Flower is thatgamecompany's second title being released via the PlayStation Network. Much like its spiritual predecessor flOw, flower is much less about the gameplay than it is about a different meaning of a game.
thatgamecompany's co-founder, Jenova Chen, has described it as being like "video game poetry." It is not too difficult to interpret there being an environmental message behind the game, or at least a contrast to urban living being explored. Bringing unique elements yet to be seen in this generation of consoles, flower has gained a dedicated following.
In a TED talk about "Are Video Games Art?", Kellee Santiago of thatgamecompany, said the game was "an expression of director, Jenova Chen, who moved from the extremely metropolitan area of Shanghai, China to the relatively more rural area of California. He was just amazed at these huge rolling landscapes, and yet he found over time, he started to miss those elements of the city he grew up with. And so although it starts in these very open, clean environments; as the player goes through the game, they realise it's about trying to find a harmony or balance between the elements of urban and the natural."
Essentially, the player controls the wind. The gameplay involves guiding a stream of petals around various landscapes in which you will be able to interact with the flowers there in some way, depending on the particular level. All motion in the game is designed to be controlled using the SIXAXIS functionality of the PlayStation 3 controller. The creators are trying to immerse the player in another experience when playing flower, which they are trying to achieve by the use of stunning visuals complemented by a soothing musical score, and with the field of vision in the game being wider than in most games to better mimic a human's peripheral vision and depth perception. The visual fidelity of Flower is in large part due to the game being able to render and simulate 200,000 blades of grass on-screen at any one time, surely allowing it to claim the coveted boast of the 'best grass in video games...ever'. The only use of the buttons in gameplay is holding any button to accelerate.
Each level contains three groups of secret flowers, some of which are activated by blooming certain flowers in a particular area and others are hidden from the path the game leads you through. Each batch collected leaves a seed in the pot of your flower in the menu upon completion of the level. Each seed you collect will also make your flower at the menu open up to a more full bloom. Obtaining all three secret flower groups for all six levels will grant you the Dream gold trophy, which will also change the default view from the apartment, this view replaces the urban environment with a sunny field in the foreground and a grassy hill in the background. This is thought to show that the flowers' dream has come true.
It would seem that the main menu in flower, from which each level is loaded, is based around an urban apartment. The different levels are said to be the 'dreams' of different flowers that are represented in this apartment. The flowers appear in the following order when all the levels are unlocked: Pink, Red, Yellow, Blue, Purple, White. Every single flower level adds something unique or introduces a new type of flower.
Gazing into this flower opens a wind based level. Players are introduced to the blue flowers which make wind blow to power up the many windmills. Afterwords player traverse a canyon until they gain more speed and end up powering more windmills.
This is the second level you unlock. It is a color based level that starts in sepia tones. When you unleash the power of the red flowers color starts popping into the world. In the final area you can gain the power to color grass by touching different stones.
The first level focuses on introducing the basic flower mechanics. Grabbing yellow flowers makes red flowers spawn, and red flowers renew and reinvigorate the area around them turning it green and filled with life.
Using windmills to create electricity and illuminate the ground at nighttime is the new mechanic presented here. Here you are able to "charge" electrically the petals that follow you and transmit electricity from lamp post to lamp post until you finish the level.
The dreariest level in the game, you must reach the end while nullifying the threatening electrical power grids, that can burn you and hurt you. Culminates with a dash and dodging of falling debris and is apparently directly connected to the final level.
This is the final level, the new mechanic introduced is renovating the world, at the beginning the petals become super charged similar to when you could color the grass in the red color level. You now have the power to eliminate the corruption in the city, and renovate it and repaint it into a vibrant and beautiful place once more.
Each dream/level is based on an aspect of urban life with flower presumably showing a contrast to that within the level. So, for example, one level will be based on color, with the game world initially starting out as desaturated and gray like in most urban landscapes, but with progressively more color coming into the landscape as you interact with it. There are six levels in total, plus the credits level.
In addition to being critically well received, flower won numerous awards including
- Best Indie Game - Playboy
- Best Original Soundtrack - X-Play
- Best Independent Game of the Year - SpikeTV Video Game Awards
- Best Downloadable Game of the Year - TheSixthAxis
- Download Game of the Year - 1UP
- E3 Gold Award - GamePro
- Best Downloadable Game - GameSpy
- PS3 Special Achievement for Innovation - IGN
- Best Original Game - UGO
- Casual Game of the Year - AIAS
- Oh, and David Jaffe called flower his Game of the Year. Yeah...