a portfolio of videogame writings
Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment
The number of humans living in cities throughout the world recently surpassed that of those living in rural areas. Concrete jungles and 24 hour bustling metropoli are a product of our ever expanding, technologically advancing society. The contrast and conflict between man made and natural is the thematic heart of ThatGameCompany’s Flower. A journey elegantly designed to highlight the juxtaposition of these two environments.
Pre-stage animations picture a single flower wilting atop a tower block windowsill amidst glum urban scenes. A single petal plucked from the bud of this drooping stem is floated away aloft a calm breeze into pastel plains of lush grass and vibrant fauna. Flower’s imagery is at times reminiscent of an air freshener commercial and equally as refreshing.
Guiding that petal your only goal is to collide with other flowers causing them to blossom. Collect enough petals and colour returns to desaturated areas as if Okami Amaterasu herself had washed her celestial brush over the land. Breathe life into enough areas of a stage and the next flower appears upon the windowsill.
Like their previous title, Flow, the gameplay of Flower centers around momentum and accumulation. Wind direction is controlled through the tilt of the SixAxis motion controller and windspeed increased with a facebutton. Gentile and subtle, Flower is one of the most natural, precise and genuinely worthwhile uses of Sixaxis motion control since its elder sibling Flow. Allowing you to convey a flexible subtlety of movement that feels perfectly fitting for air and simply wouldn’t quite have been available via a joystick. Where oh where did Lair go so wrong!
With the gentle swirl of petals in the wind framed through a low angled camera and accompanied by an exultant atmospheric musical score, Flower is a relaxingly serene adventure. One without any real failure or punishment, it never imposes any time limits, enemies or challenging barriers to progression. It is simply about the experience, a zen like slice of gaming nirvana that aims to relax and calm where others present challenges and stress.
It would be easy then to brand Flower as more of an art piece than a videogame. And that might ring true of its thematic and visual design. But its progression it still objectively driven, however simple and unpunishing that objective may be. It is just a shame that it ends so quickly, but the short time spent guiding petals along a breeze is absolutely hypnotic.
Flower straddles a line between objective led game and emotionally evocative art piece. That it never wholly settles into either definition is of little detriment to the overall experience. A change of tone introduced in later stages may break the peacefulness that makes it so uniquely addictive in the first place, but it only slightly detracts from the experience. Flower still remains a rare and refreshing title, one that encourages a reconnect with nature in our global society of perpetual urbanisation. Which is ironically poignant for a technologically facilitated videogame.