Reviewed: February 9, 2009
Released: February 12, 2009
Writing a review for Flower is like trying to review the Mona Lisa or Michelangelo's David. Like any work of art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and Flower is indeed a work of art, an interactive experience that transcends the normal boundaries of video games. Sure, you play it on your PS3 and you use a game controller, but from the moment you enter the world of Flower you are totally immersed in something special, something unique, and something totally unexpected.
Flower is part flight sim, part Pac-Man, but mostly it's "interactive meditation". The ZEN of gaming if you will. The stunning 1080p visuals are rendering more than 200,000 individual blades of grass, all undulating in the breeze or creating circular ripples or a wedge-shaped wake in the path of your trail of petals.
You start with a single flower petal and are free to fly through massive landscapes in search of other blossoms. As you pass through each of these buds they bloom into a flower and add one more petal to a growing trail that builds behind the petal that started it all. A few minutes into each level you will have a lengthy trail of petals that reminded me of the string of survivors in The Last Guy. You can even circle back on yourself and see your own trail.
Flowers are color-coded and causing them to bloom will unlock new paths and patches which, when activated, will unlock more clusters and paths of blowers. The game is all about casual discovery. There are no timers and no real threats until level 5.
There are six massive levels taking 20-40 min each and a 15-minute interactive closing credit sequence where you fly through hundreds of flowers, each releasing a name from somebody on the development team. A story exists but is inconsequential. Told through imaginative and silent cutscenes, it’s like watching an animated storybook. As you explore the world of Flower your progress is marked with a slowly evolving landscape that springs to life in vibrant colors. The world is your canvas and Flower is your brush.
The main menu is a windows sill with a single potted plant. As you complete each level more plants are added to the sill allowing you to revisit previously explored levels to find any missing secrets. Each level has multiple secret patches of green flowers. Find these require thorough exploration, perhaps passing through every white flower in a zone or interacting with an object, perhaps a wagon wheel, or even exploring inside buildings.
Later in the game your primary flower will take on unique properties. In the nighttime level you can illuminate some objects or areas by flying around and leaving a trail of light, and near the end of the game you can use your flower to smash through ugly steel girders. The whole “nature vs. urban sprawl” theme really comes to the foreground in the final two stages.
The music is what really makes this game shine. You will instantly slip into a trance until somebody snaps you out of it. It is totally atmospheric and sets the perfect mood, but what really makes it cool is that your actions within the game help orchestrate a real-time soundtrack. Each time you pass through a flower you hear something like a plucked string on a harp. The speed in which you pass through the flowers dictates the frequency of the notes and the various colors change the note. Your real-time composition blends seamlessly with the ever-present mood music delivered by the powerful Dolby Digital surround mix.
Controls are some of the best SIXAXIS ever implemented. Flying becomes second nature in a matter of seconds. The entire game manual is amusingly summed up by three symbols before the game even starts. Anyone from 5 to 105 years old can experience Flower. Puzzles are more about discovery and thorough examination of the world. One white flower left untouched will keep the secret green flowers from sprouting and there are all sorts of unique elements to explore in each chapter.
Flower supports trophies and they are quite challenging to earn. My first trip through the game I only earned two. Expect numerous replays to get just half of the trophies including the one that requires you to trigger 10,000 flowers.
Flower is the best $10 you can spend on your PS3. It is the most relaxing, soothing, and otherworldly experience any console has ever seen, and only the power of the PS3 can bring something this original and breathtaking into your living room. It is the perfect experience for those looking to escape for a few hours without any fast cars, blazing firearms, or crazy rules. Flower is a “game” you will revisit often and treasure for a lifetime.