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flOw (PlayStation 3) artwork

flOw (PlayStation 3) review

"FlOw's concept was originally created for a flash-application with the same name. I thought about it as "that eating game" at the time, because it was unique, and because you were eating things. "

FlOw's concept was originally created for a flash-application with the same name. I thought about it as "that eating game" at the time, because it was unique, and because you were eating things.

The unique thing about the eating game was that instead of the usual incrementally growing carnivorous fish, the game had multicelled organisms that ate various other simpler and more advanced organisms. As you did so, your creature grew new segments that trailed behind you. On the downside, the more segments, the easier you could be eaten by the other organisms.

Meaning that the point with the game was not necessarily to grow as fast, or as long as possible in order to beat a highscore, which the game does not have, but to just play the game however you would like it until it ended.

To me, it seems that a concept like this is an attempt to find back to the gaming joy anyone would have had when playing particular games that just let the mind wander, rather than challenge you to reach a particular goal. So instead of going for a "mission complete" prompt, the game would be about creating your own narrative - in this case the epic struggle of a massively magnified multicellular organism.

Still, making that type of type of goal with the game explicit is dangerous. And invokes stern looks and words from art-critics. But it's hard to really disagree after playing flOw, that a game with no high-score, and no reward other than swimming around as your neatly animated alter-ego, can't still turn out to be exactly what playing games is all about.

So the scenario is there, and the game's mechanics are no deeper than a petri dish. But the experience is beautiful. Generously helped by smooth, multilayered visuals on the ps3 version. And flowing animation where the creature's segments all have individually weighed angle-limits. That help the creature's segments trail each other naturally, as you control the direction you float with the motion-controller. Whether you play alone, or together with up to four other creatures, if you have enough controllers.

And then you just go along with it.

FlOw is a technically advanced game, but one that finds back to the type of gameplay that can be extremely simple, but meaningful and entertaining still.


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Community review by fleinn (June 06, 2010)

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aschultz posted June 15, 2010:

This review had me a little lost--I like your other stuff better, I have to admit, and this seems experimental without fully working. While it's short it still seems to have some filler words, and I really am curious about what sort of goals people can set for fun (have X length for so long) or if you can set the computer AI or strategy to play against that. It sounds like a lot of fun--also I am curious about the graphics, and if they stress having different organisms, or if you can make your own multicolored, or even if teamwork is possible.

This game doesn't seem to need or even want a huge review but I still see opportunities to add a bit and maybe zap flabby phrases like the following:

Meaning that the point with the game was not necessarily to grow as fast, or as long as possible in order to beat a highscore, which the game does not have, but to just play the game however you would like it until it ended. ...

"The game has no high scores or explicit goals. You can capture memories of simple gaming joy by creating your own narrative: an organism trying to stay at length X for so long, or being the first to weight Y. But saying so within the game is dangerous."

I think there's a lot of groundwork for looking at philosophy of what makes games fun, and how to put simple concepts out there and let ambitious players do the rest to say what the game's about for them, but I'm left hanging.
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fleinn posted June 15, 2010:

.. Yeah. Now that I read through it, there really are a few sentences missing from what I typed in my notepad. I think I switched two paragraphs into the wrong order as well :D lol

Just to get that out of the way - there are different colours on the different creatures in multiplayer. And instead of a white 1 player along with another colour, the 1st player gets a new colour as well. It's very pretty with how the wings of the segments blow out into large shades. And functional at the same time, since it makes the creatures distinct.

Any player can pick any of the other creatures if you join on the creature-choosing level. And I think the scenario is decided by which creature the 1st player has. That kind of opens up for different approaches and cooperation on the levels. But it's all incidental, and defies any explanation when you.. *cough* flow around with a friend. Intimate or competitive, it's pretty organic in the way it's set up, but it's not structured enough to require or need any sort of thought.

Sometimes a player can pick up a super-powerup, that makes the creature large and angry - then you can eat the other players if you're not careful.. or very greedy.

It really is very difficult explaining this, which is why I probably didn't - but the pacing of the game as well is interesting. You're under no pressure whatsoever, but you still will be captivated enough to complete a level, forget the time, and just play. It's a very strange game.

While you're playing multiplayer, the camera will favour the first player, and then nudge towards the edges if the other players float off. Also functional and pretty - you're not straining to find out where the camera goes, and it's easy to locate your creature that way.

That.. was probably the theme I was going for, I think. It's a very complex game visually and technically - with everything from the animation to the layers, the camera and the fluid motion and ai for the other creatures - but it looks extremely simple in motion.

...right.. now, about what to do with the review... *thinking very hard*

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