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16:0109/02/2009Posted by David Scammell2 Comments

For a game designed to rid you of life’s day to day gloom, your first impression of Flower is unexpectedly sombre. Cast with the view of a sole wilting flower drearily sitting aside a window as its cracked pane oozes the city’s hubbub into a rundown apartment, it’s perfectly plausible to feel cheated; that Flower isn’t all the smiles and pretty colours you had expected it to be.

flower1See, behind the no-frills stress-buster that Flower’s chic premise would have you believe it be, developers thatgamecompany have peddled Flower with a much more serious tale. While a mere ‘wind sim’ (to put it in the bluntest of terms) on the outside, it’s all simply a facade for illustrating real-world environmental concerns; a tale of taking back the green belt from everyday pollutants, or as TGC would rather put it, “exploiting the tension between urban bustle and natural serenity.” Some may call it pretentious, others ambitious, but whatever side of the fence you sit, it doesn’t matter: Flower is pure poetry in motion.

Flower’s concept is delightfully simple. Starting as a single petal caught up in a gust of wind, you drift, glide and blast your way through six beautifully realised open-world environments forming a colourful chain by collecting different coloured petals; each of which contribute to Flower’s soothing soundtrack with a delicate harp tinkle upon collection. Each of the worlds represent a different flower’s dream, and collecting a preset amount of petals opens up new paths with which to progress (for example, some petals clear away fallen boulders, others activate wind turbines), while an explosive ripple adds vibrancy to the dulled environment. It’s straightforward, elegant and utterly relaxing.

FlowerKey to Flower’s success is thatgamecompany’s perfect calibration of the SIXAXIS. Tilts on the x-axis gracefully turn your trail of petals left and right, while gentle nudges up and down send your colourful stream soaring into the air or burrowing through the long blades of grass. Slower, lighter drifts contrast elegantly with weighty forceful gusts, as the level of finesse needed for gentle tilts elevates to full blown turns as the wind gets stronger. Unlike many other SIXAXIS-centric titles that require time, patience and (inevitably) cursing to get the hang of, Flower’s control system feels completely intuitive, precise and an absolute breeze to become accustomed to, as the initial sense of fragility as a lone petal suddenly blossoms into confidence.

But then TGC turns it all around. As the light fades confidence soon subsides into fear, and sinister electricity pylons fill the land with an overwhelmingly uncomfortable vibe. While the notion of collecting petals and creating a multicoloured conga remains constant throughout, halfway through the game’s sixty minute runtime Flower suddenly becomes something more reminiscent of a traditional title. Rather than simply remain just a collect-a-thon, TGC introduces more conventional elements to the gameplay, whereby tracing patterns within the long grass paves a neon-lit route through the darkness. These in turn are replaced by missions of evasion as you become tasked with avoiding fallen pylons, while the final level itself… well, it would be a shame to soil your experience by mentioning any specifics. Needless to say, you’ll come away from Flower not only having played a genre-defining title, but left with a lasting impression as well. As TGC are quick to point out, “hopefully by the end of the journey, you change a little as well”, and in all probability you certainly will.

flwoer2It’s debatable as to whether the first half of Flower perhaps works best: it is, after all, the sense of merry abandon and pure gusto that arguably makes the title the perfect piece of ‘Zen Gaming’ that it claims to be. But then others will almost certainly disagree; that the second half of Flower is filled with more purpose, that it feels more like a traditional “game”. Regardless, Flower is an epiphany moment for the SIXAXIS: a game that outright wouldn’t work without the motion controls, and one enhanced tenfold by their perfect execution. It’s a title that you’ll go back to time and time again, not only to explore concealed areas and find individual petals, but because of its intrinsically addictive and peaceful nature. Disregard Flower for its unconventionality and you’ll be missing out on one of the finest (and definitely most exquisite) titles to hit PSN so far.

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