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Old 11-26-2010, 09:59 PM   #1
Odofakyodo
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Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

Flower Second Opinion

A Rose by Any Other Game

High – Skimming the surface of the grass and sailing up in the air as on a roller coaster.
Low – Having to circle back to collect missed flowers.
WTF – How does picking flower petals restore the environment?

Philosophers as old as Aristotle believed that the primary purpose of art is mimesis, or the imitation of nature. As Chi pointed out in his review, this function has served artists well throughout history. Flower absolutely excels in this respect. From sun-filled fields to rainy canyons, the gorgeous vistas are breathtaking. The fluidity of the motion-sensitive controls is a perfect fit for guiding the wind across the rolling landscape. Rarely has a game been so convincing of motion that at times my heart actually leaped in my chest as the wind swept me up into the sky and gently ushered me back down again. The melodic tones that play at uneven intervals—whenever a flower is picked up—evoked images of a child learning the piano.

Despite all of these strengths, I came away from Flower a bit disappointed. On one hand, it succeeds as a piece of traditional art, where the primary function of the audience is to interpret the story, understanding the events and deciphering their meaning. Games, on the other hand, require active audience participation to configure the story. Players decide which events occur by choosing from or creating some options and eliminating others. As a result, the story will vary from player to player and from session to session. It is this unique characteristic of games that I found lacking.

A look at Flower's narrative illustrates the point. The game tells a thought-provoking tale with themes ranging from solitude to environmental rejuvenation. Yes, the story will differ from player to player, but this difference is due to the abstract nature of the narrative, which permits multiple interpretations. It is unfortunately not due to the gameplay, which at its core can be summarized as Pac-Man without the ghosts.

Even though I disagree with film critic Roger Ebert on the overall issue of whether or not games are art, he is spot-on when he says that a game without rules

Quote:
ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them.
This begs the question: Is Flower primarily a game or is it something else altogether? If it could only be watched and not played, I'm not convinced that it would be a significantly worse experience. When viewing the documentary Seasons at an IMAX over a decade ago, I had similar sensations as I did during my Flower play-through: my heart leaped in my chest as an airplane soared across rolling flower fields.

It's conceivable that Flower would actually be better off without forcing the player to complete its mundane gameplay tasks. During play I often had to stop abruptly to avoid missing flowers, killing my momentum and much of the sense of flow that I had developed. Occasionally I even became bored, as when I was forced to loop through the same areas multiple times in order to collect a few missed flower petals in order to progress. These instances hampered the game's ability to stimulate my senses or let me contemplate the narrative.

In the games-as-art debate, Flower is frequently brought up as a supreme example of a game being art. I have no qualms with the game being considered art, or even great art. I do question if it is much of a game.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the PS3. Approximately 4 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode (completed 1 time).
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Old 11-27-2010, 09:21 AM   #2
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

Very well written. I only want to double check and make sure I'm taking away the message that you are intending for the reader to get:

My impression is that the game could be an abstract art film, watched and not played, and you would get just as much out of it.

Just out of curiosity, Flower has a narrative? I mean, there is an actual storyline? I wouldn't have guessed that if that is the case.
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Old 11-27-2010, 10:06 AM   #3
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggly Squid View Post
My impression is that the game could be an abstract art film, watched and not played, and you would get just as much out of it.
Exactly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggly Squid View Post
Just out of curiosity, Flower has a narrative? I mean, there is an actual storyline? I wouldn't have guessed that if that is the case.
There is a narrative, but it's very abstract. There is no dialogue and there are no anthropomorphic characters. It's all symbolic imagery. The player can read into it a great many things.
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Old 11-27-2010, 10:13 AM   #4
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

I'd say your review perfectly communicates your point then.
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Old 11-27-2010, 12:52 PM   #5
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

I wouldn't classify this as a review, but more of a thought piece. It is well written and I really liked it.

You brought up a great discussion topic with the Ebert quote, and I would like to reply to it.

While it may be true that a game without rules ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, that scenario will never happen because games have rules by design.

Video games are programs and as such there will always be algorithms (rules) that must be followed in order for the game to run. Also, no matter how simplistic the gameplay may seem, there will always be limits to what a player can and can't do, and those limits in themselves are rules.
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Old 11-27-2010, 12:58 PM   #6
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

I think Flower says alot more about player expectations than it does about itself, and have always thought this title was meant to express the concept of Haiku in visual rather than textual terms.

I'm not sure if I'd call it a game, either.

I also agree slightly w/Coyls that this may be more an article than a review.
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Old 12-02-2010, 12:54 AM   #7
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

Thanks for the responses guys.

Regarding whether this is a review, thought piece, or article: I've thought about this for a couple days now and I still consider it a review. While not a traditional review in the "story, graphics, sound, gameplay" sense, I still cover the major points - primarily graphics and gameplay. More importantly, though, it's a critical evaluation of the game. It summarizes my experience playing the game and my reaction to the game as a whole.

Regarding games without rules: I agree that a game by definition has rules, and even the simplest video games have rules by which the player must abide.

In case it wasn't clear, in no way did I mean that Flower does not have game elements. I do think that the game elements are not really innovative** and the things that make Flower a good experience and good art are not dependent on those game elements. In fact, the game elements occasionally get in the way.

Looking at the same point from a slightly different perspective, Kellee Santiago of That Game Company says that Flower is a game about finding balance between the urban and the natural. That may be true of the narrative components (debatable), but nothing that the player can do has anything to do with balancing anything! As the player, you're not trying to collect some flower petals but avoid collecting too many--you want to collect as many flower petals as possible. Finding balance is about equalizing opposing forces; there's no such task in the game.

Anyhow, sorry for getting off on a rant.

**The use of the motion control is well done, but that's more of an interface thing in how the user makes choices. I'm more concerned with what choices the user can make to begin with.
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Old 02-03-2011, 04:13 PM   #8
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

Sorry, really late to the party here. How on earth did this review only get two votes?

I played Flower last week, and while I disagree with some of the points here (that Flower isn't much of a game for example - it bears comparison to any platformer, I think), this is an excellent and thought-provoking review.
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Old 02-03-2011, 05:02 PM   #9
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Re: Please rate this review: Flower Second Opinion

That review sums pretty much up how I felt after playing the demo. All available thumbs up from me.
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