Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Time to Complete: 1-2 hours
Thatgamecompany, future makers of Flower and Journey, got their mainstream start with the relatively unassuming Fl0w. It started as a moderately popular flash game before being ported to the PS3 with HD graphics. Riding a wave of momentum, it became the most downloaded PSN game of 2007.
I didn't play this game until well after the spiritual sequel, Flower. That game blew me away. I was so impressed with it that I had to go back and experience the game that it originated from. I wasn't disappointed. I do wonder why it has a zero in the title instead of an o, and the game isn't without problems. It's still pretty rad, though.
This game transpires in a primordial sea filled with translucent organisms. You play as a tiny organism and "progress" by consuming other organisms. As you go, your creature will get bigger and evolve. What starts as a small brine-like creature might end up looking more like a winged serpent, and so forth.
There are a number of different creatures in the game. Each of the five stages has its own creature, and they all follow the same rule of starting small and growing over time. This is both a positive and a negative. It's good because the game has a great deal of variety; the developers did a great job differentiating the various creatures from one another in shape and ability. It's a negative because your "progress" resets after every level and you start again with a small creature. That said, I didn't find this to be a very big negative. This isn't your typical game where you're building up towards an end result. It's more a case of each stage being a self-contained experience.
This game utilizes Sixaxis motion controls, much like Flower. However, since this game mostly takes place on a 2D plane, the controls are a bit easier to get the hang of. Still, at first it's a bit difficult to control your creature, and given the 2D-ness of the game I wonder why there isn't an option to use simple analog stick control. I get what they were going for in terms of immersion via motion control, but it doesn't seem entirely necessary here.
The graphics are impressive for such a simple game. It conveys a lot with what may well have been a shoestring budget; the various colors that permeate each stage really add to the identity of each one and the sense of being deep within a body of water never lets up.
The music is very nearly background ambient noise, adding to the experience without overwhelming it. It's serene and simple, much like the game. What I discovered is that, much like Flower, the sound effects of the game are musical in nature and add greatly to the existing music. This is particularly clear in the second stage, where the jellyfish make baritone sounds previously missing from the audio. These sounds add to the music and create a sense of menace in that particular segment of the game. The mixing of sound effects and music in this game is excellently done.
Overall, the game is simple, relaxing, and oddly compelling. It feels like a visual representation of the earliest life taking shape on a planet, a window into "the beginning of the world" as it were. It's fitting that this was Thatgamecompany's first game.
Aside from the five levels in the standard game, there's a sixth level unlockable via DLC. This level is worth having if you enjoy the first five. However, if the game isn't exactly lighting your fire, the DLC level isn't going to add anything new. I just wish Flower would have gotten a DLC level as well.
There is trophy support for this game; it's odd because the relaxing nature of the game is kind of anathema to trophy hunting. Same goes for Flower. It's entirely possible that the trophy support was foisted onto these games by Sony... who knows. I'm not complaining; they add replay value in the form of collecting, which could be relaxing as well for some players.
Unfortunately, this game may well have the worst execution of trophies that I've ever seen. Roughly half of the trophies in the game are bugged, meaning you'll get them when you aren't supposed to. Finishing the game got me three or four trophies, only one of which was for finishing the game. The others were for various objectives that I hadn't even done. Other times, I got a second, unrelated trophy after getting a trophy normally in the gameplay. It's bizarre, and it's surprising that this was never patched/fixed in the time since 2007. It made getting to 100% very quick and easy, however, and perhaps that's the idea.
NOTE: In the more recent Playstation 4 version of the game, the trophy issues are fixed.
Clocking in at around an hour (or two at the most) to get through, this is a very short game. While it lacks traditional replay value, it's still fun to revisit from time to time. It doesn't reach the high quality bar set by Flower and Journey, but it's a promising beginning. For what it is, it's a great buy.
FINAL RATING: 7/10