Journey may be the great coming out party of ThatGameCompany, but before Journey there was an equally memorable experience to be had with Flower - another PS3 exclusive from the team led by Jenova Chen.
The most powerful narratives in gaming are often left unspoken. Narratives for players to experience and discover on their own, to interpret in a way that makes sense to them and their lives. Flower is one such example. To some it's just an empty box lacking substance, and only providing us with wonderful vistas we can bring to life, while others experience the full impact of nature and change as they ride the winds, collecting petals, and colouring the world.
Flower was the second game from ThatGameCompany and Jenova Chen, the first being Flow, and while Flower has more of a linear progression to it there is still the same philosophy of stripping away all components that may stress the player or force them into a particular way of experiencing the content.
The opening is as beautiful and memorable as any seen in a video game, but somehow it remains very unassuming. A sad and lonely flower in its pot. A cold, grey urban environment. Is the game a dream of that lonely potted city flower? Of freedom? Perhaps it's just a dream of beauty.
Flower allows you to experience the beauty and progress and your own leisure. There are no superficial constraints of time, and the game is perhaps the best use of Sixaxis to hit PlayStation 3 as players direct the wind using the motion sensing technology while holding a button to adjust the speed.
The soft acoustics of the soundtrack are built on with each petal you collect as you blow through the level. For a game as beautiful and rich, the gentle optimism of the music adds a layer to the experience that may not be as readily apparent as the visuals, but try and play Flower with the sound muted and you'll be surprised at how much of the experience that is lost.
I'm not really a spiritual person, but there is a certain spritual quality to Flower. And while in many ways the words Yoda had for Luke as he went down into that dark place in Empire Strikes Back (you know where he faced himself wearing Darth Vader's outfit) come to mind, in that you fill Flower only with what you bring along with your. There is something serene and tranquil about this game that sets it apart from most of its peers. It provokes thought simply by refraining from saying much of anything directly.
Flower provided us with a welcome break from some of the overused trappings of video games. It was the kind of game you would show to someone unfamiliar with games as evidence that violence isn't found in every single video game. There are plenty of indie games that have the same kind of hippie quality as Flower, but few strip it down to the bare essentials as successfully as this botanical rollercoaster ride. If you jumped on the ThatGameCompany hype train with Journey you need to revisit this classic - one of the best titles to ever grace PSN.