So, after getting a copy of the game near the end of 2020, I finally played through it a few days ago.
If you don’t know what Flower is, I’m not surprised. Flower is a video game originally released in February 2009 for PlayStation 3. It is developed by Thatgamecompany and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, or Annapurna Interactive for the iOS in September 2017 and PC in February 2019. These names might be familiar to you (sans Sony) as Thatgamecompany is also the developer of the game Journey, while Annapurna Interactive is responsible for publishing other wonderful games such as, What Remains of Edith Finch, Florence, Gone Home, Journey, Kentucky Route Zero, and The Unfinished Swan.
Flower is, to me, more of an experience rather than a game. For the gameplay, you’re playing as a gust of wind carrying a lone flower petal to “bloom” other flowers around you. You pick up a petal from each flower to add to your collection, making you an impressive swirl of petals by the end of the level. While you bloom these flowers, you also paint colors into the environment around you.
There is no dialogue in this game. Other than the options menu for you to change the control sensitivity, the volume, and the ratio, there are no other configs or controls. The game is as simple as it can get. There are six levels, each represented as a flower pot sitting in front of a window in a city apartment. You enter those levels, or “dreams,” by focusing on the flower. If you manage to bloom all of the secret flowers, the flower in the pot will bloom to its maximum state. Secret flowers are a special shade of blue, most of them only appear once you bloom a certain number of flowers, but some are already in the level, waiting for you to discover.
Whenever you enter a “dream,” there will be a washed out series of images showing you various parts of a city. As you near the end of the available dreams, the scenery around you will become more and more bleak, as more and more man-made structures are present. However, toward the end, you “paint” the city with vibrant colors and destroy the “evil” power line tower bits that sprout from the ground in a feeble attempt at stopping your unstoppable flower power.
The game is short and simple. You can finish the overall experience in less than two hours. However, you can also be like me and dick around in the levels in order to get all the achievements–or to explore the area. Granted, there’s really not much to see in the early levels, but there’s nothing wrong with just taking in the beautiful depiction of nature this game offers.
I would also argue that the game’s story is simple but, through its visuals, delivers a very powerful message. For its age, it can be considered a refreshing way of telling something very serious and new at the time. Going through this in 2021, though, the story is one that has been told time and time again. But I would be lying to say that this isn’t still a very refreshing way of depicting such a story.
It is, as you can imagine, a story about environmentalism and urbanization.
To start off, the game shows you the wonderful depictions of nature for the first two dreams, showing you how pretty everything can be. Then, in a weird twist against all more modern stories of the same nature, the game seems to be showing you how humans’ creations can coexist perfectly with nature, without robbing nature of its beauty or damaging it in anyway. In fact, those wind turbines, or windmills, seem to be very helpful. Perhaps, it’s a way of saying that wind turbines help flowers spread through wider distances, thus making the Earth a prettier place. Or, it’s a commentary on how clean energy is the best way to go, helping the Earth rather than taking advantage of it blindly.
That leads us to the fourth level of the game, the blue flower. It’s set in the evening, right after sunset (the third dream), and we are led through some beautiful moments where light comes into play. Instead of blooming flowers, we light up fields. Accompanying this level are even more man-made objects: utility poles, streetlights, lanterns, hay farms, and carriages. Things seem to be going well until the streetlights we are following start to deteriorate. There aren’t any lanterns anymore, the streetlights are flickering. Everything starts to fall down, we are plunged into darkness and electrical buzzing is all around us. The ground is no longer grass–it’s broken pieces of overhead power line towers and metal bits. That’s the twist: man-made objects, although able to coexist peacefully with nature and even aid it in its beauty, is killing the environment.
In the fifth dream, we traverse a wasteland desecrated by these power line towers. The wires are charged, so touching them will give us an electrical shock and singe our petals. Like the previous dream, there are a lot fewer flowers here than before, as expected. Though, the little symbolism here is that nature will prevail, no matter what, and life will find a way even in these harsh lands.
We destroy the towers with what I assume is divine powers as a mix of air and nice-smelling flower petals, go through a terrible maze of these electrically-charged power line towers, and then from the remnants of these towers bursts a flower that becomes our next vessel. This flower releases a gust of power and paints the grass around it green again. In the sixth and final dream, we muster up all our flower power, traverse the city, paint it, and destroy all the tower bits, and then raise to the top.
There is an overwhelming sense of joy and satisfaction as we rid the city of “impurity” and bring forth a nice mix between nature and man-made objects. It’s a hopeful note to end at, as if to say, we are capable of not destroying our planet and live in a pretty place.
Throughout the game, we can also see the apartment’s lighting change, signaling each flower’s time of day. There seems to be symbolism regarding that, too, as the more bleak and “scary” levels are blue and purple flowers, which are set in the evening and nighttime respectively. Then, the more joyful one is set at dawn, a popular symbol for a new beginning. Combined with the other levels, it becomes a loop–a cycle, one which nature always heals and humans always destroys.
But, who knows. Maybe this is just overthinking it and Flower is just a nice game where you bloom some flowers.
Overall, the game is a very, very stunning experience. Even at face value, it’s a strong message of hope and beauty of our world. I can’t say the same for the gaming experience, as the controls are very sensitive and finnicky, and the sound disappears after clicking into the first dream. I fixed the sound issue by running the executable as administrator and the issue was fixed. Exiting the game and then running it normally afterward did not break the sound again.
I will not hold the control issues to the game, as this was designed to be released on a PlayStation. So, I recommend playing this with a controller if you’re really picky about controls.
If you like walking simulators, or games that generally are more experimental, then try out Flower. It was worth my time, so you might feel the same.
Watch my complete playthrough of Flower here.