c_rakestraw's flOw (PlayStation Network (PS3)) review

An experience like no other

The works of thatgamecompany have always been more like relaxation tools than games. Their unconventional gameplay, soothing melodies, and gorgeous imagery all work together to make a calm atmosphere that puts the player in a relaxed state as they explore the majestic beauty of the game world without worry of death, time limits, or any other thing that presents a challenge.

This is especially true with flOw. Originally a flash game, flOw is a game about aquatic organisms that casts players as one of six organisms as they make it evolve by eating other similar organisms. The premise is simple, and surprisingly addictive.

Similar to last year's Flower, the game is played by tilting the sixaxis controller in the direction you wish to move. Tilting it forward makes the organism move up, tilting it to the sides moves you left or right, and tilting it back toward yourself makes it move down. This takes awhile to get used to (took me 'til the third campaign to get it down), but it works well, and feels natural.

The game is split into multiple stages that comprise each campaign (there are five in all, each starring a different organism). They all contain aquatic organisms like yourself, with advanced ones that resemble the ones you play as, and smaller ones that serve as food for you and the rest of organisms.

The main goal is to eat the other organisms to make yours grow, but you can completely skip that if you wish. Since the game doesn't force you to do anything, you can move through each of the game's campaigns quickly by simply moving toward the red organism that moves you to the next level.

However, by doing so, you become more vulnerable when attacked by follow lifeforms. The punishment for being attacked isn't very severe, though. All that happens is that you retreat to the previous level, but it's enough to cause some annoyance when dealing with more aggressive lifeforms.

It's not a hard game by any means -- death is virtually nonexistent, and battling your fellow organisms is simple -- but nevertheless, it's still entertaining. Drifting about the colorful, misty, water-like backdrop is relaxing because of its small, simple, calming music that adds an element of wonder as you explore the depths of this ethereal aquatic world.

The biggest problem with it is the limited amount of content. With only five campaigns that can be completed in under two minutes each, there isn't much to do. Sure, there are trophies to get, but unless you're crazy about 'em, they aren't enough to keep you playing for long. It also has co-op play for up to four players, but that doesn't add much either.

That said, it's still an interesting, and unique experience that's well worth playing, especially at the low price of $7.99. It won't last long, but the experience will stay with you long after the credits roll.    

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