Review by Silver_Druid
So surreal it'll be an experience and a half. A good one? That's a good a question.
Made by the bizarre minds of Suda 51 and Grasshopper, Flower, Sun and Rain engulfs you in an investigation that defies all sense and yet upholds genuine suspense and depth. As I explored it, I felt whether or not it should have been a game became quite questionable, but on hindsight I believe they did exactly what they set out for.
I learned of this game when my friend described a surreal mystery he was playing where pretty much nothing made any kind of sense, but carried on as if this was perfectly normal - it sounded positively awesome, and I had to borrow this off of him. So I did, and it's kept me from reaching the point of no return for WoW. I'll certainly give it that much.
The game sets you in the tropical paradise island "Lospass" as a man named Sumio Mondo, a searcher who finds things by plugging his Laptop-Briefcase into everything. The whole hotel/island theme is managed quite well with a generally relaxing soundtrack of classic pieces. By the way, the Laptop is called Catherine and by everything, I mean everything from power generators to some guy's eye. You've been called in by the manager of the Flower, Sun and Rain hotel manager, Edo Macaster - A smiling, overly-friendly and polite gentleman - to stop some terrorists from causing a plane to explode and been given a guidebook to help you. Of course, he's not the only one in need of help from a man like Mondo.
And that's pretty much the gist of what you do. Plug Catherine into things, and use the island guidebook to work out the code required to move on in the story. It's pretty rewarding, and the challenge is all optional. There are lost and found goods almost every day which you have to work out codes for, and with those the only clues you have are on a lost and found sheet you find at the beginning of the day.
It doesn't sound too exciting, but that's when the wit kicks in. This is a game with a completely unpredictable plot (and in a good sense, too! (well mostly)) - On the way down to the hotel lobby I get blocked by a drunk woman. When I finally get her a drink she likes, she claims to be an angel. Then she flies off. There's also the 'extra story' of a schoolgirl and her pet pink crocodile, Christina.
But then, that's about all the positive things I have to say about this game.
I'll begin the negatives with the graphics. Frankly, they're vile; pixellated, low-polygon, with a low draw-distance and very angular. What's worse is the camera has a habit of being exactly where you don't want it to be.
Secondly, there's one other aspect of the game that should be explained. Walking. The scale of the island is immense and probably quite accurate in places. But the problem is that vehicles are prohibited in this game, and you have to manually walk everywhere, and this is a serious problem when you leave the hotel and have to come back. If it weren't for the horrible camera I'd tape down the D-Pad.
Also, almost every character except for Edo (and one or two others, such as Mr Pirate, the legendary wrestler) is cynical and increasingly hatable as the game progresses. And Edo is so disturbingly nice that my friend and I are pretty sure he keeps corpses behind his desk - and then there's the creepy end-of-chapter saves. *shudder*
The puzzles for the main game are either tediously easy or so weird you'll kick yourself - there are countless moments you'll put something in you're certain is wrong and get the right answer. Because of this, there's no sense of reward - only relief. I'm pretty sure the only reason I play this is because I have no idea how it could end.
Yet I cannot call this a failed or badly made game. In fact, I think it's exactly as planned! This game feels like a masochistic self-torture device created to see just how many people will willingly complete it - For example, there's a pedometer for how many steps your character has made, which unlocks extra tools for you with more steps. The game has even been made so you can complete it without making any steps at all (by tapping the D-pad, you move but only make a minor step) - I bet the Grasshopper executives have made all sorts of bets on how people will find ridiculous ways to complete this game.
And really, the horrific graphics, stressful walking and bad-mannered characters all seem to be deliberately put in just to torment the unfortunate person who picks this game up. Let's not forget that trade-ins are technically not legal in Japan.
However, no matter how cruel or sick this game is, you should try it. It's a rare treat of a game that carries surprise twists in such a way they feel completely natural.
Rough Summary (with scores for people who need them!)
Graphics: 2/10 - At least you can recognise characters. I suppose you could bring it to a 5 if you consider it the game's 'style', but that defeats the point.
Music: 8/10 - It's actually very, very good. A couple of times it's a little irritating but otherwise a beautiful soundtrack.
Story: 8/10 - Brilliant, but so very testing.
Gameplay: 5/10 - It's not unlike Professor Layton, but much simpler and more irritating.
Lifespan: 6/10 - This game could last a while, actually. You could play through again to see the progression of the game with hindsight, and there's also all the lost and found system.
Bottomline: It's down to personal taste I suppose. I certainly suggest you try it, but I can understand if you don't like it. When compared to other games, it's worth a 6 if I'm feeling generous, but really this is something else. It seems to do exactly what it wants to, and that is something I see few games pull off.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Flower, Sun, and Rain (EU, 11/14/08)
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