Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review #110: Flower, Sun and Rain

 Delightfully bizarre.
 I am a lover of all things Suda 51, what can I say, the wonderfully bizarre worlds and characters he creates, alongside the deeper meanings and themes he explores in his games never fails to hook me all the way to the end. While most of his games, from a gameplay stand point, are nothing stellar, as a whole they are phenomenal, at least in my eyes. Flower Sun and Rain is, as a game, probably the worst I've played, coming from Suda 51, but to say that I didn't enjoy it would be a lie...

 The game puts you in the shoes of Sumio Mondo, a Searcher. His job? Searching for stuff, it's also what defines him, he will search for everything and anything until he finds it. In this adventure, he is hired by Edo, the manager at the Flower, Sun and Rain hotel, in order to stop a plane from blowing up from a terrorist attack. Delving much deeper would mean to spoil the fantastically bizarre setting of the game, but needless to say, as every Suda 51 game, it can get quite confusing, specially taking into account that this is a pseudo-sequel to The Silver Case, a game that was never published over here. NPCs come in the form of guests at the hotel, each one has their own weird traits, there's a kid who keeps breaking the fourth wall,  Edo himself, who grows continually frustrated as the days goes by, Stephan, a writer obsessed with Soccer, etc. The game is divided in 18 requests, each one taking place in a different day(Or is it?) that begins with Mondo being woken up by the manager, and then as he tries to make his way to the airport but gets stopped by other people who require Sumio's services, finishing with the plane exploding in the sky. The setting and the characters were so engaging, that I kept pushing through even though the gameplay was so dull.
 Most of the Suda 51 games that we got were action games, this is not. Since Sumio is a Searcher, the whole game has you searching for stuff, usually culminating in a puzzle of sorts. Puzzles come in three varieties: Reading, Arithmetical and Mixed. At the start of the game you are given a 47 page brochure of the Hotel, and most of the Puzzles have you finding, through hints, the page in which the numbers you require are. Sometimes it's as easy as finding the number, sometimes you have to decipher it, or figure out how to use the numbers mentioned in the article. There is a lot of reading involved. Arithmetical puzzles are, as the name suggest, easy math problems, and you just have to input the resulting number. Lastly, the Mixed variety has you finding the numbers and then doing simple math with it. Each day also features 3 extra puzzles, rule of the thumb is: If these three are easy, then the storyline puzzles will be hard, but if these three are hard, then the story-related puzzles will be easy. Doing these is entirely optional, and these are invisible to the naked eye, but a radar that you unlock early on will help you finding them. Clearing them will unlock alternate costumes to use in subsequent playthroughs.

 As a whole, the game is a bit dull. Expect to do a lot, and I do mean A LOT of running around. Plenty of times it's done on purpose, and Mondo being quite self-conscious, will complain about it, just like the player. As a matter of fact, there's a lot of parallelisms between gamers and Mondo, as a Destructoid Article very well described. Gameplay is very dull, the final day in particular has you solving 23 different math problems, they are not even hard, but they are dull, repetitive and feel like filler, but in the end, I felt satisfied. I felt that treading through each puzzle was worth it.
 Graphics are a very mixed bag, usually indoors look alright, but outdoors are very plain and simple. Textures are very pixelated, which is impossible to ignore when the game zooms in. Character models are very stylized, and personally, I thought the style was great. Music is... very odd, there are some very suiting tones, but there are some that are quite grating to the ears(Take the music used in the Hotel's nearby outdoors for example), but it does fit the whole weirdness of the setting. There is no voice acting, but whenever characters speak, a garbled, distorted musing plays, not unlike Killer 7's, although these make even less sense. While Gameplay, Graphics and Sound are passable on their own, alongside the script they all add up to the atmosphere, and it works.

 Flower, Sun and Rain is a very difficult game to recommend, definitely not for everyone. If you love weird games that have quirky characters, mysterious settings and odd situations, like Deadly Premonition or any Suda 51 game, then it's worth a look, otherwise you might not "get" the game.
 6.0 out of 10.

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