VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Flower

written by David Steffen

Flower is a 2009 exploration game developed by ThatGameCompany and published by Sony, for the Playstation family of game systems. In the game you control the wind blowing through a blackened and nearly lifeless landscape, trying to revive the vivid and beautiful life within it.

The controls are extremely simple–you have one button to move forward, and all of the rest is achieved by moving the controller to steer your movement in any direction in the space. If the wind touches a flower, it carries its petals along with it, so as you progress in each level you become more and more of a swirling vortex of color in the landscape around you, and as you do this more of the landscape revives as well, restoring color to the landscape, waking up more flowers and unlocking new areas.

There is no text or dialog in the main gameplay of the game, just the wind and the flowers and the landscape. Cues for what is good or bad are gathered through context and color, things with saturated color generally being the good things, while the bad things are most often black, like the electrical pylons that not only litter the landscape, but that spontaneously sprout from nowhere like a magically accelerated industrial weed.

And that gives the game much of its feel, a love for nature and a fear of industry destroying it–the game doesn’t treat all kinds of human development that way though, as some of your actions can unlock things like wind turbines, so even without any words it seems to be encouraging thoughtful development with renewable resources.

The game is enjoyable and easy to learn, at least once you realize that moving the controller is how the wind is steered, which was not obvious to me since I was playing this game at the Game Changers exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota and hadn’t bothered to read the instructions first. It is not a fast-paced or action-packed game, more of a leisurely exploration of a landscape seeking out those signs of life–there doesn’t seem to be any time limit so however long it takes to find those signs is however long it takes.

Visuals
Striking use of color, as you progress through each level and wake it up from a black bleakness to a vivid life-filled wilderness.

Audio
Great audio to go with it.

Challenge
Not particularly challenging, there are some parts that are harder than others–i.e. gather flower petals near the base of a dangerous electrical pylon, but you can compensate for that by taking it more slowly. The game is more about mood and color than about what might be arguably called a challenge.

Story
Light on story and what’s there is mostly implied–the reviving of nature after an industrial onslaught.

Session Time
I’m not sure, I played it uninterrupted.

Playability
Very easy once you realize that tipping the controller is how you steer.

Replayability
Wouldn’t expect much replayability.

Originality
Certainly felt very unique, both in its visual styling and the atypical focus and gameplay.

Playtime
I’m honestly not sure, I didn’t play all the way through.

Overall
This is a worthwhile game to visit if you are interested in the use of visual design and styling, or if you’re more interested in mood and visuals than challenge (or at least can be interested by it even if you usually like a challenge). The game was released for several systems, including PS3, PS4, PS Vita, and Windows. You can buy it now from GOG for Windows systems for $7, or you might be able to find it used for the PS systems.

Published by

David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David also writes articles here and edits the fiction. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on Twitter for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

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