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Michael Kontoudis
15 Feb, 2009

Flower Review

PS3 Review | Petal to the metal.
You have never played anything quite like Flower. Crafted by thatgamecompany, the developer responsible for indie gem flOw, Flower is the video game equivalent of a haiku: deceptively simple, startlingly brief, but deeply resonant. Destined to be decried as pretentious and smug by the narrow-minded who exalt length, complexity and adherence to convention, this Playstation Network release represents a strange and delicate experience for Playstation 3 owners yearning for something different. Beyond its artistic beauty and novelty value, however, the question remains: does Flower actually succeed as a video game?

Stepping back and approaching the game conceptually, Flower sees you taking the role of a series of potted flowers, each residing on a window-sill overlooking a dreary urban sprawl. Each flower represents one of the game’s half-dozen levels, which when selected transports you into the psyche of the plant as it reminisces about or imagines a world long gone or a world yet to come. To be more accurate, throughout the game you are actually guiding a petal throughout a variety of vast natural environments by way of the DualShock 3’s motion-control functionality. While your outdoor odysseys begin with a single petal blowing on the breeze, by guiding it into patches of other flowers just waiting to bloom, vitality and colour is spread back over the level and you will soon find yourself navigating a cluster of flowers through the air on your quest for rejuvenation.

This scene may look serene, but it is also strangely exhilarating.

This scene may look serene, but it is also strangely exhilarating.
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To speak of the game’s levels and objectives with specificity would be to rob the game of much of its emotional power. In essence, the game’s core mechanic remains consistent over the entirety of the game’s length. You guide the petals effortlessly with the perfectly executed motion-controls over and around the level, ‘collecting’ other petals and causing various reactions, such as a mound of dead grass bursting back into vibrant life, which in turn activates a further series of flowers and petals to attain. By pressing any button on the controller, you can cause a strong gust of wind to blow from behind your petals, sending them coursing with spectacular gusto through blades of grass and over canyons in pursuit of the next objective.

In terms of structure, mechanics, and typical gaming objectives, that is about all that can be said of Flower. Outside of the fact that each of its levels has an endpoint and hidden objectives from which Trophies may be earned, nothing else really distinguishes Flower as a video game. The title is primarily concerned with evoking an emotional response from the player, and in this regard it is wildly successful. The motion-control interface is so perfectly tuned and intuitive so as to become invisible beyond the first five minutes of play, and in its wake all that remains is the exhilarating joy of gliding through the grass on the whispering wind, the sun rippling through the clouds and musical notes gently tinkling each time you thrust a flower into bloom and requisition more petals on your journey. Without spoiling the game’s subtle surprises, this elation gives way to an air of melancholy as the quiet conflict between urban development and untouched nature emerges. If Flower manages to cast its spell over you, by the game’s triumphant conclusion you will be left breathless, serene, and wanting to go outside and run your fingers through your lawn and watch daisies bob in the breeze. If you abandon your preconceived notions of what constitutes cutting-edge gaming, Flower proves itself to be more than simple fun. It is an experience which leaves you feeling richer than before you picked up the controller.

The game's tone gradually darkens before an absolutely triumphant finale.

The game's tone gradually darkens before an absolutely triumphant finale.
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In the same way, Flower may appear rather lacking when viewed through the blunt lens normally utilised to evaluate consumer products. The end credits (which must be said are among the best you’ll ever see) can be reached within a short afternoon’s play, leaving only a handful of optional challenges for those dedicated to eking out every last minute of playtime. With this in mind, Flower is absolutely not for players who agonize over the mathematical relationship between dollars and playtime. Indeed, to do so in the context of a game so emotionally-charged, serene, and unique would be vulgar. Besides, the game’s brief duration ensures that the simple mechanics never suffer under the weight of repetition or redundancy, and the title is never in danger of wearing out its welcome. Each of its levels explores a particular conceit and moves on, and upon completion of the game you will be hard pressed to think of another downloadable title which says so much so briefly, and with such conviction.

The game’s conviction and expert crafting also extends to its aesthetics. Flower is a visually and aurally stunning title, and not only by downloadable standards. Every blade of grass sways convincingly and bows before every gust of wind, and the title’s use of colour, light, darkness, and the contrast between them is expert. The undulating landscapes are vast and varied, and perfectly matched with sparse and haunting musical melodies which accompany your flight over them. The game is superficially unimpeachable, and deserves to be played on as big a television screen as can be mustered.

Pretty in pink.

Pretty in pink.
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Sadly, for those predisposed to judge videogames on their base components, Flower will be misrepresented as a gorgeous but brief curio, devoid of challenge, and overrated by a vocal audience of critics desperately desiring to legitimize the videogame as a medium. The reality is that Flower is an utterly unique, brave and moving game brimming with personality and intent. As time goes, on it is becoming clear that services like PSN and its counterparts represent fertile soil where game developers with interesting and un-commercial ideas can flourish. For those open to new experiences or prepared to accept that games can be about more than dogfights, difficulty levels, power-ups, exploding barrels and grenade launchers, this is essential.
The Score
Flower is not only a breath of fresh air, but a gust of glorious wind on which your spirit will soar. This is a work of art, a quiet classic, and a game which will be remembered and discussed in reverent tones for years to come. 9
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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30 Comments
5 years ago
It's games like this that make me want to get a PS3. If only Rez HD was on it as well and something, ANYTHING from the ICO/ Shadow of the Colossus team.
5 years ago
Everyone with a PS3 needs to buy this game. One of the best downloadable games ever made, it is so simple but so perfect.
5 years ago
I might have to try this one out.
5 years ago
See I can appreciate games like this but I have absolutely no desire to play. Call me whatever you like but non-games that are more arty really fall into the 'is that all there is' category. I have played Electroplanton and Flow, but after about 20 minutes I can understand what they are trying to achieve, some zen like moment from doing nothing, but the lack of challenge or direction simply just doesn't work as an entertainment piece for me.

Plus, I don't think you can slap a score on a game like this. It's more of a piece of art that will strike a chord with some people, which clearly Michael did, and others just be a mess on a canvas where you go 'I don't get it'.

Excellent review though.
5 years ago
is it a game though or what?!? i dont understand waht you ahve to do...
5 years ago
Trust me when I say it's more of a game than Flow. There is an objective and it is so enjoyable. Plus obtaining trophies really adds to the gameyness of it.
5 years ago
LeonJ wrote
See I can appreciate games like this but I have absolutely no desire to play. Call me whatever you like but non-games that are more arty really fall into the 'is that all there is' category. I have played Electroplanton and Flow, but after about 20 minutes I can understand what they are trying to achieve, some zen like moment from doing nothing, but the lack of challenge or direction simply just doesn't work as an entertainment piece for me.

Plus, I don't think you can slap a score on a game like this. It's more of a piece of art that will strike a chord with some people, which clearly Michael did, and others just be a mess on a canvas where you go 'I don't get it'.

Excellent review though.
so you haven't played this. And you won't buy/play this but .... you want to weigh in with a pointless lengthy spiel. Meh I say.


I'm buying this game once I get through and finish GTA4 (followed by Killzone) and then my time frees up.
5 years ago
Petal to the metal? Now THAT'S wordplay.

i'm a bit skeptical about flower. the game looks fantastic, and the developers are obviously a talented and creative bunch, but i just can't see the appeal in a game/interactive demo? like this. fl0w was interesting, but lost it's playability fairly quickly, and my only reaction to it was, "oh that's kind of interesting".

glad to hear that the controls work well though. the sixaxis hasn't exactly proven itself overly useful of late....
5 years ago
Commentator wrote
is it a game though or what?!? i dont understand waht you ahve to do...
Try reading the review. Interesting how it explains the game quite well.

But I know what you're trying to do. icon_confused.gif

It really sounds like something that must be experienced to be fully appreciated, and sounds quite difficult to review and recommend, since its so short that explaining it in too much detail would effectively ruin some parts of it.

I'm really keen on it, though I'll not be able to play it for a few weeks. I hate being away from home... *sigh*

Michael Kontoudis wrote
For those open to new experiences or prepared to accept that games can be about more than dogfights, difficulty levels, power-ups, exploding barrels and grenade launchers, this is essential.
Sold.
5 years ago
THEMAN wrote
you want to weigh in with a pointless lengthy spiel. Meh I say.
Pointless? The simple fact of the matter is that some people want a challenge. There's nothing wrong with that, you just have to look at sales figures to see what market share the traditional challenge-based games have.

Someone doesn't want to play a game like this because the review doesn't sound like something they'd enjoy? Then, as LeonJ pointed out, it's a good review.
5 years ago
Dear THEMAN

Seems like you are a little stressed out and trying to make a point.

Maybe playing Flower will help chill those bones.

Life isn't that bad. Become the wind and unwind.
5 years ago
THEMAN wrote
LeonJ wrote
See I can appreciate games like this but I have absolutely no desire to play. Call me whatever you like but non-games that are more arty really fall into the 'is that all there is' category. I have played Electroplanton and Flow, but after about 20 minutes I can understand what they are trying to achieve, some zen like moment from doing nothing, but the lack of challenge or direction simply just doesn't work as an entertainment piece for me.

Plus, I don't think you can slap a score on a game like this. It's more of a piece of art that will strike a chord with some people, which clearly Michael did, and others just be a mess on a canvas where you go 'I don't get it'.

Excellent review though.
so you haven't played this. And you won't buy/play this but .... you want to weigh in with a pointless lengthy spiel. Meh I say.


I'm buying this game once I get through and finish GTA4 (followed by Killzone) and then my time frees up.
That's my point. I bought both Flow and Electroplankton based on excellent reviews, yet I did not enjoy those non-games at ALL. Not from a lack of trying either, I certainly invested solid time into both to *get* the experience. So I was just stating my opinion that games like this, from experience, really aren't for me.

If it's you bag, great, I hope it's your GoTY. Enjoy.
5 years ago
I've been waiting for this review since ages! I knew thatgamecompany had it in them to make a beautiful work of art. I think it'll look impressive as a fluid wallpaper. Let the flowers loose in the wind, then let the guests come over.
5 years ago
This is way more of a game than Flow. There are levels with objectives for each one.

This is honestly the best gaming experience I've had this generation. Short, sweet, and completely engrossing.
5 years ago
I'm a little confused that you end a review with
Quote
and overrated by a vocal audience of critics desperately desiring to legitimize the videogame as a medium.
Then give it an almost perfect score?
5 years ago
Flower looks absolutely fantastic. I love arty stuff like this, and I'm just disappointed I won't get to give it a go.

When I do inevitably pick up a PS3 though, this will be an instant purchase off the PSN.
5 years ago
Benza wrote
I'm a little confused that you end a review with
Quote
and overrated by a vocal audience of critics desperately desiring to legitimize the videogame as a medium.
Then give it an almost perfect score?
Read carefully... read a few times... contemplate then understand...

Failing that...

Graduate then come back to it!
icon_wink.gif
5 years ago
Oh shit that was a comma and not a fullstop.

I'm gunna uh, go see if I can take my foot out of my mouth now.
5 years ago
I am really curious about this Flower... pity I don't own a PS3. Guess I'll just have to convince one of my PS3 owning friends to pick it up, then I might have to invite myself round for a few extended play sessions icon_razz.gif
5 years ago
Well done Michael....an excellent review for a fantastic game.
5 years ago
Great review, look forward to grabbing this game when I have a chance.
5 years ago
mipac wrote
Everyone with a PS3 needs to buy this game. One of the best downloadable games ever made, it is so simple but so perfect.
OK, will do.
5 years ago
Just "finished" it and it is well worth the purchase. The endless serenity in the game even in the darker part is still utter bliss.... Had someone walk in while i was "playing" it and ask what all the gay music is for.... I replied "Its called relaxing.."

Even the way they worked the credits into it is absolutely stunning!!
5 years ago
toolmansevendust wrote
Even the way they worked the credits into it is absolutely stunning!!
Best credits ever! Now to find all the hidden bits =)

Definitely worth the purchase for me. I'd put it in the same category as Pixeljunk games: small, fun, quirky and cheap. It's also quite a lot better than the other experimental non-game on PSN: Linger in Shadows.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  12/02/2009 (Tentative)
Standard Retail Price:
  $12.95 AU
Publisher:
  Sony Computer Entertainment
Genre:
  Adventure
Year Made:
  2007

Read more...
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