By: Jeff Cater
Coming from renowned developer thatgamecompany, flOw is about the players controlling a microscopic organism lost in the depths of the sea, and their only chance for survival is to eat lesser life forms and grow into a terrifying oceanic predator.
Right off the bat the controls feel pretty alien. No thumb stick interaction here, but the game does favor the Six Axis feature of the Dualshock4; tipping and leaning the controller will hurtle your sea creature in the corresponding direction. It’s definitely weird to get used to, but after about 15 minutes it feels smooth and almost natural.
Pushing any of the face buttons will activate a boost that allows you to employ hit-and-run tactics or to simply escape consumption. With the pacing and atmosphere of the game, thumb sticks would make the game too easy and the unknown/alien vibe would deteriorate.
While flOw takes a somewhat minimalist approach to the visuals, in no way does that condemn it. As you descend further into the depths, the water subtly darkens and the varying life you come across glow beautifully (but terrifying at the same time), and before you know it you’ve traveled so deep the place feels even more alien than before.
Your organism (and many of the others) start to grow massive, intricate designs that act as a tail and as an indication of your progress. The individual segments of your microbe’s body pulse and shimmer beautifully as well! Everything in the sea moves at a silky 60 frames per second, and it’s super sharp because it’s all presented in 1080p.
The sound is much more minimalist than the visuals, with muffled bubbles and various sonar-like pings accompany the ingestion of lesser creatures. While the soundtrack never reaches outstanding, it serves its purpose well and is both relaxing and tensely foreboding at the appropriate moments.
flOw plays like a Snake game, almost like a deep-sea Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll (but fortunately never a pixel-perfect jump to worry about!). The goal of flOw is to consume microbes and grow into a massive, glowing terror worm.
While the adjustment period of the controls only takes minutes, the objective of the game never varies; chomp up things and fight like-sized creatures to descend further. This causes it to quickly become monotonous unless played in short spurts or with a friend who can drop-in at any time — which is actually very satisfying and hilarious watching a friend get used to the controls (as long as you’ve kept your second Dualshock 4 charged).
thatgamecompany has a pretty cool depiction of the microscopic evolution of aquatic life, and being able to play flOw on PS3, Vita and PS4 all with a single purchase isn’t just a great deal, but awesomely convenient as you can flOw on the go or with friends at home. Although it’s a bit thin as an experience, it’s not easily replaced or forgotten.