Only in a medium like videogames, so distinctly oriented toward violence, could a project as simple as Flower seem like a grand statement. Players guide a single petal on gusts of wind through the dreams of potted flora, drawing a skeletal portrait of tension between the pastoral and urban. The brushstrokes are simple, almost impressionistic: great plains and rolling hills carpeted with windswept grass. Canyons snaked through with crumbling electrical towers. A grimy city swept clean by a potpourri breeze.
The petal flies through this series of landscapes, awakening other flowers and gathering a whirling trail of petals swirling like a ribbon on the wind. Throughout, you create every motion by tilting the PS3 controller. Sony has attempted that trick a few times before, but never with the intuitive, responsive results seen here.
The first “dream” begins on a blighted plain. Blowing your solitary petal into other dormant flowers wakes them from slumber. Awakening clusters and patterns of plants causes a section of the landscape to ignite into colorful life. (Synergy: Flower is like a mini-game describing Prince Of Persia’s cleansing of fertile grounds.) Each impact with another flower sounds a note; plucked strings and strummed chords create a dynamic score. (Call that a game-design pun; still, there’s no high score to achieve.)
The game’s movement and visual grace are hypnotic, but they don’t lack tension. As the flowers dream of encroaching humanity, the atmosphere blackens. A transition from near-harmonious interaction of man and nature to nightmarish technological failure is handled perfectly. Flower’s hallucinatory narrative arc is gentle and hardly ambitious, but that doesn’t make following the path to the final payoff any less rewarding.
Beyond the game: Two years ago, developer thatgamecompany created the downloadable PS3 game flOw, which similarly reduced gameplay to a few simple concepts and motion controls.
Worth playing for: The interaction between music and movement; no matter your speed, the chimes and chords of awakened flowers always sound right.
Frustration sets in when: Invisible walls of wind stymie your explorer’s instinct.
Final judgment: Visually potent and occasionally beautiful, Flower fulfills its premise with enviable grace.