flower – “Wind of Change”

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The wind blows softly, a petal rises in the air. A gust of wind carries it in a wisp of flower petals, all dancing in harmony in a flying sea of color and magic. Its beauty is contagious to the surrounding landscape: flowers bloom in a rainbow of vibrant hues, the grass becomes lush with a new-found green, the sky shines brightly as if flooded by the very light of nature. You smile at the delicate marvel that engulfs your senses. As you guide the wind to yet another flower, its petal flies high in a pirouette worthy of a ballet – it has joined the petals’ wind. It is the most beautiful of winds. It is a wind of change.

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There’s no easy way to sum up “flower”, it’s one of those games that must be experienced firsthand to be fully understood. The premise is simple – guide the wind, through the use of the six-axis motion control, into flowers, allowing them to bloom, in the process collecting their petals. Doing so, allows nature to rejoice all around, rejuvenating the once worn down landscape into a stunning painting, vivid with color and  light – an effect similar to that of restoring guardian trees in “Ôkami”. There’s really not much else to “flower”. You simply gather petals with the wind, watching nature bloom, and sink in the beauty of the process. Like a symphony, each level has a different variation on the same theme, providing a different background to the interaction in everyone of its expressive dimensions. Like “flOw”, there’s an elegant simplicity to the way the game is played; however beneath it, lies an aesthetic voyage unlike any other in the video-game realm.

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The abstract look of “flOw” has been replaced by a picturesque visual style that tends to echo impressionist themes. Though completely three-dimensional, there’s a great contrast between levels of detail. Flowers are rendered with stunning accuracy, their incredibly detailed lines reminiscent of a painter’s brushstrokes, brimming with finesse and care. The surrounding landscape on the other hand, is very minimalist, borderline empty and vacant, giving it an eerie, dream-like vibe. The soundtrack itself is hauntingly beautiful, not only because of the way in which the score, by Vincent Diamante, complements the ongoing action, but also in the form in which sound effects make up a tune of their own to complement the static soundtrack. For example, whenever the player makes a flower bloom, there’s a stroke of pure synesthesic bliss, as each flower emits their own musical note, one that blends perfectly into the sound-scape of the game. The final result is what Jenova Chen pretended of course, a zen-like environment that transports the player into a symbolic, mystical realm.

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Naturally, the symbolic aspect of “flower” is crucial for its message. The game is really an environmentalist message, trying to make a point about how industrialized society should live in balance with the surrounding nature. The sub-text is simple and elegantly translated via a series of brief interludes, and more importantly, through the actual game-play, which becomes increasingly meaningful towards the end of the game. That is “flower’s” most important achievement – the way in which, through a carefully laden aesthetic backdrop, it gives meaning to the interactions of the game, conveying feelings and emotions through that same interactive dimension… an absolute rarity in video-games.

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The million dollar question about “flower” though, is… “is it Art?” Is it the solution for the immaturity of the means? Is it the sign of a possible avenue for artistic endeavors in the means? The answer is anything but straightforward. “flower” is a video-game in every sense of the word, that much is certain. It abides by many of the laws that define the means: it presents challenge to the player, it warrants skill and dexterity, and it encourages the most basic collectivism; it’s more thrilling than contemplative (a fact not indifferent to the use of a six-axis control scheme), and it’s a game not easily presentable to a non-gamer. “flower” is a game, and a game that would not be deemed as Art according to the principles of Tale of TalesRealtime Art Manifesto. And yet, “flower” is Art… a fact that makes it puzzling in many ways. It’s a game, that while subscribing to some of the crudest notions of its means, can still convey its message, by subscribing to a unique aesthetic and artistic identity. Perhaps then “flower” is the solution for video-games as an Art form. Its metaphor for the change of Mankind’s ways can thus also serve as a metaphor for the change that it represents to video-games. Indeed, “flower” is the wind of change we’ve all been yearning for.

score: 5/5

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