The game Flower was released on the PlayStation Network yesterday, and if you’ve got a PS3, you should buy it. If you don’t have a PS3, you should find someone who does and play it on theirs for a few hours. It’s really a wonderful game.
I’ve been anxious to play it for months, not so much because the concept was that compelling but because I was curious to find out exactly what it was. The previews would mention that it was beautiful (it is) or that music and sound are an important part of the experience (they are, but it’s not a music game), and that it uses the motion controls of the PS3 controller (it does, and it works surprisingly well). The object of the game is to use the wind to pollenate a field full of flowers. But they would use phrases like “interactive art” or “casual experience” that made it unclear if this were an actual game, or just a glorified tech demo.
As it turns out, it is very much a game, with more direction and purpose than a “software toy.” And the entire thing is put together so well — it’s almost always clear what your goal is (using no words at all), there’s an instant reward for what you do and something pulling you towards the next thing. I was extremely impressed with how the presentation encouraged experimentation and discovery, but I was even more impressed with how well the pacing was done.
You’ll frequently hear the words “tranquil” and “zen” used to describe the game (and they fit), but you shouldn’t take that to mean it’s dull. There are moments of calm and moments of tension; silence and cacophony; sunshine and rain; day and night; peace, fear, and then celebration. Although again, it’s not a music game, it invites comparisons to a symphony because it’s a narrative structure expressed completely non-verbally.
Or to put it less pretentiously: it’s a beautiful game on every level, and everyone should buy it.
And also, since it didn’t get a laugh on Twitter: the game was developed by thatgamecompany (and its founder, Jenova Chen), which first got widespread attention because of the game “flow.” I’m hoping that the next game is called “Flowest.”