|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: thatgamecompany||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SONY||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: TBA 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
August 25, 2008 - The idea that games are a form of art and self-expression has long been a hot button issue among several critics of the video game industry. It has been quite a lightning rod for controversy, but I believe all that will soon change. Games like PixelJunk Eden and Echochrome have shown that games can still be fun and have some serious artistic value to them.
So, it is with this new emergent and more artistic genre in mind that we are able to look at Flower, the newest title from Thatgamecompany, which was also responsible for last year's surreal Flow. Flower seems to pick up on a lot of the key attributes of that game. The surreal feel and gentle gameplay remains intact, but Flower takes this type of relaxing gameplay to the next level.
The principal mechanic in Flower revolves around the existence of flower petals blowing gently against the wind. You are put in control the flower petals, however, your control is not absolute. The movement of the flower petals will also be influenced by environmental elements such as wind and windmills. However, the gameplay is far from intense, and most of the time you will just be floating along.
But if you think this sounds a little boring, you will be glad to know there is a full "emotional spectrum" to this game. The developers have said that the "blue" emotion levels are supposed to be casual and relaxing to play. But for every "blue" mood, there will be more bright colors that will be more challenging. The game will have a full continuum of levels for every mood and skill level, and this will probably be one of those titles that reach across the aisle and bridge the gap between hardcore and casual gamers. There is so much to appreciate in this game, I don't see how anyone could think of it as falling into a category; Flower truly defines itself.
As far as objectives are concerned, each level in Flower will have a different goal. These are far from rigid and mostly serve as something to enhance your Flower experience rather than its only facet. Each level will have different goals, which will involve opening flowers and enhancing the environment. Once you open enough flowers, you will be able to unlock the next level. The gameplay itself seems very reminiscent of this year's PixelJunk Eden because it is both plant-based and you don't have direct control over your movement onscreen.
But one big facet of this game that sets it apart from PixelJunk Eden are its visuals. Flower's overall look is incredibly technical, but most of all, artistic. The color palate is very soft but retains a certain vibrancy. Flowers, grass, and vegetation are all detailed meticulously, and the whole thing looks like a very soft animated movie. Technically, this game is extremely sound. The framerate runs at lightning speed, producing smooth and fluid animations, and the game's engine is capable of animating 200,000 unique blades of grass simultaneously in addition to the primary flower animations. It truly is a technical masterpiece, and the good news is that it looks beautiful as well.
Movement in the game will be primarily controlled via motion controls that use the PS3's Sixaxis technology. You are able to gently guide your flower petals through the various environments by giving your controller a slight tilt. You are also able to use the buttons for more specific actions. Flower looks like it will be a breeze to control, and it will allow you to really immerse yourself in this surreal world.
Flower definitely looks like a title to be on the lookout for later this year. No matter what your game style preference may be, Flower looks like it is a game that must be experienced. It is a really artistic game, and it will hopefully lend credence to the idea that games can be art.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor