Game Review: Flower (PS Vita)

Flower PS Vita

Flower is a unique exploration adventure game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita, PS3 and PS4. Flower was initially released on February 12th 2009 for the PS3 as the successor to the experimental and successful flOw with Flower receiving critical acclaim and rave reviews from the entirety of the gaming media and garnering three major awards in the process including: the Casual Game of the Year Award at the 2010 Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences; the Artistic Achievement Award at the 2010 BAFTA Games Awards; and the Best Independent Game Award at the 2010 Spike Video Game Awards.

Before you enter the first level you are taken into an apartment building with a flower on a table that is on the verge of blooming, but has not quite bloomed just yet. As you progress through each of the levels; a flower will bloom and another flower will be added to the table as each flower represents the starting place of a level.

Every level of Flower starts with a single petal falling from a flower and being blown along on its journey as the wind flows around it to help guide the petal along its path. The petal blooms another flower when the petal touches a flower and in the process; releases another petal from each bloomed flower, therefore creating a trail of petals and a large quantity of bloomed flowers. The flowers range in their varieties as they possess different colours, shapes and sizes to provide a sense that each variety of flowers are unique from one another.

When an entire area of flowers have bloomed; the area around the flowers will also bloom into life and is clearly represented with an amazingly vibrant and lively animation of fields of grass becoming greener as though the grass is happy with the blooming of the flowers. Another example of the surrounding environment benefiting from an entire area of flowers blooming into their glory occurs when windmills become active and continue to channel wind after an entire area of flowers have bloomed. In the event that you enter the flow of air from the windmill; you will immediately increase your speed, much in the same way as you would when you receive a sudden burst of speed when you successfully bloom flowers in the appropriate order.

The screen saver mode allows you to see various slow motion images of the level you are playing, which provides you with an opportunity to see a variety of areas that you have already explored and areas of the level that you are yet to explore which may give you a clue of where to head next if you have lost your bearings, but also to view the stunning scenery while you sit back and relax.

Flower supports cross-buy between the Vita, PS3 and PS4, although it unfortunately does not support cross-save, so you will not be able to continue from your previous progression on the PS3 version or when you start playing the PS4 version. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value for Vita and PS3 consumers already, but Sony is really taking the cross-buy scheme to the next level as they have implemented a range of titles that will support cross-buy for the Vita, PS3 and PS4 with just a single purchase required for all three versions of the game, which means if you already own the original PS3 version; you will be able to download the Vita and PS4 versions free of charge upon their release.

The controls are intuitive and easy to learn with a minimalist approach that provides an excellent amount of manoeuvrability without over complicating anything. There are two control schemes including motion controls and touch screen controls. The motion controls definitely seem to work best with the gyroscopic tilt controls steering the movement of the petals as the X button allows you to move faster in the direction you are facing at any given time, while pressing select displays the screen saver mode and the start button pauses the game and sends you back to your room. The touch screen controls consist of using the rear touch pad to steer the petals, although I personally found the gyroscopic controls much more responsive.

The graphical effects are breathtaking with individual blades of grass and an ever so increasing formation of petals bonding quite well with the colourful vibrancy of the flowers, grass and environmental surroundings to create some of the best graphics you will ever see in such a game.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface for the main menu that doubles as the level selection menu and options menu with minimal support for the face buttons, although there is no support for navigation via the left analogue stick, right analogue stick, directional pad and rear touch pad. The background of the main menu screen looks very colourful and vibrant as it contains a variety of objects and natural materials, such as a stained wooden finish to the walls, a window with buildings in the distance and blue skies and a table with potted plants.

The audio is some of the most relaxing you will ever find as the music will evolve with incidental notes popping up and re-arranging the musical arrangement as you bloom new flowers, so effectively the music and the sound effects intertwine with each other to the point that they become the same entity.

The trophy list includes fourteen trophies with eleven bronze trophies, two silver trophies and one gold trophy. The trophies are mostly easy and will be earned even without really trying as the majority of the trophies will be earned naturally through playing the game. Some of the easier trophies include the Memories bronze trophy for reminiscing for three minutes before returning to the room by simply pressing select to enter a screen saver mode and just watching the slow motion video showing off the surrounding environment for three minutes; the Welcome Back bronze trophy for playing the game after a week long break, although this can be achieved by adjusting the system date of your Vita a week ahead after playing, then start playing the game again; the Healthy Play bronze trophy for taking a ten minute break immediately after you have completed one dream and before you start the following dream; and the Discovery bronze trophy for finding and blooming a secret flower, which you will most likely achieve without even realising it as you only have to find and bloom a single secret flower. There are some trophies that require you to light up or colour the ground in a particular colour within a certain area of the level, but this should not prove to be a problem providing that you are actively exploring the environments. There are two difficult trophies including the Nature silver trophy, which is difficult purely due to how long it may take you to bloom 10,000 flowers, while the most difficult trophy of the two is the Dream gold trophy for finding and blooming every flower in the game, which includes all of the secret flowers, so you will certainly have to be exploring in every possible area and direction of every level. I would estimate depending upon skill, a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips and knowing exactly where you need to explore to find secret flowers that it would take between six to ten hours to 100% the trophy list.

There are no difficulty levels, although the difficulty naturally increases as you progress through the game with various additional gameplay elements brought into the mix in each level from windmills to caverns with multiple paths that you must quickly choose between to navigate to the appropriate area and even power lines that pose a real danger.

There are no local or online multiplayer game modes and online leaderboards. I can understand the lack of local or online multiplayer game modes as they are not essential to the experience; I believe that online leaderboards would have been a good inclusion as they could have included leaderboards for the fastest times set on each level; the fastest combined time set across all of the levels; the most flowers bloomed for each level; and the most flowers bloomed across all of the levels. However, another way to analyse the exclusion of any local, hotseat or online multiplayer and online leaderboards is that the game is not meant to be competitive and is instead meant to take you on a relaxing journey.

The replayability of Flower is formed from the amount of exploration in the game with multiple paths and secret flowers to bloom, alongside the fact that Flower must be the most relaxing game ever created, which is something that you cannot state as confidently about any other game and therefore you will be coming back long after the first time you have completed it.

Overall, Flower is a unique experience in its own right and must be played to believe just how relaxing it really is. It would be highly recommendable anyway, but with the implementation of the first Vita, PS3 and PS4 cross-buy title resulting in a single purchase of £6.49 for all three versions of this beautiful and amazing game makes Flower an unquestionable must have purchase.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: Flower
  • Publisher: Thatgamecompany
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: No
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 490Mb

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