Video games are often white-knuckled affairs. You’re constantly teased and propelled from one objective to the next. Whether it was the early days of high score glory or the modern version of an unlocked achievement, gamers lust after progress. While Some games even explore the very nature of our hastiness to jump from one hoop to the next, others take another route entirely; They remove the hoops.
While I’m a staunch supporter that games are definitely a form of artistic expression, the games I want to explore in this series take the process a bit more literally, stripping away many of the conventions we use to define a game. You won’t find high scores or a space marine barking at you to double-time it to the next goal. These are meant to offer a more relaxed escape that’s as much about contemplation as completion. So while they may not purely be ‘about nothing’, they certainly scale back the medium’s staples leaving a much simpler experience behind.
So without further adieu, let’s look at Flower.
Riding the wind as a smattering of flower petals set to calming piano melodies is about as far removed from triple-A cliches as you can get. Even starting the game offers little direction beyond an onscreen graphic prompting you to tilt the controller toward a lone flower pot in the windowsill of a noisy, city apartment. But so quickly gone are the sounds of the city as you tilt the controller to guide a gust of wind carrying a single petal through tall grass, expansive fields, and through all manner of nature gathering more and more petals as you go.
The only direction you receive during these expansive, open-world sequences are camera angle shifts that explode wide temporarily to nudge you toward a new patch of flowers to explore. Of course, should you wind off the path up a tiny hill discovering a hidden flower to add to your colorful wind train there’s nothing stopping you, but you aren’t penalized for continuing on nor are you rewarded in such a profound way that you feel let down if you missed it. In the words of Bob Ross they are but happy accidents for you to stumble upon.
And that’s the real beauty of Flower. While it does tell a subtle story as you continue from one area to the next, there are no demands that you do so immediately. Take ten hours if you wish because, the game only lasts for around an hour if you rush from one flower to the next without regard to the experience. Despite its brevity though, the concept of a relaxed, breezy experience invites infinite replayability. Thanks in no small part to the excellent sound design and building, responsive orchestral score.
You can pick up Flower now on PSN where (presently) it’s the highest rated PS4 game. (Which is why we recommended it the first go around.)
What are some of your favorite relaxing games? Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for Part 2!