September 12th, 2008
“At least that’s how I interpret it”
My brother concluded when attempting to explain to me how to play fl0w. fl0w (the critically acclaimed indie-game-cum-Playstation-Network-success) is largely about that – interpretation. You play the life of a small vector floating around in pond of vibrant colour. It’s not exactly clear from the outset what you do next or even how you play – the game makes no attempt of explaining them to you – instead you slowly discover this by yourself through observation and experience. Much like the organism in the water really, you are helpless. It doesn’t know what to do and neither do you. All it is is just a pile of shapes in a fill of colour, therefore it’s up to you to find realize the game’s mechanics for the organism.
After rampid key pressing, I realized that the mouse is used to move your creature through the water. You click to send him in the direction of the mouse and hold to speed up. At times the momentum becomes too great for the life-form and it catches up to your cursor,. In which case it circles around chasing the tail of your mouse, seemingly natural for a confused organism like the one represented on screen.
It wasn’t long before I noticed the blue and red ripples in the water which act as access points to the upper and lower levels. On your way to the bottom you’ll meet other creatures who appear to be in the same state of helplessness – floating around, without a cause. You can then eat these other beings and become a little stronger yourself because after all, if they could, they wouldn’t hesitate to eat you.
As your organism descends the invisible floors, gradually building more confidence, the waters grows darker and the other members of the population, just like you, have become well versed in the experience that the last few floors presented. They are no longer helpless, in fact they are probably about as aggressive as you are when it comes to cannibalizing other members of the family. They too are hungry.
And again, through observation and self learning fl0w teaches you how to teach yourself how to play the game. As willing as you are to adapt, you will take the next step and finally evolve onto a more developed organism and so forth.
fl0w is such a success because it exemplifies the feeling of being a lonely organism in water by minimizing the interface, tutorial and technique. It hides these things from the player and makes you feel the same way that the organism does; alone. The visual presentation and sound execution enhance this feeling; when you are the only creature on a floor, the visuals look empty and the sound hollow, as you move towards commotion, commotion can be heard, seen and felt in the water. The whole package creates a truly sensory experience of what it is like living as an organism on the trail to evolution.
The PC version of flow can be played (in browser) here or downloaded to Flash exe format, a more complete version can be bought through the Playstation store.