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CONSOLE: PlayStation 3 DEVELOPER: ThatGameCompany PUBLISHER: Sony Computer Entertainment
RELEASE DATE (NA): February 12, 2009 GENRE: Zen
// review by Beverley

As the petal falls, a light video game rises...

Flower by Thatgamecompany is a new addition to the zen gaming trend. Thatgamecompany is becoming well-known for simplistic gameplay with deep, contemplative themes, and Flower continues that tradition by bringing a world of nature, vitality and renewal to an urban landscape of decay and devastation. Basically, you play as the wind, visiting various areas to awaken flowers and collect their petals for your own life force. I am beginning to find I really enjoy games like Okami, Actraiser and Terranigma where the main character is a god-like figure on a quest to help others, but the interesting thing about playing as the wind is that the abiotic yet animated force of nature has a strange spiritual significance that is very basic and elemental. The idea of being the wind conjures up ideas about transformative power yet subtlety, about freshness and freedom that a humanoid deity just can't seem to summon as effectively.

As you travel in your journeys, this theme is enhanced. As the wind, you become a bringer of light in the calm peace of darkness, you become an enhancer of life, you become an explorer, an empowerer, a destroyer of the decayed and a creator of the new. In your journey to revitalize flowers, you travel from a rural environment to an increasingly urban one and eventually vanquish urban decay and bring the beauty and freedom of nature into the city.


Saving the world one petal at a time.

The graphics for this game were quite nice -- not noteworthy in their detail but impressive in their use. There were moving sunsets and landscapes and starry skies for the wind to whistle through that gave me a sense of awe and appreciation for nature while sitting on my couch. Sound effects were sprinkled in lightly for a realistic feeling, and the music, though not my typical taste (more orchestral/ instrumental) was still very enjoyable, especially since sound effect used in game play interacted with the music. I was a bit disappointed, however, since in the trailer for this game they used a Bob Dylan track; I had hoped the game would make use of more folk music.

One more thing I would like to praise this game on is I think they had the perfect amount of challenge and length for someone as non-committal as I am. I felt like the game stayed fresh long enough that I did not get bored of the game play and felt like I was being frequently rewarded with plot development, even if it was nothing more than a quick video clip.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing this game. The gameplay was simple, the ideas were complex, and the experience was beautiful. This game inspired me to feel the freedom and power that was innate in my own human nature and use it to enable and empower something new to grow and to invest in my community. I think that was the purpose it set out to serve. Hopefully the zen genre continues to prosper. Thatgamecompany is doing a great job of allowing its customers to consider the possibility of games as art, and enabling deeper discussion about the narratives of games.


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