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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Flow  (Sony for Playstation 3 Network)

Based on the popular web-based flash game, Flow for the PS3 is an abstract, minimalist title with simple play mechanics and an elegant presentation that makes it one of the more unique and innovative titles on the Playstation store to date. Using the tilt-functionality of the controller, players move around a kind of amoeba through a watery world collecting and eating smaller creatures in order to grow and evolve in its environment. Flow's beautiful graphics and ethereal music makes for a moody, surreal experience that's well worth the download.

The microscopic casual game Flow began its life as a simple web-based flash game developed by That Game Company and caused a minor sensation amongst gamers. The game was quickly acquired by Sony and has now appeared on the Playstation 3 via the system's online download store. Available for a relatively inexpensive price, the game picks up where the original left off. The basic premise is fairly simple, yet it's precisely this simplicity that makes Flow such a compelling and unforgettable experience. The game begins slowly with a few simple levels that allow you to get the feel of the controls while becoming accustomed to its evocative atmosphere. In Flow, you aren't doing anything more complicated than moving around while searching for objects. Its sort of like a free-roaming version of Pac Man, since your main object is to eat some objects while avoiding others. Flow takes a somewhat scientific motif to its gameplay as players control an amoeba-like creature that swims through different layers of water in search of other smaller creatures it can eat. This simple premise makes Flow easy to play and something most gamers should connect with almost immediately. As you collect these smaller creatures, the size and complexity of your creature increases in size and shape until its tail reaches the edge of the screen. This isn't a complicated game and the main objectives you have to worry about are your creature's survival and evolution.

You goal is to eat the smaller creatures while avoiding the larger ones which can damage your creature. It's difficult to lose the game, but you can find yourself stuck in the same areas if you aren't careful. Flow's enemies are usually red in color and are easily spotted, though when you do come into contact with them, you can attack certain smaller parts of them and gradually make them split into smaller pieces that you can eat. As you play through the game, you can swim to different layers of the game, each of which contains different creatures. When you attack a red or blue creature, you'll swim either up or down in the levels. As you collect more creatures, different parts of your creature's body will begin to glow, which means you can evolve these parts to a more complicated form. When you eat enough enemy creatures, you'll begin to glow red and can then attack larger creatures. The single player game is quite easy to get into, but you can add additional players and compete against each other on a split screen. As you dive deeper into Flow's levels, you'll find increasingly complicated and more aggressive creatures waiting for you which keeps the gameplay from becoming stale. From a gameplay standpoint, Flow is one of those titles where less is definitely more. It's a very simple and straightforward game and one you'll find yourself playing again and again. There's little doubt that Flow is an enjoyable and addictive game, but there's more to the gameplay than meets the eye, and it is in these elements where Flow becomes something special.

While the versions on the PC had players move the creature using a standard mouse controller, Flow on the PS3 offers a unique control system where you need to use the PS3's controller as a tilt mechanism to steer your creature through the worlds. It takes some getting used to at first, but it becomes intuitive and easier once you get the hang of it. You can turn quicker by flipping the controller, allowing you to catch smaller creatures off-guard. In order to gain a speed boost, you need only press down on any of the controller's face buttons. This simple approach makes the game fairly easy to understand, but a unique control scheme gives Flow a very unique pace and character. The game's minimalist design helps to keep things fresh as well, with a stark contrast between the all-white main objects and the deep blue backgrounds that creates a stunning effect that looks incredibly sharp in HD. While most of the earlier levels look fairly similar, as you delve deeper, the simple objects become more elaborate and seem to become more recognizably organic instead of abstract, which shows the character's evolution as you progress effectively. Some levels become clouded with fog and shadows and these subtle effects make the game even more engaging. Once you get over the visuals, you are then stuck by the game's beautiful, surreal music score which offers a sedated and somewhat mellow electronic soundscape that compliments the action effectively. The sound effects in Flow are likewise minimalist and form a cohesive electronic landscape that bathes your ears in a sophisticated bath of sound. This combines to create one of the more unique looking and sounding titles on the PS3's Network platforn to date. While Flow's gameplay and level designs don't challenge the console's vaunted next-generation abilities, and its' simplistic play mechanics won't really challenge hardcore gamers, this engaging and polished title marks a welcome change of pace from most of the more intense titles on the market. It's unique abstract design, intuitive yet engrossing gameplay and presentation makes for an engaging experience that's well worth downloading.

- Michael Palisano


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