Last weekend after a movie I sat my Dad down and started up Flower for him to try out. Now my Dad hasn’t tried a video game since the mid-90s and those were the PC adventure games. We’d play them together. But given Flower’s casual nature, simple controls and pleasing aesthetic, I figured he would get into it and I wanted a non-gamer’s take on it.
I quickly explained the controls, all two of them, started him on the opening level and then watched him play. It took a little while, but he was enjoying flying all over the place.
He seemed very interesting in gaining height. He didn’t go for the flowers right away and instead explored the environment. Like a child taking his first steps he turned this way and that learning how to move in the world. It’s a very apt analogy for what he was doing. He needed to learn to tilt and to factor in speed. Actually he learned how to control his speed better than I did.
He took it very slow and managed and stopped a lot as he just let the petals float in the air. After he got a lot more they began swirling around each other and he was enjoying himself immensely. Then he asked what the meteors were. I had to double check and figure out what he was talking about. It was the white lines of the wind. Then he hit his first patch of yellow flowers and the whole experience changed. The yellow grass bloomed into a flush green. He nicked named it the boom boom, I can only think after the subtle sound effect that came with it.
Soon it became a hunt and peck experience with him flying high to get an aerial view and then dive bomb the flowers he found. Even at the stop and start pace he was playing at he was getting excited. It was so visceral to him and it connected saying, “I could really get into this.” I mention that each flower plays a note when passed through and that I was never good enough to see if there was a tune. The next few batches he tries to do just that and eventually hits an entire row. Yes, there is a tune.
Finishing up the first level I had my dad go through the next two in order. I learned that he found the game frustrating, but that good type of frustrating where you end up with a smile on your face and laughing at yourself. He didn’t much care for the the experience or any meaning that could be derived from each flower’s dream, it really was a game to find where another flower was and anything that didn’t work to that end was pushed to the side. My dad was frustrated by the fact the game took away control for a few seconds to display the effect you were having on the world. Though when the second field burst into color he did comment on its beauty.
The third level was very much about speed. For a game that is supposed to focus on peaceful nature, there is such an adrenaline rush from some of the speeds you can pick up. First around the windmills and later through he canyon. The strength of this speed element even made him go “woah” at one point as he careened around trying to hit as many of the “blue ones” as he could. The variety in the colors were enough to keep him interested.
After the third level it was late and we stopped there. But from a fresh and untainted perspective it seems that flower succeeded what it was aiming to do. It created a nice simple game that caused several different emotional reactions. It seemed to me that it offered more than was necessary from his perspective. All it needed was the flying and the colors. In fact at the beginning of the second level is where it stumbled for him because it was almost all grey until you bring life back to it. It wasn’t until that color came back that it seemed to grab him once again. There is enough style and basic substance to be appealing for both the gamer and the non-gamer as an experience.
That was a look at the aesthetic effect, now you can follow the link to the game’s design effect on the experience.