Games for Lunch: Flower
Developer: That Game Company
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Feb. 12, 2009
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web site
0:00 I feel like I've been hearing about the beautiful wonder that is this game for years now. I wasn't a huge fan of the developer's previous Flow, but I'm still vaguely looking forward to this one.
0:01 The preview screen lays it out for me: "Tilt the controller to soar. Press any button to blow wind. Relax, enjoy." Nice and simple. I'm already digging the gentle harp music.
0:02 An explanatory graphic shows how to tilt the controller -- forward and back and left to right, not on the plane parallel to the floor. The game begins in a gray apartment with a weak little stem of a plant sitting in a pot by a window, with clothes hanging on the line outside. A quick tilt of the controller zooms in on the stem, which has a glowing bulb. "Hold any button" and the screen fades to black. Video of a city street comes up, with car lights flying by in super-speed. A police siren blares in the background. Zoom out to show a twisted black skyline. Then fade to black and fade in on a single yellow flower, sitting in a verdant field with beautiful flowing grass and gentle wind. Harp music again. OK, but what happened to the city?
0:04 Pressing a button blows a petal off the flower, setting it into bloom with a piano chord. Tilting the controller blows the petal gently left and right. Wheee!
0:05 Holding down any button blows my petal forward with the wind while also zooming out the camera to a nice, wide angle. The field seems to go on forever. I see some white dandelions over in the distance ... maybe that's where I should go?
0:06 The white dandelions are actually kind of pinkish. As I blow my petal by them, I pick up more petals, which dance around in gentle spirals as I continue. So soothing.
0:08 I've got a few dozen petals now, forming a gently twisting beast that swoops and glide gently on the wind. The Sixaxis controls feel surprisingly natural. The lighting on the field is just beautiful, with pools of white light illuminating pockets of grass.
0:10 A few control gripes: The two speeds for the wind seem to be "stopped" and "super-speed"; when standing still the camera zooms in WAY too close; there's no way to turn around easily; and it feels a bit odd to tilt the controller down to go closer to the ground.
0:11 I happen upon a half-dozen red roses, which open up with a synthesizer flourish. With a windy whoosh, a white patch of grass turns green before my eyes. A new area has opened up ... it looks a lot like the old one.
0:13 Flying over a patch of yellow daisies unlocks a wide field of red roses, which in turn are used to bring color back to more dead grass. Complicated, it ain't.
0:15 I must have over 100 petals now, slithering along snakelike as I fly around and back on my own path. It's one of the most beautiful uses of the PS3's power I've yet seen.
0:19 I just noticed the different notes that get played by the different flowers when I fly over. They're arranged in lines to make some nice music as you go by. This forces you to travel close to the ground for the most part, which is a shame, because flying high in the air is more fun.
0:20 My wife just walked in. "Are you making the world green?" Yes. "This game should be sponsored by the Sierra Club." Yup. "It's very pretty." Uh, huh!
0:21 New flower alert: what look like green lilacs. I earned a Trophy for discovering them.
0:22 The last of the red roses unlocks a pink petal whirlwind. I fly into it and all my collected petals get planted in the ground. A great rumbling shwoosh and the entirety of the field is greenified, including a gnarled, dead tree that's now full of life. Back in the apartment, the flower is starting to sprout, and a single green petal falls into the pot. Another flower, this one red, appears in its own pot on the left part of the sill. Here we go again!
0:23 Shots of gray, abandoned alleys and an empty, gray brick wall. Then cut to a lone red flower in a very gray field. Soft, sad piano music. Hey, where's the happy game I was just playing a moment ago?!
0:25 For a game that seems to be all about freedom of movement and the joy of flight, you're forced down to the ground quite a lot. I also don't like how I have to tap the button constantly to maintain a decent speed.
0:27 An undulating line of yellow daisies unleashes a few patches of red roses. They turn the gray grass into white wheat, and then into full greenery when you collect 'em all.
0:29 I zoom out and up to get a larger view, finding some more green lilacs and a ring of roses inside a Stonehenge-like circle. Getting those petals knocks the rocks over, and also adds some color to a large rocky wall in the distance.
0:30 A big, thick line of roses plays a few piano chords as I barrel towards the rock wall, which opens a crack to let me through to the rest of the undulating valley. Magical.
0:31 Here, small patches of orange flowers turn the grass an unearthly violet. The patches of color connect through spindly veins on the ground. I take a moment to fly overhead just to enjoy the beauty of it all.
0:34 On a lark, I see how well I can follow the flowing lines of white flowers if I hold the wind button down at full throttle. I end up rocketing past the patch of yellow at the end quite quickly. Someone needs to tone this wind down a tad...
0:35 Gentle rain begins to fall as I enter a new area of the valley with bright blue bulbs in a wide circle. Collecting them knocks over some more rocks and brings up some more yellow flowers. Is it a bad sign that all this unfolding beauty is feeling a bit pedestrian already?
0:38 The clouds part and the sun peeks through as I unlock another vortex of pink flowers. The ground is a snaking pattern of pink through green. I soar up and go exploring a bit before leaving the level. I try to fly out of the valley and into the steppes above, but the wind automatically blows me back. WEAK!
0:41 The pink vortex brings color to the rocks, glistening white poppies to the grass, and a rainbow to the sky. A new, pink flower has been added to the apartment room, which is now in full color. I just noticed there are no more clothes hanging outside the window anymore, just a nice, fourth-floor view of the tops of some buildings (and downtown skyscrapers in the distance). I can see books and a fan and a calendar in the room too. Did we move to a new apartment?
0:43 The view starts on a brilliant sun in a blue sky. Shot of trees on a city street wavy with heat. Five leaves blow up off the tree and into the sky. Cut to a single pink flower in a green grassy field. And we're off!
0:44 It's a wind farm! But the massive turbines aren't turning. It looks so sad and abandoned.
0:45 Flying over patches of pink posies sends me barreling down lines of yellow daisies automatically. What is this, LocoRoco?
0:48 So the auto-blowing thing only happens on some of the patches of pink. I think it depends on the angle I fly in. Interesting idea, but not explained very well...
0:50 I feel like I've hit a million pink patches, but nothing new is opening up, so I must be missing some. Luckily the untouched ones have a faint glow to them, so they're easy to spot from up above.
0:52 OK, the last pink patch revealed a trio of green "hidden" flowers but nothing else. It's not until I find a circle of blue flowers sitting under stationary turbines that things start moving again.
0:54 Another blue circle blows wind through a MASSIVE turbine, sending my petals down a narrow valley automatically. I can lean left and right to hit the pink patches along the white line. Looks like I'm missing stuff ... will I be back? Should I care about missing stuff in a game like this?
0:56 The wind stops just in time for me to find another line of blue flowers, starting another windy narrow alley. This one has patches of pink flowers atop stone arches, forcing me to tilt up occasionally ... a nice touch.
0:58 I was caught in a windy figure-8 until I hit a pink patch, which blows me into a few other pink patches and eventually into a new open area. It's like the world's most artistic roller coaster.
0:59 There are lines of silent wind turbines here, with zigzagging blue patches woven throughout. A beautiful, larger-than-life sun glows on the horizon. The music is getting slow and languorous. In the background, power line towers. Hooray for environmentalism!
1:01 A pink spiral ends the level, filling the field and my soul with glowing yellow points of light.
Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.
Why? Because there aren't enough flowers in my life.
This column is based on a full, downloadable version of the game provided by the publisher.
Read Evan Narcisse's review of Flower.
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