As I'm sure most of you know, we're in a recession at the moment.
People are losing their jobs and no one seems to be getting salary increases. It's tough times, tough times indeed. Heck, even Chris Brown was agitated enough to apparently attack Rihanna with an umbrella recently (you have to appreciate the irony if the umbrella part is true!). We all could use some peace right? Well, for those lucky enough to have access to a PS3 there is a wonderful solution on the PSN called Flower.
From a gaming perspective, Flower is not really a game; it's more of an experience. It could be fair to call Flower an interactive screensaver. While it looks like it is an open-world game where you are free to just let yourself go and float through it, it isn't. There are set checkpoints that you have to reach along a set path in order to proceed through the various levels.
Ok, so that sounded boring right? That's because the description is just too clinical, so let me explain why Flower is one of the most wonderful experiences you can have on a console if you're willing to give something a little different a chance.
In Flower you play as a gust of wind picking up flower petals as you travel through a variety of environments. By the end of most levels you will have a long stream of flower petals with a range of different colours. The games graphics are fairly simple but its use of colours and movement is truly beautiful. The way flower petals float, the way grass moves as you blow through it; it's all very calming and yet at other times, exciting as well. This is given an extra boost by the music and sounds Flower uses. There are simple and yet wonderful musical tones that create the right level of joy, excitement and peace at the right times. The sound of your wind gust and the grass moving as you blow through it also creates a sense of wonder. Each time you pass over a flower to pick up a petal there is a piano key that plays which fits in wonderfully with the music, no matter when you do it.
The environments are very well made and vary greatly. They also tell a very simple and yet deeply beautiful story.
Flower is played by pressing any button on the controller to create a gust of wind that travels forward, at which point you use the Six-Axis controls to guide what direction you want to move in. It's all about subtle, fluid and gentle movements.
The purpose of Flower is to have a relaxing experience, although there are some nice little twists later in the game that actually makes it more exciting and exhilarating than you would have originally expected from the first few levels.
The truth is there isn't a lot to say about Flower because firstly, it's so simple; there really isn't a great deal of complexity. And secondly, it's an experience that needs to be felt, not told. It's not that typical adrenaline-junky type game, but it's a very beautiful and peaceful game. It's perfect to play after a long and stressful day. It would also be a great game to get your spouse to play, or if you have kids this might be a fun game that can add a bit of calmness to the household.
It isn't a long game (takes just over an hour to finish) but you won't mind going back and playing some of the levels again. My one criticism is that perhaps it is a little too linear. I know this was done in order to tell a story, but it would have been nice if they made one or two levels that were truly open so you can just completely lose yourself in them. As it stands now, it's a wonderful experience but after playing it again and again the levels may become too familiar (kind of like the courses in a racing game) and then lose their charm and relaxing quality.
For now though, if you want to try something spiritual, fun, relaxing and a little different during these tough times, you really can't go wrong with Flower.
As an almost Zen-like gaming experience; the gameplay is simple but perfect for what the game wants to achieve; peace and beauty.