Sony Computer Entertainment
February 12, 2009 (PlayStation 3)
November 12, 2013 (PlayStation Vita)
November 15, 2013 (PlayStation 4)
While available for several platforms, this review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
Flower is many things: unique, relaxing, gorgeous. It’s as far from a traditional game as you could possibly imagine, despite being the poster child for the “games as art” movement. And rightfully so, because Flower is not something you play – it’s something you experience, and you’ll find nothing like it anywhere else.
Flower, as described by the developers, is a “poetic adventure.” It is divided into six stages, each of which features a different flower and its own twist to the gameplay. You begin each stage with a single petal from the featured flower, flying behind it and guiding it, using Sixaxis controls to manipulate the wind, through the flower’s “dream.” The entire game is controlled using Sixaxis controls and one button (pressing any button allows you to stir up a gust of wind to speed up the petal). It’s an incredibly intuitive and approachable control scheme – even non-gamers will be able to pick up and play, and never once will you fight the gyroscope controls. As you go through the dreams, you’ll bloom many flowers, each of which adds its petals to your own, eventually creating a massive trail of many colors and shapes. It’s a truly spectacular sight.
If it’s not obvious already, Flower is not your normal, everyday game. There are no enemies, no time limits, no death, and no chance of failure whatsoever. You can play stages at your own pace, and the game even encourages you to stop and enjoy the scenery through the game’s creative trophy list. Gamers looking for more of a challenge can seek out and bloom the hidden secret flowers or complete the optional objectives required by some of the game’s trophies. The whole game, though, is about emotion and relaxation, and there’s not a more relaxing game on the market.
Though Flower tells a story, there’s almost no exposition to be found. A brief still scene before each level is just about all the in-your-face exposition the game gives – the rest of the story is told through the gameplay. Each level begins where the last ends, and while the opening stages are bright and beautiful, the game takes a surprising shift towards the end. Without running the risk of spoiling anything, the change in setting and tone in the later levels can come as quite a shock, and it all leads up to one of the most spectacular and memorable final stages I’ve ever played. It’s enough to elicit emotion from even the most hardened of gamers.
Adding to the experience are the visuals. This is one of the prettiest games ever created, with a vast color palette and crisp, bright environments. Meticulous care was given to the movement of the flowers in the wind, and there’s nothing quite like pulling back and getting caught in a vast trail of flower petals swirling about the screen. The grass moves and parts realistically as you blow through it, and your flower petals swirl around erratically if blown by a big gust of wind. What’s more, while blooming flowers, you shape the environment around you, restoring color to the landscape and affecting various parts of the scenery. Dark fields suddenly erupt in bursts of vibrant color – it’s something you have to see to believe, and one of the most striking visual effects ever achieved.
The soundtrack complements the visuals almost perfectly. The score is dynamic, building in scope and volume as you progress through each stage. Every time you bloom a flower, a chime sounds, and blooming long trails of flowers or large patches will result in a glorious harmony of chimes.
The game will only take you an hour or two to finish, but you’ll find yourself going back and replaying levels for trophy completion, exploring the landscape to find secrets, or just enjoying the scenery. It’s not a game that you’ll want to just play through in one sitting and never touch again, and the game is so relaxing that sometimes you’ll find yourself coming back to it just for stress relief.
Flower is an almost euphoric experience. There’s no game more relaxing, as you can play at your own pace without worrying about objectives, death, or beating the clock – you’ll often just find yourself slowing down and taking in all the things around you. As you progress, you truly feel as if you’re shaping the landscape and the outcome of the flower’s dream. Words don’t do it justice; to truly understand what makes Flower so special, you have to experience it for yourself. It might not be for everyone – some people will just look at it and go “Huh?”, but for those with an appreciation for art, who truly want a moving, relaxing experience, you can’t go wrong with Flower.
Absolutely gorgeous visuals.
Unique emotional experience.
May not appeal to everyone.