E3 2008: Flower Hands-On

Flower is a beautifully original new game from the makers of Flow. We took a break from the show floor to chill out in its illustrious company.

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While E3 is a mecca for new games and hardware, it can sometimes be a taxing experience. In between the hiking, the scrambling, and the missed appointments, it can be difficult to find time to actually write everything up. Perhaps that's the reason we're so thankful for games like Flower. Sony's new PlayStation Network game offers an experience that's so soothing, so ethereal, and so downright trippy that it made us forget we were in the middle of a bustling convention centre. We're not even embarrassed to say that its raw beauty was enough to bring us close to tears, and if you consider games to be an art form, then Flower is the Mona Lisa.

The game is being developed by That Game Company, the team who previously created Flow. As with its predecessor, the concept behind Flower is incredibly simple. You start with a single petal and then fly through open fields collecting more and more petals. If you pick up all the petals in a certain area then the grass will become more vibrant and alive, and you reach the end of the level by enlivened everything you can. But if you're racing to the end of each level then you're kind of missing the point. This is a game that's all about stirring emotions, and playing it to relax is as much a part of the experience as completing each level.

Although it has a simple premise, Flower has technical and artistic prowess. The PlayStation 3's Cell processor is put to work rendering 200,000 individual blades of grass, and combined onscreen they move in a highly convincing manner. The background details are minimal, but the concentration on core elements such as petals, grass, and spectral colours means it's exquisite to look at. The first level was full of vibrant greens, but the second field mixed purples and reds to enjoyably psychedelic effect.

Like Flow, Flower's controls hinge on using motion-sensitive controls. It's clear that the team have a great belief in Sony's control system, and they want the game to be as east to pick up and play as possible. You move the petal forward by holding the X button, and then tilt the controller to fly it around the world. If you tilt the controller up then you can gain height, or you can do a 180-degree turn by flipping it sharply.

Such an original concept perhaps shouldn't be shoehorned into a story, but there is a small element of exposition within Flower. Each petal starts life on a shelf inside someone's apartment, and your flower collection increases with each trip into the field. The story will explain more as you progress, but all we could ascertain is that there are dream sequences that allude to some connection between the urban world and the nature that surrounds it.

That Game Company promises that there will be more challenge to Flower in the final game, and that they're focussed on providing a complete experience that make the most of its captivatingly simple idea. They also admit that they may release more levels online at a later date, but with Sony being coy about a final release date, that could be some way off. One thing's for sure, though--if you're a fan of games such as Rez, Loco Roco, and Ico, then make sure you keep an eye on Flower.

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