If by now you have not heard of Flower, you’ve been hiding under the proverbial rock. When the critically acclaimed PlayStation exclusive was released in early 2009 not only did it make a statement, it also helped to change the way that Sony and the industry as a whole looked at the contributions of indie developers. It’s not a stretch to say that importance of this game has been felt at nearly every-level and in many ways it has become a standard-bearer for the creative movement in games. Now after nearly half a decade in the wings, the brainchild of Jenova Chen has found its way onto PlayStation Vita, and while logic may suggest that with the weight of time this blossom may have begun to wither; it manages to stand firmly in the wind – deserving of yet another season in the sun.
To definitively explain the narrative of Flower is near impossible. It attempts to tell a story could be described as one of rejuvenation, but the fact of the matter is that at its core it is completely abstract. Save for a few short cutscenes the ambiguous plot unfolds organically through your gameplay and plants but a seed in your mind as to the nature of its design. Flower’s campaign is indeed quite short, but that doesn’t take away from its long- lasting impact. The debate as to whether or not video games as medium are deserved of being labeled art has become a hot topic as of late and Flower does a great job in supporting those like me who believe it does. While Flower admittedly holds no answers, it does inspire many questions and leaves you reflective of your experience at its conclusion; qualities that are indicative of its artistry. The imprint that Flower leaves on you will linger long after you’ve completed it.
If you are unfamiliar with Flower the central premise of the game is that you begin as a lonely and vulnerable petal of flora and with the guiding hand of the wind you flutter across the landscape brushing across other flowers and incorporating their petals into your mass. As your colourful flock increases, as does your speed, but it is not only you who changes for the better – the world around you also benefits by your touch. The reaction of your contact is the infusion of vibrancy and life to a bleak and grey world, your mere connection breathes life into the dark.
It is understandable that this concept may not be for everyone, and that to some the premise may seem somewhat pretentious or perhaps, to some – even boring, but there are is true joy to be found in vitalizing universe; and even some honest-to-goodness thrills to be had in this charming indie game. The mere a touch budding flower yields a musical tone and if when you manage to link these notes in succession the result can be beyond rewarding. Additionally once you have built up enough mass and pick up a head of steam you’re able to soar across the map in a way that rivals the experience of speed found in some of the best racing games on the market.
The means in which you go about navigating your ever-growing congregation is by directing the flow of wind. The game is designed so that while you are guiding the pedals, you are never in quite feel as though you are in direct control of them. Unlike its predecessor the PlayStation Vita version comes with a pair of control schemes to choose from, the default uses the PS Vita’s gyroscope to imitate that of the original and the touch option allows you to handle matters in a more tactile fashion.
The motion controls on the Vita perform admirably, emulating the original feeling found on the PlayStation 3, despite a pair of unique annoyances. The first issue that you pretty much have to play sitting upright as the gyroscope never quite calibrates to any other position and the other is that when the action ramps up it is possible to lose sight of the screen as you rotate the Vita. Thankfully these are small issues when compared to the immersion the scheme lends. Twisting and turning may feel unusual at first, but once you become acclimated you will feel completely in-tune with the game.
The implementation of touch controls on the other hand is quite disappointing. Instead of something unique the attempt is to realize the tilting using the PlayStation Vita’s touchscreen. A combined rotation of your fingers on the screen simulates the rotation of the system and while the touch inputs are indeed serviceable, they are not nearly as engaging. Electing to use touch as the primary method of control in Flower results in a regrettable lack of fidelity and keeps you from ever being completely engrossed in the experience.
Another area where the PlayStation Vita version of Flower differs from the original is in its visuals. In order to bring the game to Sony’s handheld Bluepoint Games have clearly had to make concessions in the graphics department, but that isn’t to say that it looks bad – merely that it isn’t quite on par with its console counterpart. Flower was a graphical powerhouse on the PS3, and while the Vita version technically is a downgrade, when compared to other games on the platform it’s equally as impressive.
There are some gorgeous stunning games in the PlayStation Vita’ library, but you’d be hard pressed to find many that look quite as good as Flower does. There is something simply mesmerizing about the way the game presents itself at any given moment. Whether you’re breezing through a patch of grass or simply watching the sun set on the horizon; it’s hard not to marvel at how beautiful Flower manages to be.
Ultimately that’s the point – playing Flower on Vita doesn’t necessarily add anything to the experience. If you’ve played the game before for, you are for the most part going to relive the exact same experience, and to me personally; that’s incredible achievement. Flower may not challenge your reflexes but it may challenge the way you think about both games and yourself as moving forward, which perhaps as profound and impact as one could ask from a piece of entertainment.