Giant Bomb Review


Flower Review

  • PS3N

The latest PSN release from thatgamecompany is full of incredible floral imagery and a few unexpected twists.

Few games are so colorful and so nice to look at.
Flower is thatgamecompany's latest PlayStation Network release, a mechanically simple romp through nature that emphasizes arresting visual presentation and a palpable sense of discovery over gameplay complexity. TGC, with its roots in the world of game-design academia, has covered this sort of art-house ground before on PSN with the abstract eat-or-be-eaten petri dish simulation flOw, a one-trick pony that presented a unique starting premise and then failed to do much with it. By contrast, Flower starts big and gets bigger, offering a real sense of progression that reaches a delightful crescendo in the game's final moments. It's one of the most gorgeous games I've ever played and, though brief, is well worth playing once and coming back to later even at the $9.99 asking price.

It takes about one minute to learn how Flower works. The game's six levels (or "dreams") are tied together by a hub interface consisting of your drab, depressing urban apartment, and each stage is preceded by some washed-out scenes of life in the metropolitan rat race. That backdrop provides a stark contrast to the rolling green hills and thousands of flowers that make up the lands you'll be zooming through when you actually play the game.

You play the part of the breeze--though what you're really controlling is the camera's perspective--which is marked by the swirl of petals you pick up from each and every flower as you fly by it. The controls couldn't be much simpler. You steer your view by tilting and rotating the controller, and you hit any button to pick up forward momentum. You can't quite turn on a dime, but you get used to the feel of the movement quickly enough.

Certain colors of flowers in each level act as triggers that affect parts of the environment. There's no heads-up display cluttering all that visual splendor, though, so in general, you're just encouraged to explore. In some levels, the right flowers will restore vibrant color to a washed-out landscape; in others, they'll clear a canyon of rocks so you can go zooming through, or start up some windmills to power nearby streetlights. It's always gratifying to see what varied effects you can have on each level, even if it only takes very basic exploration to enact them.

Even when you're just flying around aimlessly, Flower is a real sight, literally exploding color onto your screen from one moment to the next. Your tail of petals can get enormously long and varied if you spend enough time in a level, and picking up speed and doing a quick turnaround can result in you flying right through the middle of it, filling your screen with colors swirling on the wind. Buzzing the ground is also a treat, the way the wind cuts a narrow trough through the tall grass as you speed along. Musical notes are keyed to a lot of the flowers, too, so you're often immediately and dynamically adding to the already jaunty soundtrack as you fly around. The game is a true audiovisual tour de force, giving you the sense that things like 1080p and HDMI are good for more than just marketing bullet points.

Some of Flower is bleaker than you might expect.
Flower could have gone the same way flOw did, with a succession of one lightly enjoyable naturalistic level after the other till you had no more levels to play. It would still be a decent and visually beautiful game if it had. But in the back half, the level design takes you down an unexpectedly darker turn, juxtaposing all that floral jollity with bleaker, dystopian imagery that allows for a couple of twists on the gameplay, too. This unexpected last third of the game really elevated it to a more impressive height, for me. You could extract some environmentalist themes from the latter part of the game with little effort if you wanted, but you're also free to just get lost in the almost overwhelming sensory experience Flower provides.

You can finish Flower in a small handful of hours, but that initial experience is so densely packed with visual splendor and engaging discovery that every minute of it feels meaningful. It's not a bad way to relieve stress, either, just slumping back on the couch after a long day at the office and zooming around fields full of lush flora without a bunch of Locust or Nazis trying to score head shots on you. And the game's trophies are thoughtfully designed, too, encouraging you to go back and play the levels again more skillfully if you're the type of person who's interested in boosting your online rep.

Download services like the PlayStation Store are the best thing to happen to consoles in a long while. They make offbeat experimental games like this one possible, when such games would likely never reach shelves in boxed form due to the raw business realities of retail publishing. But because we can circumvent the obstacles of physical distribution, we can have games like Flower, a tiny, beautiful, elegantly designed piece of software that I feel richer for having played.
Brad Shoemaker on Google+
119 Comments Refresh
Posted by MrMiyagi

Must buy tomorrow!

Posted by Chewii101

Lol....? Maybe I'll check this out..?

Posted by unclejohn0525

Do want.

Posted by papercut

would make me feel to bad about my life

Posted by artofwar420

What IT DO. I will buy this.

Posted by Smallville123

There hasnet been enough footage shown.  Are you going to do a video review?

Posted by clarke0

This review is great! I wish I had a PS3 so I could check this game out.

Edited by imayellowfellow

awesome im glad this game is good

oh yea great review too brad!

Posted by MeatSim

I'm just not interested in Flowers.

Posted by lantus

Looking forward to this tomorrow! :)

Posted by PowerSerj

Awesome review. I'm picking this one up for sure.

Posted by RHCPfan24

YEAH!!!!! Another great review from Brad. I can't wait for this game!

Posted by Kraznor

Is this coming out around midnight or do they release them midday?

Posted by Wright

you forgot to make it rhyme. THIS AIN'T NO POETRY!

Posted by norton123

Yes! I was hoping this game would do well.

Posted by ma_rc_01

Sorry but I gotta say it, Petal to the metal!

Posted by chililili

Definitely getting this tomorrow

Posted by MKO619

wow talk about a diamond in the rough

Posted by ArclightBorealis

Now this looks awesome. Man, I gotta check it sometime.

Posted by Shadow

I love how your 5 star picture perfectly complements what the game is trying to get across.

Posted by Homeslice

This review is a prime example of why I believe Brad is the best pure writer reviewing video games today.

Posted by BolognaSoup

I can't help but laugh at all the fools that won't play this because it's called "flower." Really, no one cares that you're too cool, macho, and close minded to play this game or others like it. Get over yourselves already.

Edited by LiveOrDie1212



Edited by aarontex

Wow that game sounds awesome. I want people to start  making games that are more like art (this game) and less like COD4.

Posted by Snipes424

Thanks for the review Brad,

This will be a day 1 purchase for sure.

Posted by eternaLightness

Need to pick up some PSN cards so I can buy this

Posted by F1

I'm getting it. I love unique game experiences.
Thanks for the review.

Posted by Crono

Brad sounds like such a hippie in this review.  I guess that's a good thing...

Posted by John

Why can't this come out on xbla :(

Posted by Razzuel

Yeah, that was the first thing I noticed. The five star picture and the picture of game in close vicinity was quite jarring.

Anyways, I am definitely picking this up tomorrow!

Posted by TeflonBilly

Well, I'm sold. Nice review.

I guess I'm one of "those people" now. Better pop open the red wine, bring out some brie and crackers, grow a ponytail and wear moccasins without socks.

Posted by zitosilva

I've been waiting for this ever since I saw it at E3. Can't wait 'till I download it tomorrow.

Posted by pirate_republic

I admit the gameplay looks rather dull, however I'll give this one a shot for charm and graphics.

Posted by TwoOneFive

awesome! im so glad you reviewed this so soon, this is definitely getting downloaded ASAP! really im glad this turned out great. 

Posted by JJGIANT

Well this was a suprise

Posted by Matthew

Sweetness.  I watched the video on low res, just because I want to be blown away when I get home from work tomorrow.  Was already going to get this launch day, but this just sweetens the pot. 

Posted by snuggles_mcduggle

Great concept and execution but after watching Brad play it I think Ive got as much out of this game as I can - same concept all the way through, even if it is about 'the journey'

and frankly without Jeff's commentary the game wouldn't be anywhere near as entertaining - Gerstmann pack DLC maybe?

Posted by sofakingcool

Looks cool but the graphics realy dont look that good

Posted by ReTarDedFisHy

Wowoweewa! ReTarDedFisHy can't wait to play this one, then! He was hoping it would be good, but now it's confirmed!

Posted by Red

Game sounds and looks awesome. I guess I'll have to choose between flower and Loco Roco....hard choice.

Posted by bshirk

This looks okay, but I might download Crash Commando instead.  I'm eagerly anticipating Trine and Fat Princess.  My girl needs some cake.

Posted by Kohe321

Looks fun, I'l pick this up!

Posted by ahoodedfigure

This looks really cool.  I tend to try to get a good spread of games instead of getting stuff that's basically all the same.  Really nice environment to dive into when trying to clear the head.

I've seen many more things out there that cost about as much and give you almost nothing in return (or hell, even 6 times as much).  This isn't derivative.

And I've come to the realization that Jeff fears grass.  Unless he's getting the same color-blindness, picked-a-green-you-can't-see-ha-ha vibe that I'm getting sometimes.

Posted by get2sammyb

Definitely picking this up tonight.

Sounds beautiful.

Posted by Tebbit

Man, that grass was waving all over the place... It has a strange, hypnotic quality to it.

Posted by ashton

is it just me or do the controls look kinda difficult?

Posted by Meowayne

This + actual gameplay = deBlob.

Posted by spilledmilkfactory

i must have this

Posted by ThePrince

Good quick look. Might have been better though if Jeff didn't make fun of every aspect of the game for all 14 minutes though.

Posted by MeierTheRed

Just completed the two first gardens/levels and its a very good game, so calming and relaxing to play.