(Author's Note: This post originates from my personal blog, Mulling Over The Multiverse, which can be found at both http://mullingoverthemultiverse.blogspot.com/ and http://jplc.livejournal.com/. While it may just seem like a review of Flower, I decided to post it here as it also discusses SIXAXIS functionality from a design perspective. This is my first Gamasutra blog post, so if I make any heinous mistakes, do not hesitate to inform me.)
Very few PS3 games successfully make use of the SIXAXIS motion-sensing functionality. In most games it makes appearances in, it seems tacked on and arbitrary, as if it were an afterthought (grenade throwing in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, I’m looking at you). Even odder is the fact that some games designed specifically to use the functionality don’t perform very well (the Lair fiasco being the prime example). With all of these bad examples, one might think that the SIXAXIS is thus a lost cause, a failed attempt at being a Wii remote clone. Thankfully, thatgamecompany, like they did with flOw, demonstrates in their newest outing that the functionality can in fact be implemented properly if care is taken. The game, Flower, not only successfully utilizes the SIXAXIS motion-sensing capabilities, but makes it quite fun as well.
Flower is a simple game with a simple – albeit somewhat strange – concept. Each level of the game is a “dream” of a flower on a windowsill in an unidentified metropolis. In each dream, you control the wind in a field by tilting the SIXAXIS (or DualShock 3, if that’s more your thing) and collect flower petals by flying over closed flowers. When you fly over a closed flower, it will bloom and the collected petal becomes part of a cloud of petals that are continually carried in the wind you control. Additionally, any button on the controller (not including the PS Button, Select, or Start) will cause the wind to speed up, allowing you to cross great distances with ease. The more flowers you cause to bloom, the more colour and life you restore to the world, thus causing more flowers to sprout and previously inaccessible areas to open. All of this is accompanied by soothing music consisting of violins, guitars, piano, flutes, and other woodwinds. Additionally, when a flower blooms, it will emit a note of one of the instruments, thus making the gameplay a hint more musical (and for those using a DualShock 3, the accompanying rumble for each blooming flower is quite satisfying).
This simplicity may not be for all gamers, but for those willing to give it a chance, they will discover a treat: successful use of the SIXAXIS. Control of the wind is something that becomes intuitive merely minutes after playing, and using the PS3’s analog buttons to control wind-speed is quite useful – that is if you’re using the right button (I found R2 to be the best choice as I felt its trigger-like nature allowed me to easily control the intensity of the wind, but I’ve heard that an analog stick can have the same desired outcome). Manoeuvring via tilt is a tad “floaty”, but just enough that it feels like a natural part of being the wind. I had immense fun looping around the levels, zig-zagging this way and that, and turning around in mid-flight just to appreciate the massive cloud of colourful petals I had accumulated.
The mechanic, being as well crafted as it is, almost seems wasted in Flower, though. Don’t get me wrong, I loved flying about as if I were some kind of happy-go-lucky wind spirit, and I do not regret my time with Flower, but the mechanic feels like it could go even further. Maybe not to be used for precise flight in an aerial combat type of game, but I could easily envision it being used in some kind of travel mechanism. Maybe in a Zelda type game, for example, for the player to advance over large stretches of game space easily, they could activate a levitation ability that would function in the same way as Flower’s wind control (maybe even controlling the wind itself to lift the protagonist). The beauty of it would be that only one button would be needed for wind speed control (again, I recommend a trigger type button like R2 or L2, but a customizable button scheme would be best). After that, flight control is controlled by tilt, and thus all of the other buttons and analog sticks can be used for other means. This could result in flight combat and the like, or even just being able to use required items and abilities during flight. This flight could also allow for intricate vertical environments to explore as well. Granted, this whole idea is nothing new, but flight is done so well in Flower that I can’t help but think of it being adapted to other genres.
I suppose what I’m really getting at is that flight in Flower was fun, and I wouldn’t mind doing it again. Whether this is via the same mechanic in a new game or some kind of additional Flower levels via DLC (hopefully thatgamecompany hears me on this one), I would be highly interested to play some more. I know I could always just boot up the game and play again, but something new is always exciting. Flower itself may have been the perfect length for what it was, but it’s no where near time to close the curtain on its flight mechanic.
The short version: if you have a PS3, play Flower. Some inexpensive carefree flight may just do you some good.