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Monday, December 11, 2006
This is the fourth in a series of Slamdance Finalist reviews.

flOw is a game that defies genre classification. Actually, it might not be a game at all, depending on what definition we use, because there is no explicit goal. We can look at it instead as a work of interactive art, or as a digital sculpture. In fact, I can imagine it working well in a physical installation with a flat-panel, touch-sensitive screen.

In flOw, your mouse clicks control an aquatic, segmented, worm-like creature. The world is divided into a number of depth levels, and you start out near the surface. The deeper your go, the darker the water becomes.

At a given depth level, there are various small creatures (they look like diatoms or plankton) that you can eat. Each edible has a slightly different effect on your creature (some cause extra body segments to form, others cause existing body segments to expand, still others cause limbs to sprout or mandibles to become temporarily enlarged). Along with the easy-to-eat are other worm-like creatures, similar to your creature. Deeper levels contain larger creatures, and even some creatures that will try to eat your creature.

The presentation is stellar, with smooth, geometrical renderings of all the creatures. My words "segmented" and "worm-like" above should not mislead you---the feel is not creepy-crawly, but rather translucent, graceful, and flowing. I'm reminded of a jellyfish exhibit at the aquarium. All the activities in the game are accompanied by musical sounds that blend into an ambient soundtrack. Thus, we could also view flOw as a kind of experimental musical instrument. This one could make Brian Eno proud.

Read the full review at Arthouse Games.

Name: flOw
Developer: Jenova Chen
Category: Experimental
Type: Flash
Size: 8.4 MB

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3 Comments:
Anonymous Shih Tzu said at 12/11/2006 12:39:00 PM:  
Note also that (if I've been following the buzz correctly) flOw was picked up by Sony to be one of the early star titles of its PS3 downloadable content service thing. It does have a sort of PS3/PSP-BIOS kind of vibe to it.
Blogger Alex said at 12/12/2006 05:03:00 AM:  
I don't think it defies classification. It's an ambient Snake game. There.

Yeah, it's an EDI game now. It's great, I think Sony has managed to get the right idea with what it should be putting up on the PS3.
Anonymous The Arsecast Host said at 12/12/2006 09:24:00 AM:  
Yes, I think that barely playable guff is exactly what they should be aiming to put on their download service. :P

I can't stand games which try to excuse a lack of solid gameplay by saying they're meant to chill you out or be ambient. Bah!