Flower, Sun and What the…?
I do enjoy a good puzzle game; sadly, “Flower, Sun and Rain” (Nintendo DS, 2008) is not one of them. I should have realised something was a bit off when Game were flogging it for a fiver second hand and the previous owner hadn’t bothered to save any progress. But no, I thought, it’s by Rising Star Games (who include in their back catalogue Harvest Moon, possibly one of the most effective time vampires going) and Suda51 (who I’m reliably informed is an “innovative game designer”). Must be okay, right?
Wrong. It starts off well enough; slick investigator Sumio Mondo arrives on the leisure island of Lospass, where he’s been employed by the local hotel proprietor to solve a mystery. The introductory film is very existential and pretty, but it goes downhill from there on in. Your first game encounter is very confusing, seeing as neither the characters on the screen nor the handbook see fit to really explain what’s going on and the translation from Japanese into English is distinctly iffy. Part of the game involves you looking for “hidden” mysteries, but I didn’t manage to figure out how to do that until after leaving the first area, only to discover that I couldn’t get back again. Some early hidden mysteries require items found later in the game, but for the life of me I can’t work out how you get back to solve them.
And that is a major problem with this game; you think you’re in an open world that you can explore at will, but it soon becomes apparent that you are going to be railroaded in a single, predetermined direction. Deviate from the designer’s chosen path in any way and the game grinds to a painful halt, leaving you running backwards and forwards trying to work out what to do next. And if the designer doesn’t want you to go somewhere, he’s not above sticking giant purple crocodiles in the way. Seriously, I kid you not. Giant. Purple. Crocodiles.
On top of this, nearly all of the characters are desperately unsympathetic, making it very difficult for you to actually care what happens to them. Awful as it sounds, when the main character starts beating up a kid, I actually found myself cheering him on because the little toad was so vile. There’re even attempts to knowingly break the fourth wall which are supposed to be humorous, but come off as deeply pretentious (particularly as some of them are delivered by said brat).
There are several other major irritations: the memo pad, the graphics and the off-screen explanations, to name but a few. The memo pad allows you to make notes on how to solve the hidden and story mysteries. Only problem, you can’t actually access the memo pad when you’re solving the mysteries as they both use the bottom screen. In fact, most of the time the bottom screen is wasted, showing a less than useful map of the island. The game has been adapted from a much earlier Play Station 2 version and has pretty much failed to make good use of the change of platform, with almost all of the action taking place on the top screen in a very pixellated manner. And when the plot gets too impenetrable for the writer, the screen fades out on the protagonists explaining it to each other and fades back in on a “so you see, it makes much more sense now you know” type comment. And yes, the game sees fit to make jokes about how crap the animation is and how weak the plot is, which just smacks of laziness all round.
In the end, this game became a war of attrition. I was determined to finish it, not because I was particularly enjoying it or gave a stuff about what was going on, but because I didn’t want to be beaten by it. I have no clue what was actually going on in the end, other than it seemed to involve talking pink crocodiles, clones, hyenas and exploding planes; it’s utter tosh from start to finish. Oh, and don’t fall for all the “Groundhog Day” comparisons, its not even close. I only paid £2.50 for it thanks to the credit on my husband’s Game card and I still feel like I’ve been ripped off. Best avoid unless you enjoy inflicting mental anguish on yourself in the name of gaming.