E3 2008: Flower Updated Impressions

Cofounder of thatgamecompany shows us where video games can take us, emotionally.

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In a breakout session set up by Sony Computer Entertainment America during E3, Jenova Chen, the cofounder of thatgamecompany went over the first few levels of its lovely creation, Flower. We didn't get a chance to play the new level that was shown, but for our hands-on impression you can see Guy Cocker's preview here.

For those who have played its last game, flOw, it's similar in a sense that it's very serene, obscure, and distinct. In Flower, each level varies in terms of ambiance, mood, and color, making it feel like a unique experience each time. Even though this is a very different experience when compared to a racing game, the comparison was brought up because there are times where your flower petals pick up enough speed without floating away. It's not adrenaline pumping, but it can be uplifting. There was a level shown with windmills, and the goal was to activate them all to get the wind flowing into a narrow valley. As the flower petals were funneled in and the speed and music picked up, the demo ended, leaving us guessing what kind of surprises and twists this game will offer.

Chen also talked about how the game can be played like a performance and how playing in front of a room full of friends is encouraged. The best way to describe it is like a puzzle, and it's up to you to figure out whether you want to solve it and how you want to approach it. The goal is to evoke different emotions from the gamer, not just excitement and energy from hardcore gamers.

Flower is like being in a painting that is still being painted. We see soft rolling hills change into a deep, emerald green, which is a sharp contrast to the yellow grass that was in its place before. Another level was about color, and by the time the level was over, the field was covered in some of the most beautiful shades of the rainbow. The story behind flower is up for interpretation, but part of the beauty of this game is that you don't really need a purpose to play. The soothing music changes with the speed or when you go over other flower petals; it's a performance that changes each time the level is played.

The imagery is powerful, and whether you see the game as merely petals blowing in the wind or something deeper, it is hard not to be curious about what this game has to offer. From the menu selection, you'll notice the black-and-white background and the sad flower in the pot. When you're taken into these levels, which are referred to as the flower's dream, it's like being liberated from a life of being planted in a pot of soil.

Even though we have no hints as to when Flower will be ready, be sure to keep an eye out for more coverage.

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