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CONSOLE: PlayStation 3 DEVELOPER: ThatGameCompany PUBLISHER: Sony Computer Entertainment
RELEASE DATE (NA): February 22, 2007 GENRE: Zen
// review by Beverley

As the river flows, so to do video games...

So I have been reading a book called "Extra Lives" by Tom Bissell, which discusses the relationship between games and art. The book gives a nod to Flow, the first game in the "zen gaming" genre, marked by its complete lack of story. I had been curious about flow since its gorgeous trailer came out.

What drew me in to Flow was that it was supposed to be simple and relaxing: no more swearing at the TV or panicing at unexpected situations or jumping out of your seat when a headcrab leaps in your face, just a nice, relaxing non-stressful game. As you can probably guess, I am a very emotionally involved gamer, and sometimes I find one too many golems in my face a bit stressful. For once, it might be nice to sit back and enjoy an artistic experience without getting too involved.

It's an organism eat organism world, folks.

I was very impressed at how well Flow delivered. In this game, I was what one might imagine is a microscopic organism (allthough since the game provides no story this is all personal interpretation), floating serenely through water, consuming smaller organisms to grow and thrive. some poeple might think this is boring, but the game gave you some fairly challenging and large prey to take down, giving just enough challenge to keep things interesting. The graphics were beautiful and simple, and the music was serene while working in the sound effects of various creatures. I found myself smiling at the hypnotic and mysterious world that was unfolding namelessly before me. It was surprisingly a lot like meditation. This was my kind of game.

My only disappointment was that the game was much too short. However, the relatively low price of this game does take some impact away from that drawback. Still, the game was completely explored in a few hours and I felt disappointed that I couldn;t get to know the mystery of Flow better. In my opinion, the replay value of this game is very high, as I love to experience this game again and again, sinking into a watery trance of movement. Though I know this game is not what a lot of high-action gamers are looking for, I found this game to be an entirely different and rewarding gaming experience and I walked away from it feeling refreshed and renewed instead of the usual tenseness and frustration that follows my usual gaming sessions. Instead of replacing my problems with an entirely new set of conflicts like most games do, flow cleaned my mind and relaxed me so I could enjoy my day. I would highly recommend this game for people who have difficulty unwinding and for children, since very little real "violence" is suggested in the game.

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