Monday, February 23, 2009

Let's Talk About Games: The Sony Consoles, pt.2 - Flower, LittleBigPlanet & Fallout 3 by Ichimonji

Playstation Network


I didn’t really know what to expect when I purchased this game. I’ve never played flOw, so I don’t know much about the type of games Thatgamecompany creates, but reading about Flower I had only heard good things. It looked arty and innovative, yet simple in concept. I was intrigued. Despite all of this though, I did have my doubts. I found out that you can only play the game by utilizing the SIXAXIS functions, so I immediately thought that Flower was going to be gimmicky with awkward controls. Also, after viewing a bunch of screenshots I actually didn’t think it looked that good. I don’t know what all the fuss is about, I thought. Well, I bought it, played it, and completed it, and now I know.

Flower is actually a very wholesome gaming experience and I never expected that I would enjoy it so much. It’s definitely a title where you need to play it first hand before you can appreciate it, and no amount of screenshots or gameplay videos will do it justice. The premise is simple. There are six levels and in each level you start with a single flower petal. You control a singular breeze with by holding down any button on the controller and changing directions with the SIXAXIS. Your goal is to bloom as many flowers as you possibly can in order to advance through the areas. It’s simple. However, there is a lot more depth to this game than just that. About half way through Flower it takes a turn for the unexpected. I never thought I’d have to say this for this type of game, but I’m going to be discussing spoilers in the rest this article, so if you don’t want the big Flower twist to be ruined for you then skip over this section.

Before I get into the underlying plot of this game, I want to talk about some of the technical aspects. The art direction for Flower is amazing. The colours are so vibrant and the setting is very relaxing. The reason I said that screenshots cannot do it justice is because you need to experience it yourself. Most of the locations consist of vast fields of tall grass reminiscent of a beautiful countryside, and when you blow through the blades, everything moves. Every single blade of grass. It’s the most lively setting that I’ve ever experienced in a videogame. It feels like you’re disconnected from reality and you’re drifting through a beautiful dream world. I would go so far as to say that Flower is an excellent stress remover. After a long day of work or even a long session of Gears 2, play Flower. I guarantee that you’ll feel good. It’s a masterpiece and it’s a good example to prove to the public that videogames are indeed an art form.

The SIXAXIS works really well. In fact, I couldn’t imagine playing the game without that function. It certainly wouldn’t be the same experience if you had to control using the analog sticks. It just works. It’s probably the only PS3 game that actually uses the SIXAXIS functions really well. I also like the fact that you can pick any button to hold down in order to make the wind blow faster, so you can play according to your own preference. I personally palmed the controller like if I was screwing in a light bulb while holding down one of the top buttons. Sony really loves these simple, yet extremely fun games, a la Locoroco and Patapon.

At the beginning of each level up to a certain point in the game; you’re shown a short clip of what’s happening in a bustling city street. It reminds you about how hectic or bleak reality is and then it immediately takes you into the relaxing world of Flower. When you eventually get to the fourth level the setting starts to change. As you’re playing through the level the sky turns pitch black and ominous music begins to play. These strange electrical structures start to protrude from the earth while the aura feels like you’re suddenly in a post-apocalyptic future. This totally caught me off guard. It’s a bit frightening as well. At first I thought I somehow did something terribly wrong, but then the next level showed up and I realized that this was part of the game. For the rest of the game afterwards you’re venturing through the eerie darkness of an abandoned metropolis. You can also get damaged as well via electrical wires or structures falling on top of you. By the end of the game you turn the metropolis back into a beautiful field using the power of nature, while in the real world you realize that nothing has really changed. This is possibly one of the craziness twists I’ve ever seen in a videogame, just because it was so damn unexpected. It sent chills down my spine. It was amazing and I loved it. I’m sure there’s some kind of hidden message to humanity within Flower but I’m not one for putting too much thought into reading in-between the lines, so I’ll save that for you extremists out there.

Flower isn’t that long of a game as each level is no longer than ten minutes or less and there are only six levels, but this is the type of game that you can play over and over again. Even the credits at the end are part of the game. The only thing that is out of place in Flower are the trophies. As much of a trophy fanatic as I am; I do understand that the trophies kind of ruin the experience. They take a game that is meant for you to play casually and make you feel warm inside and somehow transform it into a frustrating experience. It’s actually only one trophy in particular that does this. In the fifth level there is a trophy for completing the area without getting hit by anything at all. This is actually moderately difficult to do. I ended up getting the trophy, but it did take me quite a few tries. I recommend just playing the game all the way through without trying for any of the trophies and then come back later to get them all once you’re done.

Downloadable content just keeps getting better and better. Flower, Braid, and LostWinds are some of the most fun and unique games I’ve played. Dear future, please keep releasing games like these.

Playstation 3

LittleBigPlanet Metal Gear Solid 4 Level Pack

LittleBigPlanet is an awesome game, and I played the shit out of it. In fact, I’m only missing two trophies. Or so I thought. I was looking through my trophies the other day and found that ten new trophies were added to the list, so I looked them up. It turns out that Media Molecule released a Metal Gear DLC pack. It was only like five bucks to purchase and it gave me an excuse to play LittleBigPlanet again, as well as the fact that I adore Metal Gear Solid 4, so of course I got it. I am baffled by the fact that I hadn’t heard about this DLC until now though.

The levels themselves are pretty fun. You take your Sackboy through five MGS4 themed stages, along with two bonus levels. Music is taken directly from MGS4 itself. They try to maintain the feel of MGS4, but it’s still very cutesy. When you begin, you’re introduced to a new weapon called the Paintinator and it basically acts as your M4 Custom for this offshoot. If you’ve ever wondered what a platformer stealth crossover would feel like, this is probably the closest that you’ll get since both elements are present. The trophies are pretty difficult to achieve; it requires a bit of skill to get them all. Most of the trophies are either speed based or completing a level without dying.

All in all it’s a pretty cool pack and worth the money. The structure of the levels is pretty clever and they’re moderately long too. I’m glad that they finally released something that isn’t costumes for LBP. I’d recommend spending your bones on this rather than any of the other content that MM has released.

Fallout 3

I’m not going to go into much detail on this game right now as I’m not very far. Instead, I’ll make a lengthy post about it once I’ve completed the game. I’ve only finished a couple story missions and a few side missions after leaving the Vault since buying this game. Admittedly, I haven’t played much of it at all recently. I’ve been caught up in all of my other videogames. I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with the game (with the exception of some obvious glitches), I just haven’t gotten around to playing much of it. I actually think it’s very addictive and I’m sure that once I start playing it again that I’ll be hooked once more.

So far though, I’m really likely the feel of this game. I enjoy the futuristic nuclear wasteland of Washington D.C. yet still maintaining the style of propaganda from World War II. I’m also pretty intrigued by the concept of the storyline and desperately want to know what’s up with my father (who is voiced by the amazing Liam Neeson). From the moment you leave Vault 101 the world is your oyster. You can pretty much venture anywhere you want and do a million hours of side events if you choose. Most of the mechanics are extremely similar to Oblivion. It’s pretty much Oblivion with guns. You can shoot in real time, although it doesn’t feel like a shooter. It’s an RPG through and through. Primarily because every creature has stats and levels and it’s less about relying on skill and more about leveling up and obtaining better gear. A lot of the people you interact with have really quirky personalities, and the world is full of freaks. It’s definitely an interesting game.

I’m going to stop here because I don’t want to delve too much into the aspects of this game; I’d have nothing to talk about in my future post about Fallout 3 if I did so. I’m also not far enough to even understand a lot of the elements that this game has to offer. But yeah, so far I’m really enjoying it.


I was going to write about my experiences with the Resident Evil 5 and F.E.A.R. 2 demos, but I plan on buying F.E.A.R. 2 really soon as well as playing RE5 once that comes out. So I’ll just note my impressions of both of those games once I do so.

~ Ichimonji | LJ

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