Flower opens up to a vast concrete jungle; giant, steel skyscrapers tower overhead, while massive cranes continue to build upon this ever expanding man-made metropolis. At ground level cars bustle by to the hasty speed of city life, and the only sound to be heard is that of thunderous construction work and the power of a V8 engine. For many it will evoke emotions of stress – a disrupter of peace and relaxation. A stark contrast to everything Flower is.
It may take place in this dark, gloomy, colourless world, but everything in Flower happens within the dreams of an actual flower. It sits there by the window of a high rise apartment, looking out at the city, thinking of a place much more beautiful and serene; a place of nature.
So you’re transported into this alluring world with no explanation at all. Luckily, Flower is a very easy game to get into; any button on the controller controls the wind, whilst using the Sixaxis allows you to guide a multitude of petals across the landscape. This may sound like bad news – the Sixaxis hasn’t exactly performed thus far – but it only takes a moment to get to grips with, and works flawlessly. You’ll be flowing across the elegant landscape within no time, controlling the wind to thrust yourself forwards, gathering more petals as you brush through each individual blade of grass.
You see, your objective in Flower is to guide your petals across the environment, collecting other flowers to inject some much needed colour into the world – in the same vein as Okami or Prince of Persia. It sounds effortless and it is, but you can tackle it any way you want. Ideally you want to take things slow, soak up everything the game has to offer and just relax. There’s a sense of spirituality here; it’s easy to get wrapped up in its charm and float off into another world, almost as if you’re daydreaming or even meditating. No other game I’ve played has given off this feeling. There are no punishments, no time limits, you’re free to just sit back, unwind and relieve yourself of all life’s problems.
And this majestic gameplay is reflected in the visuals. To put it simply, Flower is a stunning game to look at, both in terms of graphical power and art direction. You have these massive, sweeping fields and each blade of grass is it’s own entity. It will twist and turn in the wind, parting down the middle as the petals flow through it. If the message of Flower is the beauty of nature, then they got it spot on here; even managing to intersperse the grassy fields with man-made machinery to create something visually appealing, despite the fact it goes against everything you’ve witnessed in the game up to that point.
When I look at Flower I see a game encouraging people to embrace nature. Not in a way to discourage items we use in every day life, but to show there are two sides to the world and we should respect both equally. It shows a bustling city as a dark and unpleasant place, yet still manages to embrace certain objects such as artificial light or wind turbines as important and useful tools. We need things like this but we also need nature to show us how to relax and cling onto the joys of life.
If you don’t want to seek out Flower’s unspoken meaning and interpret it for yourself, then there’s still plenty here to enjoy. I’ve reached the point where I now own more PlayStation Network titles than retail PlayStation 3 games, and Flower is definitely one of the best. The objective based gameplay can get in the way of exploration at times – sometimes blocking certain paths – but on the whole you’re free to do whatever you want. It’s short at around two hours, so traditionalists will want to spend time trying to find every hidden flower to add some much needed replay value, while others will just want to play through it again for the experience.
Flower may not be for everyone but if you go into it with the right mind-set then you’re guaranteed to witness something exceptional. Whether it’s the subtle notes you play as you brush past each flower or the firework effect of bringing a field to life at night; each of Flower’s levels are unique and offer something for everyone. As a cheap download it’s a game everyone needs to at least try, some way or another. If you’re reincarnated after you die I want to come back as a flower and play out these daydreams all over again.