|flow||art style: rotozoa|
thatgamecompany has gotten loads of acclaim for their 2012 PSN game journey, so i thought i’d see what they hype was all about and start with their first game, flow, originally released online as a USC grad student project in flash. the game is stylish to be sure, and the gameplay is easy to understand: direct a snake-like microscopic organism and eat other creatures to expand your body. the gameplay is simple and a runthrough of the main experience can be completed in less than an hour. i got bored in a fraction of that time, though, and i agree with gamespot’s review of the PSN version which said it lacked “a lasting gameplay experience” and that “the aesthetics clearly take precedence over all else” and that “not everyone is going to have interest in spending money on a game that’s equivalent to an attractive screen saver you can steer”. although i’m all for “artsy” video games, i wasn’t particularly taken with this one, although i liked the concept of ascending and descending layers (like floors of a building) in order to reach the goal. i’m pretty surprised that they stretched the original flash game to a PSN title that pretty much just seems to add tilt controls and new creatures to play as (and of course, a slew of achievements of varying degrees of pointlessness), but even more surprising is that that version has 4.5 stars (user rated) on the PSN page and a price tag of $6. the reviews on metacritic give perhaps a better sense of the range of reactions, but for my part i find myself wishing there was more substance as opposed to just pure style.
i actually played the game several months ago, but thought it was too short to devote a whole post to. for completely different reasons i played through the bulk of art style: rotozoa (aka art style: penta tentacles). i’ve been documenting my gradual survey of the series, although up to now i’ve been playing mostly puzzle games on my DSi XL. rotozoa is a wiiware release, and unlike the other games in the series i’ve played is an action/arcade game rather than a puzzle game.
from far away the game looks somewhat similar to flow (and i’m def. just one of many who has noted it) in that you’re a little microscopic organism feeding on smaller creatures and growing in size. in the main mode of rotozoa it’s your tentacles that are growing, though, and the game starts with you having to grow two different-colored tentacles to a certain length, with the ability to both move your little organism and rotate clockwise or counter-clockwise. the higher levels increase your tentacles to three, four, and finally five (each a different color), and the behaviors of the creatures you’re feeding on (“goobugs”) get increasingly difficult to manage so that at the highest levels the goobugs intentionally try to hit you from the side opposite to their matching color tentacle.
as can be expected from being a part of art style series, the game glows with its clean, cool aesthetic. the visuals are eye-catching although a little on the simple side (although understandable given that it’s a wiiware release), and the music is suitably hypnotic. the game is more like the classic video game snake (which according to wikipedia has roots that go even further back) than flow in that the longer your tentacles get the harder it is to match the right tentacle with the right colored goobug. although the gameplay itself is fairly worthwhile, i didn’t find it to be nearly as addictive as the puzzle games in the series. i was never that big on snake type games anyway, although this game probably beats out the other snake-like game i played recently, the “square” mode of maboshi’s arcade, another wiiware title. the game is easy to get into, but at higher levels starts to fall into the “more frustrating than fun” category, and getting the “all complete” achievement for each level (no damage and no special moves) looks like by all accounts to be a lesson in self-masochism. still, there’s a decent variety of modes, and the gameplay is pretty solid for people looking to tackle a challenge that requires precision and patience. overall this is an example of a game that combines style with substance and doesn’t sacrifice gameplay for aesthetics.
get under the microscope with these art style: rotozoa links:
– glowing review at nintendolife.com
– entry at wikipedia
– some info on unlocking the second and third sets of credits