Monday, March 2, 2009
Thoughts on Flower
I got this funny little feeling while playing Flower the first time. I’m not sure what it is. It’s like a little tickle in my chest that compels me to hang my mouth in awe. It makes me hold my controller gentle hands, careful not to pop the fragile bubble of immersion.
I know what you’re thinking. What a bunch of artsy-fartsy BS. And you’re right. Maybe the feeling comes from a sense of heightened expectations. I’m making myself extra receptive to this grand experience that was promised to me in press about the game. I had the same feeling while playing ICO so many years ago. All the reviewers having emotional reactions and talked about it in “hushed tones.” I had to own this game. Same thing happened with Shadow of the Colossus. My mouth hung open as I rode a horse through its giant planar landscapes.
I have managed to discard this awe on my subsequent play through. I am no longer audience to the grand “initial experience.” I am simply poking into its nooks and crannies to get 100%.
Hype aside, Flower is a game that manages to relax me. The combination of soothing musical score, piano key sound effects, and densely colorful images would melt me into my seat. Well, it would if I didn’t have to keep my arms up and steer the motion controls. But really, at least in one play session, I could feel my muscles loosening up as I swooshed through the mellow first levels. Then I loaded up Street Fighter 4 to face the horde of Ken players. SF4 is adrenaline pumping, heart pounding joystick pumping. So antithetical to the former experience that it gave me a cramp in my diaphragm. An experience I repeated today. I really gotta stop doing that.
Flower isn’t all swooshing around someone’s inner Happy Place. As the developer’s intention it lulls me into calmness before kicking up the mood for the climax. Without spoiling too much, Flower succeeds at eliciting a set of emotions then messes with them. It’s short. But so are poems. I guess we can see Flower as a sort of game design poem. Verses told in game play semantics. Someone stop me if I sound too artsy-fartsy.