Originally released in early 2009, Flower was brought back as a launch title for the PlayStation 4 (along with cross-buy support for those with Vitas). Despite my love of Thatgamecompany’s Journey, I never played the developer’s previous title; so it seemed like an ideal time to rectify that oversight.
Movement in Flower is controlled by tilting the controller, which allows you to travel up and down as well as side to side. Pressing down on any button increases the wind and, by extension, the speed your convoy of petals travels. It typically works well, and when you get into a groove swooping and dipping throughout the levels it feels like a natural extension of the game. On the flip side, there are times when it seems as though you’re fighting things; it’s during those moments that I found myself really longing for the ability to use the analog sticks to control my path. Alas, no such option exists.
It’s easy to see the similarities between Journey and Flower in terms of artistic vision. Both titles focus on quiet beauty, and although Flower isn’t a tech demo of what the PS4 can do visually, the mix of colors and sweeping nature of level traversal make it an excellent looking game. There are some moments where I felt the camera wasn’t quite responsive enough, particularly when making tight turns or moving through taller objects, but it was never more than a nuisance.
Calm, classical and pitch perfect, the soundtrack here nails the game’s vibe (if not outright creates it) by drifting along peacefully in the background and occasionally building up. It’s wonderful.
In Flower you begin each of the game’s six levels (seven if you count the interactive credits) as a single petal and then swoop through the fields to make flowers bloom. Each time you do this you’ll pick up an additional petal, creating a whirling vortex of colorful foliage in your wake. There are several types of flowers, but the ones necessary for advancement will emit a pulsing halo of color.
As you collect pulsating flowers, the available area will expand, creating a path of advancement for you to follow. What’s interesting about this is that even though the route you travel from beginning to end is very linear, the world itself is so open that it never feels forced or claustrophobic. In fact, much of the game’s charm stems from the fact that you’re able to explore as much as you’d like and just soak in the ambiance — though for those that insist on a purpose to such endeavors, each level does contain a handful of “secret” flowers to locate.
Viewed strictly under the umbrella of gaming, Flower possesses two issues: it’s short (you can finish in an hour or so) and its difficulty is basically non-existent. There’s no health bar, no way to fail and, outside of some electrical current that can shock you, there aren’t even many obstacles. So if you’re someone that gets bogged down in challenge and length when determining where your gaming dollars go this likely isn’t the title for you.
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that view, if you choose to adopt it here you’re missing out on a very unique, calming experience.
With all the interchangeable titles out there, it’s always nice to find something that goes in a completely different direction. Whatever properties Flower may lack in the context of being a video game, it makes up for with its soothing vibe and delightful presentation.