Flower, Sun and Rain DS
Published by: Rising Star Games
Developed by: Grasshopper Manufacture
Release Date: Out Now
When it comes to games created by the games designer known as Suda51 you either love them or hate them. Regardless of your opinion of his games, you have to admit they are weird to say the least. The last game of his that I played was No More Heroes and whilst it was an impressive game in many ways, there was no denying that it was strange. At least No More Heroes was enjoyable though. Killer 7 wasn't my thing at all and is not only one of the weirdest games I've played to date but it was also one of the most disappointing. Flower, Sun and Rain is the latest game from Suda51 and his development teams, Grasshopper Manufacture, and whilst it falls in between No More Heroes and Killer 7 in terms of quality, it's still absolutely weird.
In Flower, Sun and Rain you play as Sumio Mondo, a searcher (which means he gets paid to look for things). Your initial impressions of Sumio may be not be good as he talks about his Toyota Celica and the name he's given to it (which makes him seem like a real fruitcake) and his Ultimate Computerized Unlocking Device which he's also named (and reinforces the feeling that he's not all there). In fact Sumio comes across as a real oddball but in truth he's just in keeping with the nature of the game as a whole.
Flower, Sun and Rain plays almost as if it were an adventure game. You'll investigate the locations within the game, you'll engage in dialogue with all kinds of characters and you'll have your fair share of puzzles to solve. None of this is done in the usual fashion however as the game retains its sense of weird throughout the game. A sailor suit wearing hotel manager called Edo Macalister, the hotel being called Flower, Sun and Rain, has called in Sumio in an attempt to prevent a terrorist from blowing up an airplane. It's all a little strange and Sumio experiences a Groundhog Day phenomenon, living the same day over and over again with the previous experiences of the day seeming like a dream.
Sumio solves the puzzles in the game by using his Ultimate Computerized Unlocking Device (essentially a computer, which he's named Catherine, that he keeps in his briefcase). To solve a puzzle he uses Catherine and inserts one of nine different pin jacks into the object. Finally you'll need to insert the correct numerical code which you'll find by looking at various sources but for the most part you'll be looking through the guidebook that you're given when you first enter the hotel. Because you solve puzzles in this way the game does suffer from having a lack of puzzle variety and the inclusion of a good mix of conventional puzzles would have helped the game no end.
The game does have some big problems. You have to walk practically everywhere and it can take a decent amount of time to walk from A to B and yes it can be extremely tedious. The game also forces you to do things in a set pattern. You feel like you're being forced into doing things all too often. Sure, adventure games are linear affairs but the good ones give you the illusion that you're free to do certain things in any specific order. Flower, Sun and Rain doesn't afford you such niceties however and you're forced to follow the fixed track throughout the course of the game.
The visuals elements of Flower, Sun and Rain are striking. The 3D graphics are, to some extent, very basic and yet they don't look ugly thanks to the style of the visuals. The game's a mix of early PlayStation style 3D graphics, FMV and some wonderfully artistic 2D artwork. It's not a mix you would think would work but it certainly does work and it's quite possibly the most visually striking game you'll play on the DS, if only for its concoction of different styles that have been combined to produce a unique effect. The only complaint I do have is that the camera can be annoying at times as it is fixed and there are times when exploring when I would have liked to rotate it to get a better view of things.
The speech in Flower, Sun and Rain is all rather jumbled and therefore it's a real blessing it's all subtitled for both hearing and deaf gamers. A portrait of the speaker is placed next to the dialogue. The big problem however is that the dialogue, at times, is absolutely tedious and is a chore to wade through. That said, at times the dialogue can be quite humorous and there are several references to it being just 'a game' which help to lighten the mood at times. With the game being subtitled it's fair to say that it's not too bad for deaf gamers. There are problems however. For instance, when the phone in your hotel room rings there is no visual notification of this. It's not too big a problem because you won't be able to leave your room if there's a ringing phone to answer so if you're unable to open the door to your room you'll know to approach the phone and pick up the receiver. Still it's a clumsy way of going about things and it's far from being as deaf gamer friendly as possible.
In keeping with previous Suda51 titles, Flower, Sun and Rain is a game you'll either love or completely dislike. What you can't deny is that there isn't a game quite like Flower, Sun and Rain and one thing you have to say about the games from Grasshopper Manufacture is that their games always feel completely original. There's contradictions all over the place in this game. There's the ugly and yet beautiful quality of the visuals and the tedious and sometimes humorous nature of the dialogue. The characters in the game are also ambiguous in nature. Essentially then Flower, Sun and Rain is an acquired taste. Most won't have the patience for it but some will love the quirks the game has. It's by far the strangest game on the DS in 2008.