It could be argued that by continuing in the same direction as Cloud and FlOw, thatgamecompany was fighting a losing battle with gaming audiences. While Flower is not the game for everyone I think it makes clear that this progression is no foray into time-killers, but commitment to a gaming philosophy. No, thatgamecompany has not been fumbling in the dark, they have an idea (ideal even) about what a game can be like and have been perfecting it, honing it, into the masterpiece that is Flower.
Equipped with a sense of purpose and the ability to affect your surroundings, Flower isn’t an aimless title but rather a truly open one. The game begins in a bleak room with an equally raw window view of a woebegone cityscape. In front of the window is a single potted flower, wilted. By depressing a button you zoom into the flower and enter the first level, or dream sequence.
A first person wind game, controls are simple and Flower doesn’t have a learning curve so much as an intuition curve. Tilting forward or backward moves up and down, and side to side controls turning, with flipping the controller upside down even achieving a full rotation. The Sixaxis is put to good use; you can really move in whatever direction with great response. Any button controls your speed, though I found one of the triggers to be my preferred option as they make for easier control of the pressure and resulting boost. With this simple scheme you direct a single flower petal with the wind and carry that petal along as every flower you touch blossoms and adds another to your entourage. The game’s paint the landscape restorative principle isn’t necessarily innovative (think Okami), but it is satisfying.
A musical note sounds with each bloom, an audible affirmation of your environmental successes. The game’s score is entrancing and coupled with the well-implemented controls the sensation of soaring up a slope and whooshing down to bloom a field of flowers while a whole chorus of notes resounds is just, well it’s awesome. Beautiful, exhilarating, and as a game beyond refreshing, Flower just might make me run dry on superlatives.
The early dreams offer a soothing welcome to your windy skills that will lull you into meditative wonder as you navigate the soft landscape turning brown things green and grey things bright. These stages serve as welcome escapes from the grimy interior space you return to after each dream, and make the turn of events in later levels all the more startling, eerie and tense. While it isn’t accurate to say there are enemies in Flower, there are opposing forces at work as you restore fields and urban spaces alike. Yes, Flower has some kind of story, and suddenly navigating forbidding terrain with delicate petals is an anxiety-fraught experience that tears down all those powerful wind feelings of early stages and plants you firmly in the territory of the uncomfortably weak and frustratingly confined.
There are half a dozen dreams in Flower, with each appearing after a cleared level as a new pot in your room. Within each stage are three hidden green blooms that reward you with petals in the pot of that dream sequence. Additionally, Flower has Trophies esoteric enough to match the game’s philosophy. Some of these require a bit of a trick, but otherwise Flower itself is not difficult and can be completed in a matter of hours. While Flower is over before you tire of it this is hardly a negative, and the game warrants the $10 price tag.
Championing minimalistic instruction, Flower doesn’t erect staunch, principled defenses; rather, it presents itself like an interactive painting and invites you in. If a player doesn’t “get it”, they will move on but for those ensnared by Flower’s aesthetic lingering is rewarded, and lingering is a rewarding experience. The captivating Flower manages to be both uncomplicated and deep. While many games fail to truly engage the player this highly conceptual title succeeds, and is more immersive than many feature-driven titles dare to dream.