Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thoughts on Flower

With all the talk of Flower going on lately, I figured it was my turn to chime in...

Flower has been getting a lot of buzz as being sort of the "next big thing." It's simple, nearly goalless structure has been described as perhaps starting a whole new genre of gaming. As Matt Chandronat said on his preview on the late 1up Show, "it emphasizes positive reinforcement rather than negative." (Not an exact quote). I, however, would argue that Flower is far from the breakthrough work of art as others have described it.

Yes, the game is pretty. Very pretty in fact. Especially the later levels. And the soundtrack/sound effects work well in tandem with the visual input to create a pleasing, relaxing atmosphere. Though, at its core, Flower is still very much a game, and not a particularly good one, I'd argue.

I've heard it argued that flower is as much an experience as it is a game, but I just don't see it. Maybe I'm just acclimated to playing very goal-oriented games, and while it's possible to play Flower straight through, blooming only the minimum amount of flowers required to move on, the game is still very much a collect-athon. There really isn't much to do other than bloom flowers, and there are no scores to speak of (such as for time, or flowers bloomed). So either you go through the levels briskly (which may be fun, but you'll breeze through the game in a scant couple hours at that rate) or, if you want any sort of replay value at all, you'll go for the little bonuses you get for collecting the three hidden green flowers that only show up if you bloom all the flowers in a specific area. Maybe it's just my OCD talking, but I didn't find that to be very engaging. I can't just breeze through a game collecting the minimum, and blooming all the flowers in any given region can be an arduous task.

Not only is Flower a collect-athon, but one with questionable controls, in my opinion. Maybe I'm just used to playing with analogue sticks, but having to control the game with the six-axis just felt odd to me. I'm not used to having to pay attention to how I'm holding the controller, and would frequently inadvertently start pointing up, because that's just the position I usually hold a controller in. I can appreciate what they were going for by trying to scale it down to the simplest control scheme possible, but I feel like including the option for analogue sticks couldn't hurt anything.

Furthermore, the few more "gamey" parts of Flower they've included, i.e. the "switches" that trigger the next event, are all executed in unskippable cutscenes where camera control is ripped away from the player. Every time you bloom an area, you have to sit back and watch it get restored to its former glory. It can't just happen whilst playing. For a game that's supposed to be about freedom, there sure is a lot of hand holding.

There is still a lot to like about Flower. The audiovisual component is fantastic and I can appreciate its simplicity, but I didn't feel like it told as great a story as it seems to try to. Many have compared Flower to Rez, and it's an apt comparison. I only mildly enjoyed that game as well, where I felt like it had a phenomenal audio/visual presentation, but was locked into otherwise rote shooter mechanics. Amazing to see all the sights on sounds of that first time through, but lacking in the gameplay to make the replay all that much fun. Still, both these games are a steal at $10 just for their aesthetics alone and I can appreciate that they're trying something new. But just because it's new doesn't make it any better.
blog comments powered by Disqus