Thatgamecompany work their imaginative magic once again in the beautiful and unique Flower.
SIXAXIS naysayers be damned. Thatgamecompany get it. They got it with flOw and they’ve achieved the same freedom with their new offering, Flower.
Out on the 12th February, Flower is Thatgamecompany’s first PlayStation 3 game made from concept to production, which is evidenced in both the game’s technology and gameplay.
In Flower you play as the wind, guiding swarms of petals by flying past flowers within gorgeous environments. You do so by tilting the SIXAXIS controller and holding any button to pick up speed. Flight feels entirely natural and you’ll discover true freedom in the extensive vistas you’ll explore.
Sure it’s simple, but it’s glorious to accumulate petals in sweeping movements and watch the flowers burst colour into the once monotone environment. At some points, blossoming a group of flowers will trigger an environment altering event; such as opening a new passage, or transforming a leafless tree into a veritable and vibrant ecosystem.
The story is limited, but surprisingly emotional. Challenging traditional gaming conventions, there are really no characters in Flower. You’ll simply start in a grey-filled city apartment, highlight a wilted flower and enter its “dream” world to escape the hustle and bustle of the mechanical and concrete environment. The once depressed flower will blossom upon completing each level, to find another drooping plant next to it on the window-sill.
Flower develops on flOw’s mantra in a number of ways. Thatgamecompany’s first PS3 game introduced you to the freedom of simple motion-controlled gameplay; allowing you to forget about the controls and instead become completely engaged with your on-screen movements. What Flower does is introduce an emotional chord – where flOw is only about eating and growing your creature, Flower is about growing an organic environment.
This isn’t as clichéd as it sounds, since the implementation is fantastic. First off, none of this ‘plot’ is thrown down your throat. You can take it as seriously as you like, where interacting with the environment is entertainment enough.
Secondly, the graphics are incredibly impressive. You’ll be struck by each level’s vibrancy and the gloriousness of the changing surroundings. There are over 200,000 blades of grass rendered on screen, which all interact with you (the wind) and can at times give you goosebumps.
However, what takes this emotional response a step further is the game’s soundtrack. Like flOw, the music is interactive, but now it features fully formed tracks that you’ll lay sounds upon by touching different flowers. As the world begins to grow, the music becomes even more inspiring and when your movements not only influence the visual environment, but the aural one, you’re once again experiencing a connection that’s extremely uncommon in video games.
Imagine: there’s no defined narrative; there are no over-complicated controls; there are no obvious characters – but Flower still inspires an emotional response. Although the plot can consist of the simple and perhaps predictable ‘good and evil,’ it’s not here that diverse emotions are found, but in the gameplay itself.
Flower improves on flow’s sense of gameplay progression and diversity. The environments take on many guises, and you could even say they represent different emotions, where stormy weather harbours what one could call a fear inducing ‘enemy.’ New environments introduce more creative gameplay features, that turn the game from calm to chaotic.
It’d be a shame to spoil the latter part of the game, as it isn’t the longest you’ll play. Longevity will come from achieving the many Trophies and the simple need to replay each level over again. However, what I will say is that because each area inspires a new emotion, including relaxation, excitement, fear, failure and victory, Flower is really an experience you shouldn’t miss
Flower challenges video game conventions by sticking to simple controls in a simple motif, but it manages to succeed in areas video games have struggled to reach since they were first invented. It’s a visual and audio escape that’s accessible to all ages and features freedom that will accept players of all types. Although you won’t want your friends and family to interfere with your personal experience with the game, you’ll certainly want to show off its high-definition visuals in public. Thatgamecompany has really hit their stride.