April 4, 2007 The concept of games as art is rarely touched upon, undoubtedly due to the rarity of games one could bring up in a discussion of the concept with a straight face. fl0w is one of the exceptions - a Master of Fine Arts thesis by USC School of Cinematic Arts graduates Jenova Chen and Nicholas Clark. Originally realised in Flash, the game has improved in leaps and bounds after its jump to the Playstation Network, and it's here to manipulate your mood.
Starting out as a small organism in the shallows of a vast body of water, you encounter all kinds of interesting organisms, and eat them. Players move their organism around by holding the Sixaxis controller so its face is parallel to the ground, and tilting the controller down in the direction they want to move. It's the first successful implementation of the motion controls in the Sixaxis I've experienced - less than ten minutes had passed before I had forgotten about the controller in my hands completely.
Eating different organisms will grow and evolve your organism, and allow you to navigate deeper into the water. The graphics mimick nature in that large structures of immense beauty can be made recursively from small, simple shapes.
The music composed by Austin Wintory is relaxing, inviting, and sparse enough to leave plenty of room in the mix for the sound effects triggered by eating other organisms. The two mesh wonderfully and the result is a gripping aural experience defined by what you're doing in the game - a long overdue departure from the painfully short loops of anthemic synth lines and monotonous breakbeats passed off as music in several Xbox Live Marketplace games.
fl0w is a truly unique experience that is intuitive enough to be picked up and played by anybody, and deep enough to keep them there for a while. Given how easy it is to lose a couple of hours in the game, the only downside is that you'll probably have seen all there is to see within a similar timeframe.
Downloadable Mac and PC versions are available, but if you have a PS3 at your disposal, do yourself a favor and jump straight to the superior Playstation Network version.