I played fl0w the other day. Not for any particular reason, but just because it was sat at the bottom of my ‘misc’ folder, languishing amongst an alcohol-powered Q-bert purchase and that daft little demo experiment that we disliked so much it caused the developer to actually join our site and give us hell. Some of the comments in that post completely missed my point: I am fully aware of the so-called demoscene, have been since the Amiga days, but Linger In Shadows was a completely misguided, forced and ridiculously hyped mis-fire that didn’t do anything to further the PSN’s then dry, drab existence. “Just because a game doesn’t involve violence and shooting doesn’t mean that it sucks” said Slamori, and “it’s still a demoscene demo, not a game,” said Plastic’s bonzajplc. “And it seems you have forgotten about that major fact.”
The truth is that now we’ve got a proper motion controlled entry on the PSN, Flower, Linger In Shadows stands out even more as the failed attempt to try something new on the PlayStation 3. Despite some of the comments in the review, we’ve nothing against Plastic and what they achieved undoubtably technically still stands tall, but it either should have been a standard real time demo, or left alone in video form. We’ll never know who was behind the decision to shoe-horn in some stupid Dual Shock mechanics but the demo lived and died by its own failings, not those of any reviewer who wouldn’t bend over just because this was something the competition didn’t have. Yes, reviewing games can often be a wonderful thing, but when you’ve got people blaming our 3/10 score for poor sales, well, thank goodness they’re not all like that.
Which, again, brings us back around to Flower. Firstly, let be just re-iterate that DJH’s 10/10 score was, and is, absolutely spot on. It convinced me to splash out the 2 t-shirts on it, and haven’t look back since. It’s not that I’d purposely avoided it in any way, but I was in the middle of my Xbox 360 jaunt and was concentrating on trying to shift the hulking Fenix around and smashing up paper animals rather than anything SCEE decided to fart out of a Thursday, but there it was, the internet was talking about it and the thought of some end-game tears for less than eight quid seemed like a bargain I couldn’t possibly refuse. I didn’t cry, but the rush of the final segment after the progressively more intense foreplay of the increasingly dark, claustrophobic and downright frightening middle levels was like nothing else I’d ever played.
Flower can be roughly broken down into four stages. The first is when you start the first level for the first time, and you realise just what you can do with the Sixaxis, floating around serenely minding your own business. The second is when you first catch a series of wind traps, propelling your merry trail of petals in a combo Ryu would be proud of. The third is when you realise that everything you take for granted in this modern world: power, electricity, buildings, is at odds with nature’s atomic-level organic growth, and the fourth, the most important, is that in the end ThatGameCompany didn’t once tell you what to do, didn’t once preach about the delicate balance our planet rests on, and yet somehow managed to tell a deep, meaningful narrative without printing a single line of text.
Your thought processes might have differed, they might have been the same, it doesn’t matter. The end result is that for what now feels like pennies, Flower, with the PS3 and its oft-ridiculed controller have single-handedly revolutionised the very notion of downloadable games. We won’t ever be happy with twin-stick shooters again, or self-important post-retro platformers – if a game can’t manage to give us half the pure pleasure Flower did it’s going to look very backwards in comparision. Finely tuned to perfection and completely self aware without once being arrogant or pompous, the game is a blissful experience and one that’s infinitely replayable. I’m jealous I didn’t write the TSA review, but I’m equally happy I got to play the game without that burden. And as for fl0w, well, that’s pretty special too. I might even move it from ‘misc’ and create a new folder just for ThatGameCompany games.