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E3 2008: Flower

Developer: thatgamecompany | Publisher: SCEA
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Action

Release Date: 02/12/09

flower.jpgWhen I travel to different events and see games, it can sometimes be a boring experience. Don't take this the wrong way--I love what I do and I feel honored to get my hands on games before anyone else and share them with you--our readers. But there is a problem in our industry and it is the lack of diversity in the titles available on the market. Fortunately for us, That Game Company has made it their goal to deliver new and innovative concepts to players. We had a chance to see their latest title, Flower, during E3 2008.

Before we dive into Flower, it is best that we learn exactly what That Game Company was created for. Co-Founder Jenova Chen explains: "Our goal is explore what is possible with video games. What I mean by possible is to push the boundaries of the video game emotional palette. We want to explore what is out there and to push the boundaries that other companies do not. This is our discipline. We believe diversity brings us a healthy video game industry. Once this is accomplished, we feel the video game industry will mature just like movies and books did."

Flower, which is subtitled "Life in Balance" is not a sequel to flow--it is a completely different game. Jenova Chen stresses the importance of this and gives further insight: "Where flow was seen as a Haiku, Flower is more like a Poem or a Dance. Also, flow is very abstract and a simple game. In Flower, we use symbolism to put the player on an emotional journey to change the world. The goal is to make the player think about life."

flow and Flower share almost identical control schemes. To move around the world the player needs to move the controller left or right or point it up or down. Players will also make use of any button on the controller to select a flower, in the level selection screen, to begin play in the field, or to slow down the speed at which your flower petal moves. Even with this basic knowledge, Flower is a difficult concept to understand. First off, it is important to know that Flower is designed around urban life. This is where you begin the game as you enter the dream of a lonely flower that wishes to be more than cooped up in a New York apartment building. Once you enter the flower's dream, this is where the beauty of Flower is seen.

Players hit any button to begin play once you enter the flower's dream. When this is done a single flower petal falls off the flower and the wind picks it up. This is when Flower's beauty is truly seen with over 200,000 individual blades of grass being rendered by the power of the PS3 Cell Processor. Players move the controller to move the flower petal and direct it to other flowers within the level. As you fly over a flower, another petal falls off and joins you. As you continue through the level, you will amass a large army of beautiful flower petals flying in the wind.

There isn't really a goal in Flower other than to seek out flowers to touch. As you touch flowers, besides the petals following you, the world will become brighter and other flowers will spring up. Jenova Chen promises to give the players secrets within each level. What these secrets are and what they will unlock were not disclosed to us. Chen was just not ready to give us any details on this part of the game. In addition to this, the final number of levels and release date were not disclosed. We did, however, learn that for an experienced player--who can run through the level very quickly--That Game Company is shooting for a two to three hour gameplay experience. Chen does feel that Flower is a game that will be very replayable and will offer a new experience for players each time they pick up the controller and play.

"The goal with Flower is to give the player the sensation of flying in a field and seeing the beauty of the world," says Jenova Chen. "The goal of the game is to satisfy the dream of the flower in each level. However, that may be interpreted differently by the player once they pick up the controller. Flower is a game that must be played to understand the concept. Much like a dancer only understands how a dance makes them feel, this is the same way with Flower. You can watch it but won't fully understand until you play it."

As the player finishes a level, they are returned to the apartment and the environment will be changed. This is because the flower has had its dream fulfilled. In addition to seeing the apartment changed, a new flower will be unlocked. We were shown four different levels with fairly consistent gameplay throughout. However, the final level introduced windmills. This introduced some different gameplay elements that provided more wind in the level. Chen hinted that future levels will incorporate other elements--possibly even human interaction--and will offer new challenges for the player.

I left the demo of Flower feeling changed. The game is a breath of fresh air and offers a gameplay experience completely different from anything I have ever seen. Due to this, Chen said that there will not be a two player option. This is because he feels that Flower is an experience that a player must have by themselves. If a two player option was introduced, the player could quickly become interrupted by the other person.

Flower is currently in development with no release date. While I really hope to see this game come out before the end of 2008, Flower may slip to a 2009 release. Whenever That Game Company feels the title is finished, that is when it will be released. I pray that it is very soon because I cannot wait to fully experience the entire game.

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By Kaleb Rutherford - 07/21/08
ESRB Details: This is a game in which players guide flower petals through a tunnel of air across natural landscapes, caves, and city environments. Players' goal is to add petals to a growing 'swarm,' while solving puzzles along the way.
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Screenshots for E3 2008: Flower

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E3 2008 Photos