Flower is an award-winning console game from indie developers at thatgamecompany and provides a wonderful alternative to the standard FPS fare usually available for the PS3 and PS4. This is a very easy game to learn to play. There are very few instructions at the beginning, and the game does a good job of introducing new challenges with just in time hints on how to proceed next. Players do not need to remember complicated combinations of buttons, and even people with limited dexterity will be able to enjoy Flower to its fullest.
The game allows the player to control the wind through a number of short episodes as you move through beautiful landscapes, encouraging flowers to open. As you move through the beautiful landscapes, you collect petals from the flowers you have nudged open, all accompanied by soothing music and the tinkling of gentle bells as each flower is contacted. Players can control the speed of the wind. You can rush through grasses and turn valleys into speedways. Or you can meander gently through meadows filled with flowers. It’s up to you to decide what level of challenge or relaxation you need while playing the game.
There is an aspect of puzzle to the game in finding all of the flowers and the most optimal path through the landscape. But the rewards are clear, and early episodes are very forgiving of players who simply want to fly all over the beautiful regions to enjoy them. This is a type of gameplay that is particularly inviting during long winters, and I find myself playing this game repeatedly just for the beautiful artwork.
For all the game is generally nice, easy, and relaxing, it does progress from easy to more difficult game play. And there is an unexpected narrative underlying this simple little game. Early episodes are simply relaxing, beautiful, and fun as the player floats or rushes across the world. Later episodes become more difficult. Flower petals can become damaged when they contact certain objects, and maneuvering the wind around these obstacles while minimizing damage becomes challenging.
Later episodes in the game also take the storyline in a direction I had not anticipated. The game changes from a light and easy run through flowering meadows to a persuasive game (see Ian Bogost’s work) about the value of using wind power to save dying cities. While I had not been anticipating the shift, it was sufficiently subtle to keep me engaged and enjoying using the wind to break down barriers, start up wind farms, and restore the flow of electricity.
In a only a few hours, I had finished the game and was left wishing for more of this magical experience, which is perhaps my only real criticism of this delightful game. After waiting hours for it to download from the PS3 shop — admittedly during the Christmas rush — I had hoped to spend more time enjoying the fabulous art and music.