Did you hear? Flower's awesome. That's what we thought when we saw it at E3, at least. Recently we've have some hands-on time with a preview build which includes the first three levels and, yes, it's still awesome. So much so that we haven't really been able to stop playing it.
We blitzed through the three-level preview and there was a sincere feeling of disappointment when, upon trying to access the fourth level, we were greeted with a simple message; "To be continued." Flower is simply a joy to play, which is funny because there isn't even much of a game in there. Not in comparison to a Final Fantasy title or Killzone 2, at least. If you've played ThatGameCompany's first PS3 outing, flOw, you'll be familiar with this sort of ludological whimsy.
Before anyone gets worried, I'll make it clear that Flower definitely has more gameplay than flOw did. The premise is simple. You are a gust of wind inside a flower's dream and you must carry petals to other flowers in order to progress to the end of the level. There's no time limit, no hazards, no points system and, really, no way to fail.
Controls involve little more than tilting the controller. Back and forth to alter the pitch, left and right for the yaw. Pressing any button will speed you up, just like in flOw, allowing you to get from point A to B much faster and allowing you to chain together flowers much more speedily. When you reach a flower it will make a sound, which differs depending on the color, so passing by a number in quick succession will reward you with a short tune. Flower is full of these personal rewards, as opposed to anything that affects gameplay.
Each flower will offer up a petal to you so while you start off carrying a single petal along, by the end of a level you'll have a billowing mass of them, all of differing colors. The aim of the game, in case you're not aware, is to heal the environments by collecting these petals. Some flowers will only appear after others have been gathered, which will in turn spark a "healing burst" animation, which colors in the graying landscapes, similar to healing a Fertile Ground in Prince of Persia. Doing so will allow you to progress further into new areas.
Did we mention Flower looks absolutely stunning? Each individual blade of grass is rendered and animates individually and the landscapes are colorful and seemingly endless. There are invisible walls which you prevent you going outside of the level boundaries by blowing you back the way you came, but there's still a tremendous feeling of freedom as you fly around the environments, ascending into the sky to scope out where the next bunch of flowers are.
Flower is relaxing and soothing. A perfect antidote to the majority of testosterone and adrenaline fueled titles. It's also really fun to play, once you get into the controls. We've played through these three levels more times than we can count, trying to find all the hidden flowers. It's all just really nice. The gentle and melodic soundtrack certainly helps.
We predict that Flower may be a big hit with the indie crowd (and, hopefully, everyone else too). We've no idea if they'll stick some more gameplay elements in, like a points system, before full release, but we sort of hope they don't. Playing Flower is its own reward. Speaking of rewards, we're not sure how they're going to implement trophies but if Linger In Shadows managed it, we're sure they'll find a way.
[UPDATE] Flower's release date has been revealed as February 12th for both the US and Europe.