Tiptoe through the tulips.
I live in a fairly large house in a small town in northwest Florida. By city-slicker standards, my house is probably “in the country,” though we like to think of it as removed; removed from neighborhoods, prying eyes, overstepping government, homeowner associations or anything else that could impose on personal freedoms. Adding to this sense of freedom, I live on almost ten acres of rolling, grassy fields, thin woods and running creeks and ponds, my home being dead in the center of it all. To some people, this could sound like the set-up to a horror film, but for myself and my siblings, it provided a glorious, pure childhood that was filled with wondrous adventures, and our wild imaginations were unleashed to inscribe all sorts of memories on the ever-fading membrane of innocence we all possess in our younger years. I fought in a thousand wars in my front yard, all of them against different enemies from my youth: the Dark Side, Skeletor, Kraang, the Decepticons, Team Rocket and practically any other bad guys from the flawless era of late 1980s/early 1990s cartoons. I could be or do anything using my imagination. The property surrounding my home was formative in my upbringing, nurturing my creativity and fueling my love for the great outdoors.
When I first saw Flower, I didn’t expect much. It looked like a graphical showcase that comes on a demo disc when you first purchase your console; in other words, it didn’t look like a “real game”, in my opinion. I waited to purchase Flower for a long time, eventually catching it for about $2 during a PSN Flash Sale. As soon as I began playing, I realized that I had been so incredibly wrong about this game; Flower is remarkable. It’s humble, unassuming, simple and very short, yet was more prominent to me than a dozen of other games that I have played recently. It speaks to my core, immediately taking me back to my childhood, playing outdoors with my friends or siblings. I feel like I understand Flower at a fundamental level.
Flower is a sort of cerebral, whimsical, artsy game; with no obvious plot or rhyme or reason for why the events of the game are unfolding; yet I still found myself completely enthralled with the relaxed way in which the game is played. The first few stages have a soothing, almost therapeutic feeling. There is no pressure to complete any section in a time limit or to collect everything, or any of the usual fare found in most traditional video games. The player controls the wind, and through controlling the wind, you pick up flower petals as you blow through each stage, eventually becoming an enormous cloud of petals. You eventually find new types of flowers, adding more color and variety into the petal hurricane. All of these seemingly mundane tasks or goals add to the sense of drifting about at the player’s chosen pace. Further along, there is a more clear villainous element added into the game, as power lines, skyscrapers, paved roads and factories creep into your rolling meadows and fields, all of which are portrayed in a grim, gray style, as if they’re sapping all of the beauty out of the landscape. This slow introduction to industrialization is done flawlessly, as it seems very natural; first seeing power lines (which can harm the player, causing you to lose your petals) and eventually seeing more and more of the infection of urbanization taking over the grasslands. While Flower certainly isn’t explicitly a condemnation of industrialization and the damage that it does to nature, the view in which we have does not show smokestacks or power lines in a very favorable light.
Flower is a gorgeous game in regards to both the subject matter and the graphics. For being around seven years old, it’s absurd that the graphics have held up as well as they have. I only recently played Flower, and it was comparable to many of the games that I have played in this generation. The graphics are somewhat stylized, with the flowers and the industrial elements looking artistic and somewhat surreal. The meadows and fields look outstanding, though, as they should in a game that focuses on nature and the beauty of the untouched outdoors.
Flower’s soundtrack is awe-inspiring. It sounds like it belongs in a Studio Ghibli film with its beautiful, imaginative, creative, soft music. There are many tracks that have lone acoustic guitars, giving an ambient, hollow feeling, yet still incredibly peaceful. There are more tracks with strings and a piano accompanying the acoustic guitars, all of which together create an immaculate, breathtaking soundtrack that befits Flower perfectly.
In summary, Flower was a spiritual experience for me. In all of the hubbub and craze of daily life, it was a strange, welcoming feeling to sit down with this game. I don’t play many games nowadays that make me feel like when I was a child, and Flower may not give that feeling to everyone. I feel that I was a special case with my childhood and love for the outdoors and where I grew up; Flower spoke to me on a very personal level. I hope everyone would give this game a chance, whether they’re an average gamer or a more diehard gamer. The price tag is only $7 on average, which isn’t much when the game is such a pleasant experience to behold. Flower is a once in a generation kind of experience, and it shouldn’t be missed.