Reviews// flOw (PS3)

Life could be so simple, if only...

Posted 19 Mar 2007 12:00 by
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Is life in the 21st century getting you frustrated? Do you find there are too many demands on your time? Family, friends, books, TV, games, current events, global warming, food, clothes, gadgets; it can all add up. Don't you ever wish for a simpler life? Well, now you can experience a life so simple that there are only two things you must worry about: eating and not being eaten.

In flOw, you control a small aquatic creature and have to guide it through its life, avoiding being eaten, eating other creatures and, as a by-product of eating, evolving into a more advanced creature. As you progress through the game you will open up several more types of creatures that you can control. These creatures all have their own special ability ranging from a quick burst of speed to a paralysing bite. Progress is measured by the evolution of your creature, which is governed by eating certain other creatures when a segment of your body is glowing. Progress also involves descending into the Stygian depths of the ocean that your creature lives in. When you reach the bottom of the ocean, you eat an egg and are re-born as another type of creature, starting your descent once more.

The whole point of flOw is to be an intuitive experience, so you're only presented with very minimal instructions, tilt to move, press [Start] to pause; other buttons will make use of your creature's special ability, and other players can join in at any time.

You are dropped in to the top of the ocean as a small example of the first creature you can control and are left to your own devices. You quickly discover that some creatures you can eat will enable you to descend or ascend through the levels of the ocean. You also discover that most creatures around you pose no threat to you at all.

The creatures that do pose a threat to you turn out to be ones you can control later in the game. These require more than one bite to end their lives, and they can bite you back. Each segment of these creatures - enemies or the ones under your control - has a health orb in it; eat all the orbs and the creature dies. If your creature runs out of orbs, you are sent back to the last level of the ocean to eat more simple organisms in order to replenish your orbs. Enemy creatures explode into a number of the smaller organisms as if you had released the contents of their stomachs.

The audio in flOw is very minimal, there is an ambient feel to the background sounds (I hesitate to call those sounds, ?music?, since they are so abstract) and the sound-effects tie in with the background sounds in a very pleasing way. Sound effects are triggered when you eat other organisms, when you grow and when you evolve. Since all of these can go on at the same time, you get an overlapping soundscape, which is very calming to listen to.

And really, that is that. The game is a very simple one, almost a toy or an experience rather than a full-blown game and there is a reason for that.
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