flOw's simple, carefully crafted experience is better than the sum of its parts.

User Rating: 7 | flOw PS3
Pros: Rewards experimentation; Aesthetics and mechanics are cohesive

Cons: Imprecise motion controls; Not particularly deep or moving

flOw is a game where you use only one button and movement. It is a game where you only have one interaction for every other object in the game. There is no fail state. By every metric, flOw shouldn't be entertaining. And yet, thatgamecompany's first major experiment is something of a success, if a measured one.

flOw is a game about experimentation. You are prompted with the controls when the game first loads, and then told literally nothing else. The various shapes you control and interact with are never even explicitly indicated. There are enough similarities to our world to suggest that flOw is something of a microcosm of life itself, but nothing is laid out for you, and each user could interpret the game's systems differently. Which is great. It is that understatement that arguably makes flOw most engaging.

This "game" is not a particularly deep experience, taking only a scant couple of hours, bar however many times you play it. flOw also fails to elicit quite the range or degree of emotion that thatgamecompany's later works would reach. I will say that the mechanics, the simple, abstract shapes, and the ambient music all come together cohesively to create a feeling of relaxation, but flOw doesn't quite inspire anything deeper.

Nonetheless, flOw's insistence on telling you nothing makes it surprisingly rewarding. Capable of only simple interactions with the world, you initially try everything to see what has what effect. In time, the mechanics emerge on their own, allowing for more informed, and mildly strategic gameplay. It no doubt took so guts to say so little in today's tutorial driven game culture, but flOw's quietness proves to be a great asset.

flOw isn't really a game, but don't hold that against it. What it is, is an oddly engaging interactive piece of art. It may not say much, it may not be deep, and it may not be worth $15 to some people, but the rest of us will be oddly engaged by this experiment.