new, you probably won’t enjoy it. For everyone else who hasn’t played it already, I highly recommend it. When was the last time spending $7 made you feel happy?