TGS 06: flOw Updated Hands-On

Sony's Santa Monica studio is working on something crazy.



TOKYO--One of the previously unannounced games showing here at the Tokyo Game Show 2006 is a brief demo called flOw, from Sony's Santa Monica studio. Less of a game and more of a tech demo at this point, flOw puts you in control of a swimming, snakelike creature that's made up of balls and lines. The visual style is somewhat similar to Nintendo's DS music-maker, Electroplankton. Considering that flOw is one of the few PlayStation 3 games at the show that was being shown off with headphones, it seems reasonable to assume that sound will play a role in how the game works.

In the demo being shown, you can swim around a mostly blue screen and eat tiny creatures, which fill in the circles on your creature. There are also other spots that warp you between different but mostly identical areas to eat more creatures. All the while, soothing ambient audio is played. The game is a little hard to wrap our minds around at the moment, but it's interesting nonetheless. Look for more on flOw as soon as we can put our heads together and figure out what the heck is going on.

[UPDATE] We had a chance to once again tackle this alluring aquatic game during the first day of TGS, and we were impressed by both the concept and the execution of flOw. You start the game, as mentioned above, as a tiny little swimming critter zipping around in the bright blue expanse of the flOw world. Various smaller creatures float nearby, and if you swim near them, you'll snap them up with the crescent-moon shaped appendage that acts as your mouth. Certain foodstuffs will add additional links or flippers to your body. Collect enough of these, and your geometric sea avatar will quickly gain in size.

Certain organisms you encounter are color coded, and consuming these critters is the only way to ascend or descend the depths in flOw. Organisms that feature a red icon will cause you to automatically dive deeper into the water; creatures with blue icons will cause you to ascend. As you might expect, the deeper you go, the darker the "water" becomes, while, as you ascend, the light turns the water a much brighter shade of blue.

Your ultimate goal in the flOw demo we played was to completely devour one of the larger organisms hidden deeper in the level. To get there, we had to maneuver our critter to eat some red icon organisms so he could dive deep enough to get to the target. Once you get within striking distance of the boss (though "boss" is probably misused in this kind of peaceful title), we had to first gobble up all the appendages surrounding the nucleus. If we hit the middle of the boss too soon, he'd send us shooting back up a level or two, requiring us to search for more red-icon organisms to devour. After a bit of trial and error, as well as some careful planning, we were able to solve the puzzle and finish off one of the big boss organisms.

One of the other cool features we discovered about flOw was that you can use either the analog stick to control your creature or turn on the tilt functionality on the PS3 dual analog controller to move your critter around. It took some practice, but soon enough, turning left and right or moving forward and backward became more or less second nature.

We like what we've seen of this strange and imaginative aquatic game so far. Its laid-back vibe and tranquil look seems to hide a rather deep and compelling puzzle experience that definitely grabbed our attention right away. We'll be keeping our eyes on flOw in the coming weeks and look forward to bringing you more on the game soon.

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