Yesterday marked the release of the Playstation Network’s first big EDI title, flOw. I’ve been looking forward to this game ever since I spent a couple hours being absorbed by the flash version of the game. Without going into too much history, flOw was originally part of Jenova Chen’s (one of the games creators) thesis research at the USC Interactive Media Division. I spent a couple hours playing the PS3 version last night and the following article are my general impressions on it so far (in other words I would not call this a review in any way).
The game is 1 part Tech demo for the SIXAXIS controller, 3 parts Art Piece. I’m not sure calling it a ‘game’ is fair since it feels more like an interactive experience, this is something you’ve probably heard before. The d-pad and dual-analog sticks are not usable at all (not even though an options menu), instead you tilt the controller in the direction you want to move and press any of the buttons to do a brief accelerated dash. This takes some getting used to as the sensitivity of the controller seems be a little touchy. After a while of playing it felt much more natural and I really didn’t think about it anymore.
The premise is pretty simple, you start out towards the top of the water and begin guiding your little organism around, eating and absorbing other single cell organisms. As you grow, you start to go deeper into the water where you will face more complex organisms that you must also eat. Once you reach a certain depth, you will go back to the top and be ‘reborn’ as a different type of organism (slight spoiler, sorry). I only played for a couple hours, so I’m not sure how many different types of organisms there are. For some reason it reminded me of a puzzle game, like when you get to a new song/color scheme in Lumines or Tetris. I mean this in more of a conceptual way than literally.
The graphics and sound are presented in a very simplistic manner, which isn’t to say that it doesn’t look and sound great. In many ways it reminds me of one of those interactive activity kiosks you would see at Epcot after getting off one of the rides. It’s the type of thing that seems like it would be the perfect way to unwind on the couch after getting home from work. A few beers later, you’ll probably be ready to take a nap, and who doesn’t like a nice nap after work?
flOw isn’t for everyone though, if you’re the type of person that doesn’t enjoy anything outside of the realm of EA Sports or FPS’s, you will probably think flOw is boring and stupid. If you’re able appreciate titles like ICO, Shadows of the Colossus, and Katamari Damacy, then there’s probably a place for flOw in your game library. I guess what I’m saying in a backhanded kind of way is that flOw is a little more high-brow than most stuff out there. There, I said it, sorry if I just called you dumb.
Which brings me to the next point, the price. One thing I love about the PS3 Store versus the XBL Marketplace or the Wii Shop is that everything costs actual dollars and cents. There have been so many times when I went to get something from the other guys and found my point balance to be 100-200 points short of what I needed. Then I have to drop $10-20 to get another 1000-1800 points instead of just buying the points I need to get the game. flOW costs $7.99 and $7.99 is exactly what I spent for it. Say what you want about Sony nickel and diming people, but at least they got this right.
At $7.99 flOw is a great deal, one you can’t afford to miss if you’re an owner of a PS3 (insert “yeah both of them” joke here), it’s pretty much going to be a defining title for the PS3’s EDI and I sincerely hope Sony continues to put out experimental games like this on the service.