Flower

By now, I’m sure many of you have heard of and/or played Flower. It’s certainly not for everyone, but it’s a vast departure from the carnage and horror aspects of many mainstream games, Developed by Thatgamecompany and published by Sony it was first released on the PS3 in 2009, and last month it was added to the Playstation Store for PS4/Vita which allowed me to finally try it out. Thatgamecompany is also responsible for flOw, and most notably, Journey. They produce games that focus on emotional responses which they achieve through visual narrative and the absence of dialogue. Journey blew me away so I had very high hopes for Flower, let’s see how it measured up.

The game is controlled entirely with tilt movements performed with the Dualshock controller. I fully respect this design choice as it connects you directly with the elements. However, as with many games that utilize similar mechanics they are far from perfect. Never did I feel fully in control at higher speeds (most of which are free moving) although there are occasions where you ‘snap’ to the flowers which provides a much smoother ride. There are also sequences where you are steered by the game and these too felt awkward.

Which brings me to the camera angles. Because the majority of flowers are at ground level they require you to approach them directly from behind. Doing so while maintaining speed forces the petals to often obscure your target which can be very frustrating when trying to follow a sequence.

While these two points are key to gameplay, my biggest issue resides with the philosophy on which the game was built. While I fully support the direction of the game, I think that Flower straddles experience and gameplay but never fully commits to either side. Those two worlds may well be a contradiction given the context, but I truly feel that the developers should have made a bolder choice. With some key changes I think that the Flower experience could be one of the most wonderful available in a video game, but as it stands the game leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of so close…yet so far away.

Without sounding overly negative, the game does have some wonderful moments. Brushing thru grass at high speeds as the orange glow of sunset washes over your screen is extremely rewarding. So are the times where your petals charge up and you burn through the landscape like a firework. It is then that you become mesmerized and the game transcends the medium.

Ultimately Flower brings me back full circle to Journey which came 3 years after the original release. Here I see a game that takes the previous faults and addresses them to create a better experience. Knowing that Thatgamecompany is trending in the right direction gives me a lot of hope, because game design is a learning process and I think that they will only continue to reward us.

{Game} Flower

{Plus} Beautiful visuals – philosophy

{Minus} Controls – Camera angles – core design elements

{Overall Rating} +1

{Player Comparison} Jason Pomminville (Minnesota Wild). A quiet player with a lot of talent. Were he to fully commit to his role he has the potential to be a leader in the league.

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